Baby Games

The games Klara loves the most involve fitting together small objects. She likes to take pens out of a pencil pouch, take off the caps, put them back on, and replace the pens in the pouch. She can go a good 15 minutes taking off the caps and putting them back on. (She’s 14 months, so it takes an effort.) 

She also loves it when we work on an art project. The art project involves her choosing a sticker sheet out of a bunch and giving it to me. I unpeel a sticker and stick it on her little fist. She takes it off and sticks it on a large sheet of white paper. This can easily take over 40 minutes. It’s amazing how hard she can concentrate on something like this. 

She is a very fascinating child. 

Emotional Needs 

Children should not fulfill the parents’ emotional needs. Other adults or objects or pursuits should fulfill the parents’ emotional needs. Which is easier said than done, eh? Because it’s so darn easy to get emotional fulfillment out of children. It’s like having a huge, beautiful cake in front of you and not eating it and instead baking your own cake from scratch. 

So what can one do to avoid plugging their emotional hole with a child?

It just occurred to me that the first step should be to figure out what one’s emotional needs are. Because until you know for sure, you can’t guarantee you are keeping them well-fed and not straining at the leash to devour a child?

So what are my emotional needs? Let me tell you, folks, it’s very unpleasant to have to think about it. I dithered and doddered until I finally managed to recognize that my greatest emotional need is to have my intellectual potency recognized. I need to be recognized as an intellectual authority almost as much as I need to eat. I’m guessing this is common to many teachers, which is why teachers’ kids often tend to be academically underachieving. And doctors’ kids tend to be sick a lot more than others. 

I need to keep thinking about what my emotional needs are even though it’s very unpleasant. 

Too PC

I answered two surveys at work today, both of which listed as answers to the question of “What is you gender?” male, female, and transgender. This is one of those cases when people try to be politically correct in the most superficial way possible and end up being offensive. Transgender people are male or female. They are not a separate gender.

Birthday Gift

It’s my birthday today. I’m now very many years old. 🙂 But I have come by a lot of (kind of one-sided but still) wisdom in my dotage, and as a birthday gift (to me rather than to my readers, to be honest), I want to share it. The best gift for me is to be able to dispense advice to people who haven’t asked for it, so bear with me.

The advice is for those of us who work from home. Working from home is hard, and it turns many people crabby and miserable because they end up feeling like they are at work all the time without getting much done. Feelings of guilt and a sensation that one lacks productivity are ubiquitous. So how to be super effective while working from home? Take this advice from somebody who wrote a book and 3 articles while managing a high-risk pregnancy (that would be me) from home.

To be effective, work at home should be structured to look as similar to work at the office as possible. Set up work hours that always happen at the same time and inform everybody – in as strong a manner as possible! – that between x and x hours on XXXXX days you are at work. Memorize the phrase, “No, I can’t run this errand / hang out / talk / make these phone calls for you / do anybody a teensy favor BECAUSE I’M AT WORK” and repeat them like a mantra. Prepare to repeat the sentence, “So do you know how you are at work every day between 9 and 5? Guess what? SO AM I!!!” many times.

Everything that has to be done every day should be planned in as detailed a way as possible in advance. This summer, I have to finish an article, write a chapter for an edited volume, write another article, write an MLA talk, and write a grant application. I have calculated the number of words this will entail in total. Then I have divided them by the number of working days I will have this summer. Now I know exactly what I will write every day in summer and at what time of the day. Instead of a vague “I have to work on my research”, I now have “I need to write 400 words on Russian immigrants and criminality on May 4th.”

My work at home ends at 3 pm, after which I don’t do any work, don’t look at work emails, don’t think about work, and concentrate on having summer fun. I also have 2 weeks in May and 2 weeks in July when I will not be working because I’ve scheduled them as vacation time.

Many people will balk at the idea of being so structured that they have planned in advance where they will be at 2 pm on August 10. But to me it’s comforting, which is why I work very well from home.

And the most important thing: lists of things to do are not the way to go. Forget lists and start thinking numbers instead. How many work days can you realistically have each month? How many words can you realistically write each day if the kids refuse to sleep, the weather is nuts, the spouse chooses this time to become high-maintenance, the best friend has a crisis, there is an unexpected large expense, and as a result you feel completely exhausted every day of the summer? If you don’t know, conduct an experiment. Choose a very bad day and sit down to write to see how many words you have been able to squeeze out. (For people who are not in the writing professions, it will be phone calls or whatever their measure of productivity is.)

Counting is fun, I promise. Happy Birthday to me and happy summer working to all of us.