Sunday, 19 April 2015

Confessions of a bad wife 2

I am back in Stockholm whereas Archaeologist Husband and Number One Son expect to fly to Jersey on Tuesday. After some hard and tough decisions, I decided to return to finish my contract and return to home at the end of the month after returning the keys of my flat. Different carriers seem to be conspiring against me by dropping the easy routes and connections one by one. There is no more SAS flight to Birmingham with a Finnish Blue cabin crew. Similarly, British Airways dropped the City airport route, which was my favourite due to the classy food and the convenient landing time in relation to the cheap train tickets back home to the Midlands. Now it turned out that all Stockholm flights by the british Airways are flown from Heathrow - which is a slight problem if one was to return from Jersey and land at Gatwick...

Thus, there will be one more family funeral I am not attending. I have a bit of a precedent in this, which probably is no consolation to Archaeologist Husband. I hope one can give a sense of support via Skype and texts...

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Easter holiday in the sun

The Spiderman watch

After the rain and hale of the first school Easter holiday week, which I spent mainly in Italy, the second week has been a swim in a glorious sunshine. Every other morning has been foggy or rainy, but by the time of the elevensies the skies have cleared and the sun has been out. Some days have been warm, some colder, but it has been an Easter of garden meals and a trip to the garden centre. All would be lovely, if there wasn't the bad news of the last night. A sad loss in the family and the time to tell Number One Son about the loss. "I am now a bit sad", was the answer.

However, it has been a time of recovery for me (overwork is not good for anyone) and I begin to be now ready to face the e-mail boxes, applications and editing again. As always, the fanciful ideas of the trips to London or at least to Nottingham have floated away and made room to play in the park, a play date and family lunches. It is a holiday after all, not a performance test. Anyway, Number One Son's holiday homework - a non-fictional book with a list of contents and an index - has kept me busy. It is difficult to work on this project, since Number One Son is not developed enough to figure out what an index really is and his writing is wobbly at its best, but the chosen topic - the cats - keeps him focused. His drawing of our pet cat is actually pretty accurate image of a slim, long young black cat and his cat mummies are fabulous.

Holly in Haymarket

After the Easter Saturday spent shopping and the bank holidays cooking, I and Number One Son did our normal treat: a bus trip to the Leicester city centre. Nothing is better than a lunch at McDonald's with a toy and a pop to the toy shop. I must blushingly admit that I bought a Frozen watch to myself - and I am wearing it! Number One Son now owns a Spiderman watch, which became handy in the Finnish Saturday School where he was the only child with a watch. On the day of the trip the watch was more important than Jewry Wall, but the bus ride still has its magic.

The first popcorn

The highlight of the week was Number One Son's first trip to the movies. I had chosen the Big Hero 6, since it seemed the only one I dared to watch myself, but I must admit that it was a bit above Number One Son. I think nine- or twelve-year-olds are the correct target audience, but for Number One Son the most important thing was to get his popcorn. He said he did not like the show, but we made it to the end. The computer graphics were fabulous and there was emotional depth to the story, which was relatively dark. Nonightmares, though.

Now the Cat book is almost ready and we have to decide what to do on the last Sunday of the holidays. Number One Son will definitely not want to see a castle, so I think we try to go to a park farther away and replace his petal collection that had wilted in the car.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Conference Mom does Birthday

This year I managed to land a conference paper on the same day as Number One Son's birthday party. And that was not all. I was going to swan to Siena to another conference, even if the departure time of 3.45am from St. Margaret's coach station the following morning was less than fun. I had managed to sort out the venue at the end of the stay home after the New Year and check the details during the half-term. We went for the fully organized birthday party in a Wacky Warehouse, so the only things to do were for Archaeologist Husband to take the list of names to the venue and buy a cake and some sweets and two presents for the children to give during the party games. This was a good choice.

