Blogging a Book

I'm home full time, and I've accepted the fact that there's little chance that the dream academic job is going to open up within a 30 minute commute from my house. I haven't yet taken the files of conference presentations and published papers from my file cabinet, but it will happen soon. I'm moving on.

So, what's next for me? I could transition to university administration or take a position at a policy think tank or a foundation. Those are the best options, if I don't want to take the PhD off my resume. Those options are fine solutions and I might do that in a year or two, when things get easier with the kids, but I don't love those ideas well enough to deal with the upheaval in the family.

It would also be terribly expensive, because I would have to hire a nanny willing to watch a kid with special needs. She would have to get here at 7:00 to get the kids to school and then work from 3 to 6 or 7. She would have to be available at all times to deal with school closings and sudden illnesses. She would have to drive Ian to social skills class and spend two hours helping him with homework. It would probably cost about $30,000 per year.

There are other options that would involve removing the PhD from the resume. I am over qualified for just about any other type of job. My friend, Margie, and I have discussed that option and rejected it. How would we explain that enormous gap of time?

I might be interested in teaching high school, but even if I overcame the revulsion of having to go back to school for two years to get my certification, I probably wouldn't even get a job. A school district would have to pay me at the top of the pay scale, and they would prefer a cheaper 21 year old.

 I am tyring to make the most out of my at-home status. After recovering from some back problems, I'm back to running at the gym. I'm doing a little volunteer work for the school. I'm taking the time to have lunch with friends. I've also been writing a lot.

I've written a lot on this blog over the years. In fact, I think I've developed a compulsive writing problem. Last month, I started looking for broad themes in my blog archives with the plan of piecing together blog posts to create a quickie book. I'm sure that many bloggers hope that their blogs could be assembled into a book. However, blogging doesn't add up to a book.

I spent a Saturday digging through the archives and doing a lot of  cutting and pasting. Without much effort, I had assembled a 60 page single spaced document. Another hour of work would have doubled the size. But the pieces didn't fit neatly together like a puzzle. There was too much text. It was redundant. Key pieces were missing. It was too hard to edit. So, I'm starting from scratch. I'll sift through the old posts later to see if there are any elegant phrases to copy, but I abandoned the 60-page behemoth.

Along with blocking out an hour at the gym, I'm now blocking out one hour at the local library for the writing. It's a good way to get out of the house and "be with the people" as my friend, Erin, says. It also takes me away from distractions.

Ian has a half day today, so I have to squeeze in my gym and library time right now. I love having a plan.

22 Thoughts on “Blogging a Book

  1. “Without much effort, I had assembled a 60 page single spaced document. Another hour of work would have doubled the size. But the pieces didn’t fit neatly together like a puzzle. There was too much text. It was redundant. Key pieces were missing. It was too hard to edit.”
    Depending on what you’re planning on producing, a book with short bloggy chapters can work very well. The “Stuff White People Like” book (which started as a blog) has post-like chapters. Jennifer Bingham Hull’s “Beyond One” (about the repercussions of having a second child) has longer, more article-like chapters, but there are dozens of them. I like Ayun Halliday’s “The Big Rumpus” a lot. “The Big Rumpus” has fairly substantial chapters, but it’s a very relaxed book. If you don’t repeat yourself, stick to a general overarching theme, and you have interesting things to say, you can get away with a lot of stuff with regard to form.
    Of course, if you’re doing policy and analysis, then by all means, structure-structure-structure.

  2. scantee on October 20, 2010 at 11:38 am said:

    Your depiction of university administration work does not square with my own and I don’t think you should give up on that option if it is truly an interest of yours. I work in a research center for a large, midwestern university and the work environment here is pretty great. Most of the people I work with are on 75% or 80% appointments, there is no obligation to put in meaningless face-time, work-from-home is an option, the benefits are great, etc. Ok, the pay is pretty crappy, but the work is interesting and I think all of those benefits trump the low pay. The current economy will make it a bit harder to find one of these positions but I actually think there is a dearth of well-educated individuals out there to fill these specialized jobs. (I am actually looking for a new position right now and have received several offers that I’ve turned down because the overall benefits of the job weren’t as good as my current position. And I don’t consider myself that amazing of an employee.)
    Based on what you’ve said here, and past things you’ve written, it sounds like you really do want to be at home but you’re having a hard time letting go of the last hopes for an academic career. That is a tougher issue to deal with than just locating a job that will accommodate your home life. Sounds like you’ve got a good start on the writing front, what are the freelance writing opportunities like for someone with your education and experience?

  3. Is it so impossible to get a job that’s merely 9-5, not 7 to 6? I wonder if you’re overestimating that. Also, our autistic kid is in regular afterschool care and they are pretty good with her, even getting her to do her homework at Homework Club. And she is not an easy kid, can be very stroppy and loud. I know what you do at home is very important, but is it possible you’re underselling Ian’s ability to cope in the mainstream world without your direct support? I have held my breath and crossed my fingers almost every time I have sent L out to handle a socially challenging situation without me but most of the time it’s worked out much better than I feared.

  4. It sounds like you’re doing everything right to prepare for that great job when it does come along. And who knows, it may look very different than you imagine.
    I also think you’ll find that employers are much more flexible than you’re imagining. Yes, those who can work 80 hours a week will progress faster than you, but tons of employees have to deal with school closures, illnesses, parents’ illnesses, teacher conferences.

  5. Ian isn’t allowed to go after care in our school district. Even if they would allow it, it would require an aide that we would have to pay for out of pocket. We’ve already looked into it.
    We have double the amount of school closures, because the kids are in different school districts with different holidays.
    No, there’s no question that a traditional 9 to 5 job is out of the question, especially since most jobs around here are in NYC with an hour commute. People really do work longer hours in the NE.
    Thanks for the info on university administration, scantee. We don’t have a big research university around here. Just a lot of little liberal arts colleges. I’m fairly certain that any part-time position would involve processing add/drop slips in the admission’s office, but I need to make some more phone calls.

