Sunday, 1 March 2015

Mums and women at Oxford - and elsewhere

This week I have had real communication difficulties with Archaeologist Husband and Number One Son. First, my web cam mystically disappeared from Skype and this did happen only in Stockholm. For some reason, which I have now gathered, it worked perfectly in my hotel in Rome, but stubbornly was absent in Sweden. Secondly, I lost my voice in Rome, so there has been no bedtime stories for two nights, since my voice goes from whispering to louder, but painfully cracking. Sessions at sauna helped, but then on the way back I saw one of my colleagues and had to talk. Nice to hear the latest, but my voice is in a very fragile state. And naturally, I had to talk to my family after I realized that the Bluetooth was on and had probably picked up signals and noise from different appliances neighbours have. They could now see me, but hearing was another matter.

Working away mothers in academia have now becoming more common and I have met in Villa Lante in January a friend from the past who is at the moment in exactly the same situation as I am: the family is in one country and the mum is working in another on a temporary contract. She is also blogging about it - but in Finnish. Her situation is slightly different, though, since she has FOUR children, but their ages vary between 7 and 17. The oldest definitely does not need mother daily. However, we are still talking about a family where the father is running the everyday, while the mother is doing research abroad, this time working at Oxford in an ERC project on the Jagellonica family and it place in the royal circles of Europe. It is relatively common that male academics are away and the wife is running the everyday, but in order to have more female researchers at the universities, in these uncertain times of 'wandering postdocs', we need clearly and definitely more wonderful men for husbands. Girls, be wise when you choose.

It is fitting that my historian colleague ended up at Oxford and is writing in her blog about the lack of female role models and peer support exactly at the time when the female staff and researchers at Oxford have started to raise the matters of institutional inequality and casual misogyny in academia and created Women in humanities group. The article in the Guardian shows the gap the male and female academics have in their perception of gender equality in the universitites: males think that the situation is good while females think it is poor. Some of the behaviour towards the female speakers in conferences mentioned in the piece is quite shocking. In addition, women are constantly asked about their family in academia and males hardly ever. I did notice that my Italian colleague did ask about my husband when we discussed my work situation in Stockholm. However, in a dinner with my Italian colleagues the males did discuss their children as well - but after I asked. However, the academic moms I know value their families - and this is true with many males as well. Certain people share discussions of their families, but it is normally in less formal circumstances, often in Facebook.

As a Finn, I do notice the difference between the Nordic countries and England. The 'old boys' are everywhere to be seen and one specific remark I have heard of stated the need to get 'an Oxford man' as a professor; this shows that women do not even get a look in some cases - or there are no women competent enough. The suits clearly communicate more easily with other suits, who have often been through schools for boys before university. They may even not realize that there is a problem and do not intentionally bypass women. But the lack of female research students raising through the ranks is visible in certain corners in the Nordic countries as well, so the equal countries are not problem free either. We need more normal mixed educational and working situations from early on, an avoidance of single-sex workplaces and general appreciation of family life alongside work and professional profiling. Not to mention childcare...

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Working the list through

Dinosaurs in Leicester

This half-term there was a lot to get done – which was not helped at all by the fact that by the end of the week I had got a cold. Not a bad one, but one of those that make you to feel rubbish and shiver at least for one day. Irritatingly, I do not seem to get fever. Just everything hurts and the aching throat turns slowly in five days into a runny nose.

Creative play in museum

The work life required updating and Archaeologist Husband was entertaining Number One Son on Wednesday, so I got things forward and covered for the travelling Monday. Their achievement was a very tasty gingerbread Piggy castle. At work everything is little bit in a phase, but there is some hope that I do not fail totally any of the things I have to do before my contract comes to an end (any doubt about that reality seems now blown away, so Archaeologist Husband is starting to smile widely again, since his wife should be landing home - and share housework duties).

Pit stop before Cambridge

The Number One Son’s Birthday project is in a phase where the invitations have been partly send out and the remaining paper ones should go out when the school restarts. The trip to the venue resulted with a pleasurable play hour for Number One Son on a day when it was raining heavily. We also did a trip to Cambridge in a warm sunshine, and Number One Son both got to see the dinosaurs and ate an ice cream. It was the Pancake Day, so we had to head home early, but not before I had made a visit to the McDonald Institute to prepare to return to the Nepi publications. On return we got our pancakes - that I would have never managed to do myself.

Pancakes on Pancake Day

But it was not only about the work or the trips or the playdate on Friday. No, it was also a trip to the hearing test, since Number One Son had failed one sound. His ear hearing has now been tested three times to be excellent, so we can be pretty relaxed about these tests in the future. The children just get sometimes distracted, and verbally present something in a group of children is not Number One Son’s current forte.

It was also time to get the school uniform up to date. The trousers started to look very short indeed. Number One Son had grown 5 centimetres in a couple of weeks, so urgent action was needed. Similarly, he needed trainers or similar everyday out-of-school shoes. All items were bought. But why, oh, why we always seem to come out of the shop with something extra with Angry Birds on it!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Bloody noses and loving kisses

A return home is always a reality check, even if now it seems that I will come home at least temporarily in May. The car had broken down, so there was going to be no Finnish Saturday School, since we were waiting the garage getting the gearbox fixed. Number One Son has grown several centimetres in just two weeks, so both shoes are all getting small at the same time and the school uniform trousers are getting that slightly short comedy look. The birthday party will need serious sorting out, since I have only paid for the deposit and have to go to the site and pay and collect the invitation sheets. Not to mention having to send the invitations. In addition, Number One Son had flacked one of the classmates to the nose in a heat of the moment, so there were muted stories from Miss Teacher about the messy situation and understanding words about Number One Son's current social underdevelopment. At least he was being very sorry afterwards. Nevertheless, our son was on a green card and I had to sign his progress. Happily, he had collected a series of stickers for good behaviour during the last two school days.

