Over the course of our lives, we measure success differently. We’ve succeeded in our jobs if we save our clients money, for example, or we’re a successful student if we make the right grades and get the (right) jobs, or pass our dissertation defenses (for the record, I’ve only gotten two out of the last three).
As a parent, I realized a successful day is much different and it usually involves whether or not I’ve yelled at my children, been puked on, provoked the baby to puke by not tending to her in the way she wants, where Katie has pooped- in her pants or on the potty, fretted over the amount of stimulation Katie gets while staying home with me, if both children have eaten enough and the correct number of times, whether or not both girls take naps at the same time and the time they go to sleep at night.
In the long run, I guess a measure of my success as a parent is whether or not either child ends up on top of a bell tower with a sniper rifle. Another is whether the girls learn to be self-sufficient adults who pay their bills on time, avoid the justic system, engage effectively in the public sphere, and don’t end up sleeping in our beds all night past 18- they certainly don’t seem to be heading down that path at this juncture.
In the past three years, I’ve navigated two different worlds, neither of which recognize the demands or successes of the other. If only I could put, “Mother of two, cancer survivor,” on my CV, maybe I could get an edge over the other 400 job candidates vying for the same job positions I am. Maybe I would “feel better” about my employment status if I could because I’ve come to think that the choices I’ve made over the past five years- to have a family (and get straight A’s, I might add) instead of laboring over research papers and glad-handing at conferences- has had an impact on my mediocrity as a job candidate. But what’s clear is I can’t use my status as a Ph.D. as leverage when contending with a stubborn toddler or increasingly persistent infant (who would rather lose her lunch than take a nap), and I can’t use my position as a mother (or cancer-survivor) to get a job. I think this is what is called, in the philosophical sense, “irony.”