There I was apologizing in the conference the lady from whom I managed to have a cigarette in the wine reception that I cannot stay for her talk and left the conference half way during the last day. I had forgotten my mobile phone at home the day before so could not give the registration number of my car to the organisers in order to have guest parking at the university. But luckily the parking is free on Sundays in Leicester! I could leave the car relatively near, so I moved swiftly before lunch. Then it was home, packing Number One Son, Archaeologist Husband and cake in the car and drive to the venue - where we were embarrassingly early.

The main thing for us was to give Number One Son a good party. We had a mix of coffee group children and school friends and their siblings and all seemed to have good time. At least their chins were bright red from playing and running and they scoffed the food after the intensive play. Number One Son had waited for his party for at least for a month and presented over Skype the presents he had made for himself during the earlier part of the week when I had to teach at Stockholm. He insisted of getting a '6' badge on the last day of the school term that was his real birthday. And he carried that badge with pride. If nothing else, Number One Son knows how to party.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

I will be back

I will have too much to do - and actually spending some time with Number One Son instead of writing about it in between two conferences - so I will say you a temporary goodbye. I will have more time perhaps in April. May? At least my contract will be over then and my two men are waiting me back home.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Motherless Mother's Day

Even if I have lived in UK for years, the actual date of the British Mother's Day always leaves me with an empty look. We Finns have chosen to follow the Americans in this one and have ours in May. Last year, I managed to hit the school event just by chance by actually turning up at the school gate while coming back home for Number One Son's birthday. This year I have been painfully aware that I will probably fail to do any kind of input, because I have to teach just before Son's birthday, so my return to home is late. And as I had been afraid of, I heard yesterday on Friday that Number One Son had done a card for me at school. Yes, it is Mother's Day, Mothering Sunday this Sunday on March 15.

Not that I have much time to feel sorry about myself or Number One Son - nor Archaeologist Husband who probably gets pitiful looks from the nearby people. I am so hectically busy with trying to guarantee we have something to live on and make sure I do not totally embarrass myself during the conference season that I barely noticed that the different items online providing tips what to give Mum or how to celebrate have started to creep to the web pages. I am not probably the only mother who has to feel guilty on Sunday - and I can re-ensure you: it does not feel nice. But those lectures do not do themselves... Happy Mothering Sunday!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Peer support

Today, for one week only, in order to celebrate the International Women's Day, my two blogs have the exactly same text

The Eve of the International Women's Day could not have been lovelier than spent dining with my fellow 'Mum abroad' Susanna Niiranen - discussing among other topics blogging, photographing, Jagellonica family, children, Villa Lante, grant applications, husbands and wives, restaurants in Stockholm and everything else any person having a full life experience would do. Generally just having splendid time in one of my favourites, Kvarnen, from where we headed to Gamla Stan (it was just so much easier than to try to navigate the trendy places in Södermalm on a Saturday evening).

As a previous NCT (National Childbirth Trust in UK) branch committee member, I know how important it is to meet people in the same situation and share experiences - no matter how you do the parenting and if you are an earth-mother or a career juggernaut. As Susanna said, so many female blogs are about cooking or fashion or decorating - and much fewer, like Susanna's, about women actually having a career, while also having a family and enjoying cooking every now and then. However, I have decided to split my professional blog separate from my more private blog, since I so have things to say about both spheres, but some of the mummy stuff, such as the dealing with the SEN evaluation, school life and bilingual (well, nowadays functionally monolingual for good reasons) family life, is something I rather share more with my peers - the other parents. I also write about adults in my professional blog with their own names, whereas I do not want to write about the friends of Number One Son or their parents in a similar manner.

Well, I have the traditional one child per a female researcher, but Susanna wonders where are the female professors with more than one child? How could we give more hope for the future generations of women and show that you can be a whole person: both to explore and raise a family? Do we women have to try to create a world where 'lattepappor' stare at us in awe and iron our shirts to mirror the one we observe in certain corners? Or do we try to create something truly more equal? The estimates for Sweden to reach gender equality in different aspects of work and family life run between 11 to 125 years, so we will have a lot to do. Happy International Women's Day!

PS. To celebrate, in a more professional manner, do visit the British Women Archaeologists website and follow the Trowelblazers, the stories of those talented and wonderful women who dug it before us.

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...