New Walk Museum before Cambridge!

Archaeologist Husband is waiting for the promised contracts to materialise, so he and Number One Son had eaten basically all the food. When the car was back on road, one of the first things was a huge shopping trip to Aldi to fit the cupboards with cereals, juice and cold cuts. The busy working life has not allowed much planning for the half-term, but since I have to go to Cambridge, I can read from my cards, which museum and which playground we are going to visit.

Even if Number One Son still has miles to go in his social development, his emotional development is galoping ahead. He is now formulating in words constantly that he is missing me and saying that he loves me. He wants to give and get kisses and have family hugs. In addition, his reading is much better and one can now have a discussion with him about life, school and different matters. It is marvellous to see how a couple of months really makes a difference!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Growing fast

Suddenly I am really realizing that my marvellous little boy is not that small any more. Across Skype I suddenly see this grinning joker with mile-long arms and slim legs. He covers the tablet as a joke and keeps wriggling and teasing me until the story I read in the flowing Finnish gets him sleepy. Or he follows the young cat, which like my son is growing and becoming slender with long limbs and jiggy movements when jumping around awake. The cat often sleeps in Number One Son's room at the bed time and thus it is continuously in his mind. He can cuddle the cat, but not the mummy!

However, it seems that Archaeologist Husband is becoming younger. He has found a joy of drawing Angry Birds, following the instructions in an Angry Bird drawing book. He tries to convince me that this is a joint game with Number One Son - even if Number One Son does not really join the drawing. He apparently likes to play with the resulting 'bird cards'. Nevertheless, I am getting suspicious. We do not have the sports car or Harley Davidson, yet, but Indiana Jones costume does point to the certain direction. Archaeologist Husband already last autumn started to fret how we will celebrate our fifties this year - which actually will happen - NO-O-O, I do not tell you, yet! After all, he is in reality five months younger than me...

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Relieved with progress

Even if this week has been busy with the big event in Stockholm and I have been forced to neglect my normal bedtime skyping routine for restaurant meals with colleagues, I have been skyping home irregularly. I managed to snatch a moment after most people had left the reception after the book release at Stockholm and see my son after school on Friday and disrupt his plans to build a spaceship on Saturday morning. It has been snowing both in Anstey and Stockholm and we adults could exchange notes on the weather and the wetness on the snow.

These two skype events were a source of joy and pride when it turned out that Number One Son had finally started to draw and write texts on his own without adult intervention. He had scribbled different angry birds and naughty pigs and wrote different names and words below. This is something his peers have been done probably for one or two years, but our son had not been interested in drawing until recently. Writing has been a source of struggle, but the letters I saw were much more confidently made than anything I managed to get him do before and during the Christmas holiday.

The fact that Number One Son is writing voluntarily shows that we have not managed to put him off on that. Archaeologist Husband has tried to do regular exercises with him and now we all can see the fruits of his efforts. Now he has to mentor Number One Son to give a presentation in front of the class, but luckily the chose subject, Shelley Number 2, our cat, is his favourite!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Travelling Mom eats cake

A work trip happens almost by definition without one's family unless in unusual part work, part holiday circumstances or when the parents do the work in turns while the one not working is tending the child. Alone work trips can be a source of guild, when your working day ends up actually being quite nice. Naturally, this work trip to Rome has had its share of awful winter weather with my old wondering returning when being wet and miserable in a bus or tram or underground and marvelling at the dropless suede shoes of impeccable Romena, while I and my Finnish [female] colleagues are wet up to our knees. Do they levitate? I could wash the floors at the Swedish Institute in Rome while walking around...

However, today it was a brilliant, if windy and chilly day. I and my colleague went to my old fieldwork destination in Nepi and were shown around by the lovely museum director. We even got a private tour of the catacombs. But it was the meal that was the highlight of the day. The local Casa Tuscia still makes the lovely first courses and desserts. I ended up eating the Geometria di cioccolato a portion so grande that I am still rolling around writing this. Archaeologist Husband has also eaten there, so I am not sure, if he know believes, when I say how hard I am working away!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Birthdays and conferences

January is always the time when I try to book any coming spring travel due to flight sales going on. I actually managed to bag a bargain for Number One Son's birthday trip - that also seconds as a quadruple or so conference trip and Easter holiday due to how our collective timetables have panned out. Having two archaeologist and a school child in a family means that at least one of us has to be home during the term time to do the school run. These 'disciplined' days it is not OK to take your child to Cardiff or even abroad during the school term without a dead close relative or some kind of once in a life time short-term event. Thus, first we do a joint visit to a conference, then I fly away and then Archaeologist Husband clocks in two different occasions. Luckily, there will be also time for a joint holidaying, but not much.

January is also a time when one will start eyeing the new job opportunities. The end of a contract comes nearer and nearer - and even if it will be nice to arrive home, a steady income is always a lovely thing. Sadly, managing work and family leaves little time for additional paperwork. In addition, the fixed interview dates are not always great when you realise that you will be in another country by default on the date.

In any case, Number One Son's birthday party locale has been booked and I only have to go and settle the balance during the half-term. Now we are just wondering, if it will be OK to take the birthday boy on his correct birthday date to a conference function. That will mean both parents present and potentially networking, but inevitably a short visit and orange juice for me!