This is a big month for tenure and baby!
Tenure first: the university-level committee has now had two meetings about my tenure case, one on its own and one where they brought in my department to discuss any questions they have with them. That latter meeting took place on Friday. Afterwards, my chair sent me a formal, uninformative email basically telling me that the meeting had taken place but that they couldn’t officially vote because one of the committee members couldn’t be at the meeting, but that everything was recorded for the absent committee member and we should find out the outcome after March break. However, after that I got an email from my awesome faculty mentor — she was actually elected to the university-level committee (for the third time) this year, and while she has had to recuse herself from voting on my case because of her role as mentor, she is present for all the meetings. In her email, she congratulated me for making it past the university-level committee! I replied to her and was basically like, “Um, thanks… but did I?” and then she was all like, “Oh, oops, I guess they won’t officially tell you the vote until they can record the absent member’s vote, but um, basically, yeah.” So, thanks to my faculty mentor spilling the beans, I now know that the vote from the present members was very positive (which my chair confirmed when I mentioned it to him today). So, unofficial yay!!! As I mentioned in my last post, this is basically the last major hurdle — if both my department and the university-level committee vote favorably, then the odds of my case getting overturned by the university president or board of trustees are astronomically low. I still won’t get the final, official, irrevocable decision until sometime around Memorial Day, but I’m breathing a sight of relief to know that nothing weird is happening at the level of the university committee.
Baby: He is four months old! The transformation from three months to four months is just phenomenal. He’s like a different baby — so interactive, so giggly, so much more aware, and just clearly soaking up so much about the world. I remember this phase from when S was little — it’s the phase where they still can’t do much, but they are so curious and get bored so easily that we basically hop around the house to different “stations” to keep him from getting fussy: the play mat in his room, the bouncy chair while I cook in the kitchen, a blanket on the living room floor, sitting up in the boppy while I fold laundry in our bedroom, etc. He is also starting to tolerate the car better, and loves to go on outings (especially now that he can stay awake for longer, and now that I can wear him facing out). We go to the university for various baby-friendly events, we’ve gone to the grocery store, and shopping for clothes for me and the kids (two of my old pairs of pants gave out spectacularly in the same week, which left me with exactly one pair of non-dress pants that sort of fit and didn’t have holes in it). We haven’t been able to do much walking outdoors because it’s been cold and snowy, but the forecast is nice for this week so I’m hopeful. I’ve also mostly mastered handling both kids after picking up S from daycare (not really any trick to it — honestly it’s just easier as L gets bigger). It’s so much fun to take the kids to the local children’s museum or the library together at the end of the day, and mostly S has been really well behaved when he knows I have to take care of L too.
That said, everything changes next week, when L starts daycare! It’s such a bittersweet transition. On the one hand, I’m very, very ready to get back to using my brain to think about physics again and to have multiple-hour stretches in which to concentrate on a task. On the other hand, I will miss the special time with my sweet and amazing little baby, and I find it so hard to think of him getting overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the busy daycare environment. Fortunately, we’ve worked out a plan to keep him in half-day daycare until the fall semester. For the six weeks that I am teaching this spring, we’ll shuffle our schedules so that I’ll pick him up M/W/F afternoons, and my husband will pick him up T/Th afternoons (which is when I teach). Then in the summer, I’ll just work half days. I worked half-days all summer when S was a baby, and I LOVED it. I was super-productive in my 4.5-hours of daycare time, and then I still got to spend most of the day with S. I am really looking forward to doing the same with L this summer. I feel so fortunate to have the flexibility to arrange my schedule this way — I’m basically getting a Canadian or Nordic-style parental leave despite being in the US. My babies are only babies once, and the closeness with them at this age is so intense and so important, and I am grateful that I’m able to devote so much time and energy to my baby while also keeping up with the career that I love (and that I know will sustain me as they grow and need less and less of my time).
Basically, I’m on cloud nine these days. Even though there are difficult moments during the days (and nights!!!), overall I am just so appreciative of everything that I have in my life right now: a wonderful husband who shares all the good and bad parts of parenting, a great job to come back to very soon, and above all these two wonderful tiny humans with whom I am sharing the most remarkable relationships of my life. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I am just enjoying L’s babyhood so much more than I did with S, mostly because my anxiety level is so much lower. When little old ladies at the grocery store tell me to savor every moment, I can honestly smile back at them and tell them that I do. (I mean, clearly not every moment, but most of them!) It’s been a long road to get here, and I mourn the little lives that I never got to know, especially the daughter that I didn’t get to raise, but I am above all grateful for everything that I have — particularly S and L. What amazing little humans, and what a wonderful family we have.