Sunday, April 25, 2010

No, Mom, My Sabbatical Will Not Be a Vacation

I love my mom. After years of me explaining my job to her, she does pretty much get it. But. Today there was a minor... regression.

See, one of our biggest sources of conflict throughout the time that I was in graduate school is that she would expect that during summers, for example, I would be on "summer vacation" and would just have all of this time to journey back to hometown and to be paraded around to distant relatives who I don't even know, as well as to my actual family (like aunts and uncles and first cousins of mine on my mom's side and on G.'s side - and let's just note that my mom's one of ten and G. is one of 4 living siblings plus 2 who have died since coming to America, all of whom have/had at least three kids of their own and whose kids are now having kids of their own) and that if I took any time to, I don't know, see my friends (who, let's note for the record since I'm basically an only child my hometown friends are seriously like sisters to me), or to see (when he was alive) my father or my father's side of the family, then I was a jerk. Or if I couldn't come for an extended period of time in order to be paraded to her heart's desire, or come when beckoned, that I was also a jerk.

After the long slog of grad school, she finally did seem to get that this was perhaps an unrealistic expectation on her part. And she's been very cool about not putting those sorts of demands on me since I started on the tenure track.

But here we are, with my sabbatical near on the horizon. Let's note that I've got two conferences this summer, MLA in January, a conference to plan (which I'm hosting) for next summer, as well as substantial work on a draft of a book manuscript to accomplish between now and when I return to the classroom. Um, no, Mom, I will not "have all this time being on sabbatical" where you can expect me to devote days and days to seeing second and third cousins that I've met maybe twice in my life. Those people are not actually my family. I don't know them. And also, let me just say again, that sabbatical does not equal "having all this time."

And when I alerted her to this fact when she expressed this expectation on the phone today, oh yes, she accused me of being a jerk. GAAAHHHRRRGGGGHHH!!!!!

I have grown up slightly in that I didn't let the whole thing escalate into a fight, and I actually did offer her a compromise solution (if she really wants me to see these people, then she's just going to have to invite them over to our house so that I'm not trapped for like 5 hours at a pop while she visits and I sit there twiddling my thumbs, which was a challenge for her because she never has people over, but guess what: you can't expect that I'm going to devote 2-3 days to seeing people I don't know when the only times I'm planning to be in town between now and 2011 will be for two weddings of actual cousins of my own).

At any rate, the whole thing with your non-academic parent, who you think you've educated into understanding the requirements of your job, not understanding anything about your job or your life or your responsibilities? It never motherfucking ends. Sigh.


Anonymous said...

"At any rate, the whole thing where your non-academic parent, who you think you've educated into understanding the requirements of your job, not understanding anything about your job or your life or your responsibilities? It never motherfucking ends. Sigh."

So true, so true. They are still proud of us in public though, so there's that.

PhysioProf said...


moria said...

Not reassuring to this grad, who am spending the weekend with the folks and have had to talk my (advanced-degree-holding!) mother down yet again from the notion that I am likely to get hired by my undergraduate alma mater (!) at the end of my four-year (!!!) Ph.D. Sigh. One does what one can. (One's mother, after all, is often a perfectly reasonable creature in all respects that do not relate directly to her offspring. Sigh again.)

Unknown said...

Unfortunately, having parents thoroughly ensconced in academia doesn't change a darn thing (save they hear rumours of jobs and claim to be able to put a word in to pull you back).

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I have solved the problem by being in Exotic Research Country for most of my sabbatical. And also by saying: "Well, sure, I'd love to stay for a month, but I'll need to work while I'm there, and to work, I need a clutter-free space, so you'll have to declutter one of the bedrooms." That sent mom into a panic. Case closed.

Anonymous said...

Yep, I understand this all too well. I'm the first person on my mom's side of the family to get anything higher than an M.S., and my mom never even finished high school. It baffles them that I'm edging toward 30 and 1) have no kids and 2) make so little money for so much work. Until about last year, my mom had no idea what field I was in or what I studied. She did come to my dissertation defense, which I thought was so cool.

After my wedding a few years ago, my grandmother asked if I planned to stay in school or if I was just going to stay home and be a housewife. She wasn't kidding.

I think they really do mean well and try to understand, but let's face it: academic life is definitely different. I try not to take it personally when someone says something like, "Oh, well you only teach a couple hours a week. You must have so much free time!"

Susan said...

My mother's revelation came when I was revising my dissertation. She came to visit in England, and I was working. And she suddenly turned to me and said, "I get it. You are *always* working." Bingo!

Observant Academic said...

When I talked to my mother on the phone a little while ago and mentioned that I was setting up a new experiment her response was: "Another one? I thought you'd be done with that now." I just started my third year at that point.

Anonymous said...

My mom was really good about understanding that I didn't have time off when I looked like I had time off. But she has been known to say that it just seems so UNFAIR that for my Ph.D., I had to come up with something ENTIRELY NEW that no one had done before. And to opine that my (medieval European history) Ph.D. would be great training for writing a (blockbuster) historical novel.

Mind you, over all she was really great with the academia thing, even though she hadn't the foggiest clue what I really did with my time.

(The past tense here reflects the past tense of my academic career, not of my mom!)

(and my word verification is "mangst" - is that what happens to a guy when a woman rejects his mansplaining??)

Janice said...

My parents were always good at understanding the academic schedule. After all, my dad was rarely around for my birthday, growing up, because it always fell during exams/graduation at his U.

That said, introducing my in-laws to the work schedule and expectations took awhile. But the first time I opened up a briefcase stuffed with student papers and explained this was just one class, teaching was covered. Research took a while longer to be comprehensible but I think we've got that nailed. They even "get" sabbaticals (good thing as I gear up for my third)!

Kris Peleg said...

I think sabbatical is now clearly, for my parents, the year when they don't see me at all. As in, do you have to go so far away for the whole year?

rented life said...

My FIL couldn't understand that when my husband submits papers to conferences, he actually has to read outside sources and include that in his papers. FIL was like "Why are you reading so much? Do they send you a reading list before you go?"

My parents think I have all the time in the world. They also don't understand why I can't just get a job at a college near them--as though you can just walk up to a school and say "yo. Hire me." Instead I hear "Do you have to look for jobs so far away?"