The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


In one month, I will officially cease to be a wage earner. In fact, strictly monetarily speaking, I will become a gaping sucking black hole of needs (a cavern of want--if you will) rather than providing any type of economic reciprocation to my family unit. Much like my three-year-old son is now.

Does this bother me? Yes.

Will I cease my current plan to be a student (of SDSU as well as life) in order to find a more lucrative way of passing my time? No.

I've been taking a hard look at why my financially insolvency is niggling at the back of my mind. It's not like my adjuncting job provided all that much money. It's not like I really care about how much money I have nor does my husband make me feel bad for cutting our family income by several thousands of dollars so that I can play scientist for a few years. In fact, he's incredibly support of my scholastic goals of being a student for the rest of my life so that I never have to a) teach or b) get a real job. We've always shared the money equally, and I don't foresee this arrangement changing just because I will be making even less money that before.

I think the biggest reasons why I am bothered by my pending lack of personal income are as follows:

1. I am currently reading The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden. In this book, Ms. Crittenden outlines the heavy wage "tax" placed on people (primarily women but also some men) who choose to take a few years off or part time in their careers to do the necessary job of raising productive members of society. It's an amazing book. Crittenden nicely outlines the economic value of said child rearing and discusses the sad truth that our society does not give the value this rearing-sacrifice deserves. I recommend this book to any woman who a) has children, b) intends to have children, or c) advocates for women's rights.

This book boldly pushes to the forefront, the possibility of lost goals and dreams because of the choices we make regarding family life. And I know that having a child is a choice (even if you were on the pill and it didn't work . . .); in no way am I looking for a pity party because I have a beautiful and bright son. However, I will never be able to put in the research time in my lab because I want and choose to be home for my child. I will possibly never be as successful as my fellow grad students in our field because I won't sacrifice my family life for the sake of career laurels. And (as Crittenden has put into sharp relief), I probably will never be as successful as my husband in a chosen career because we've laid out the roles in our family, and mine is not that of the primary breadwinner.

These are hard facts to swallow: especially when your whole life you are told you can do anything you want as long as you work hard--your merit will win the day. Sometimes there just isn't enough time to juggle all the hard work. And sometimes people will refuse give your merit its deserved value because you have so many things to juggle in such a finite amount of time.

After I've swallowed these facts would I have it any other way? Hell no! (Well, maybe I'd be skinnier and have better hair. . .) I'm just working on the reconciling that my meaningful work (and both raising a child and being a professional student are meaningful work) requires me to be financially dependent on someone else. Trust me, I know life is pretty good for me.

2. (Remember: "Reasons" for being bothered by lack of personal income?) My meaningful work in the family isn't as Martha Stewart nurturing and home-making as I envisioned it would be when I quit working for money and started working for personal edification. I thought I would have free time to do some flower arranging, grow a garden, re-upholster the couch using fabric I made from eucalyptus leaves, serve up that dirty martini every day at 530pm to a tired and grateful husband home from the rat-race of the office--in short, do the whole June Cleaver home-making that sets apart the great housewives from the desperate ones. But reality is so different.

Science is hard. All of those tiny drops in bitty tubes. I'm wiped at the end of my 6-hour day. It's about all I can do to open that bottle of wine and sip directly from the bottle while sprawled on the couch. . . . Okay, honestly, I am blessed in that I have do very little around my house. We have officially entered yuppie-hood and have a house cleaner who comes in twice a week. My husband and I both pretty equally share laundry and childcare stuff. So my one major contribution to the family is in cooking. Here I so feel like this is cheating because I so love cooking.

So, the other thing that I am reconciling is that meaningful contribution to my family unit can be something I love like cooking or spending time with my child. And it still matters. It still is a sacrifice I'm making to ensure the well-being of our family unit. Showing love and being a vital part of the family doesn't have to be an un-fun thing like scrubbing toilets or working 9 to 5 in an office. Being an integral part of the family is showing love in the manifestations that are needed at the moment: sometimes that moment is 3 meals a day.

Love in the moment Portobello and Swiss Chard Sandwiches with an Herbed Salad:
*both of these are from last year's July Veg Times with a few modifications (below are my modifications; click the links above for the real deal).

3 portobello mushrooms, well cleaned
olive oil

Swiss chard, coarsely chopped
garlic, finely chopped
onions, coarsely chopped

1. Place mushrooms, stem side up in a dish that has a lid. Add sherry and olive oil plus a few grinds of the salt and paper. Shake up to coat the 'shrooms. Let sit a bit and start your grill.

2. Grill until mushrooms look done and are oozing some juices.
3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp. oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, and cook 30 seconds. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add chard and a few splashes of sherry, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until leaves begin to wilt, turning frequently with tongs. Cover; remove from heat.
4. Put one mushroom and a pile of chard and onions on bottoms of rolls. Cover with roll tops, and serve.

Make a salad with whatever you want. In my case, lots of lettuce, tomato, chopped cilantro, chopped dill, mizuno, arugula, cucumber, mushrooms.

equal parts olive oil, sherry, white wine vinegar
about 2 Tbs chopped chives, cilantro, and basil (mixed together)
2 chopped shallots
1 Tbs honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard

1. Mix up all of the dressing stuff.
2. Put it on your salad.

3. Feel as if you are a productive member of society as well as your family for nurturing their minds with your amazing company and their bodies with this nourishing food.

1 comment:

  1. at the risk of sounding like a badly written fortune cookie: you will be a brilliant scientist and a wonderful mother. And you will still be a kick ass cook.