  6. I do think it’s hard to find a job one loves that is also 9-5. That’s one of the issues I see. There always trade offs to spending time on work, and so the standards for “love” become high, when love is the most significant motivation (and not money). And, I’m including the other non-economic contributions (i.e. enjoyment, making a difference, etc.) in love. Then, you’re not deciding, “will my family be harmed?”, but “will they be better off?” That’s a harder question for work to answer with a yes (if money won’t make your family better).

  7. Madeleine on October 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm said:

    Also, a 9-5 job with a one hour commute automatically means childcare from 8 to 6, minimum. More if you need to worry about traffic.

  8. cranberry on October 20, 2010 at 3:52 pm said:

    It would also be terribly expensive, because I would have to hire a nanny willing to watch a kid with special needs. She would have to get here at 7:00 to get the kids to school and then work from 3 to 6 or 7. She would have to be available at all times to deal with school closings and sudden illnesses. She would have to drive Ian to social skills class and spend two hours helping him with homework. It would probably cost about $30,000 per year.
    That sounds like a good schedule for an au pair. Participating in the au pair program doesn’t cost $30,000 a year.

  9. Cranberry — have you had an au pair? I haven’t, but I’ve had friends who had, and I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable trusting a demanding child to an au pair. They can be spectacular, young people who love kids and enjoy them. We periodically think of going this route in our home, not for the price, but for the cultural enrichment + the enjoyment my kids would get out of a young person paying attention to them (they love their cousins). But, I always end up balking ’cause I’ve seen that involves taking on an young adult yourself. There are the ugly stories (like drinking/etc.) but, even the little stuff (helping the young adult acquire a new pair of glasses in the US) that always end up feeling like more responsibility than I think they’ll be worth.
    And, au pairs need to change every year. Good for cultural enrichment, but not great for consistency and routine.

  10. What about a complete career change, Steve style? Did he not finish a history PhD and then go into corporate work?
    I know quite a few career-changer types who start in new sectors pretty low on the totem pole but move up very quickly, based on their overall maturity, good work habits, and perspective. Something to consider.

  11. cranberry on October 20, 2010 at 5:01 pm said:

    I haven’t had an au pair, but my children have had classmates whose family used au pairs. I got to know some of them, when my children were younger, due to playdates and such. I have known au pairs to whom I would have entrusted my children. One in particular had trained as a special-needs teacher in Germany. Many of the most effective were training to be teachers in Germany. I think it’s a career track which begins somewhere in early high school, or even middle school in Germany, so the roughly college-aged students who take the time to come to the US to improve their English have already had training in handling and educating children.
    My general impression is that the success of the au pair program depends upon the family at least as much as it depends upon the au pair. They come to the US expecting to be treated as a part of the family. Many US families treat them like very badly paid servants. The families I know who have had successful au pairs (aux pair?) were honest, clear and consistent in their expectations for the au pair.
    For the au pairs I knew, the quality of the food served in the family was very important. They were teenagers, but they were European teenagers, so being served greasy pizza every day was not popular.
    My mother never hired an au pair. She always pointed out that hosting a late teen in your house can be difficult. They can go clubbing at home, but if they’re under 21, they can’t drink legally here. And then, an au pair working for a friend of hers disappeared. My mother said the friend reported it was the hardest phone call of her entire life, when she had to call the girl’s family to report her disappearance.
    That sort of thing is very rare!! Many of the students who apply to be au pairs are serious kids, studying at university, who don’t have money to do a year abroad in any other way.

  12. [quote]Even if they would allow it, it would require an aide that we would have to pay for out of pocket.[/quote]
    That really surprises me. Why? (Sorry, I know it’s not on-topic.)
    The way we work the two-career schedule is that I go in early, husband drops off kids, I leave on the early side and pick up kids.

  13. There are also college kids who will do the afternoon-through-dinner shift. You could get one through an education school with special needs experience, possibly, if you feel you need that.

  14. “two hours with homework”
    Is that two hours of homework, or two hours of homework for Ian? If it’s the former, that’s a lot, and if it’s the latter, it’s still a lot.

  15. No, there’s no question that a traditional 9 to 5 job is out of the question, especially since most jobs around here are in NYC with an hour commute. People really do work longer hours in the NE
    Having lived in the NE (Boston, not NY), SE, and SW, that is not my impression. My experience has been 1.) it has more to do with industry rather than region, and most national firms have the same billable hour goals, sales goals, across the country, and 2.) people in the NE HAVE TO commute 1 hour yet people outside of other large cities CHOOSE TO commute an hour.
    Are you open to the possibility of working full time if they’ll let you telecommute some of the time? Clearly you can be productive and efficient from your home.

  16. I have absolutely nothing helpful to add, except to say that sometimes, Laura, I feel like you write my exact train of thought.

  17. My experience in Toronto vs. a city like Ottawa or Montreal is that there really are a different set of expectations around availability. It may be that on paper the goals are the same. But in Toronto meetings start as early as 7:30 and there are way more evening events that are mandatory-but-not and people get upset if they email you at 5:30 pm and don’t have an answer by 8 am – or preferably the night before.
    So it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s the same kind of pocket, but on speed, around NYC.
    That said I think there are jobs where the face time can work out to fewer than 40 hrs, but you make up for it with Mobile Availability.

  18. I might explore some of those great ideas for employment down the road. Thanks, guys. But right now, I’m actually really happy doing the writing in the library. I guess that didn’t get conveyed in the blog post. It’s really fun. The writing process can be arduous at times, but right now, things are just flowing. So, I’m not changing anything right now.
    To answer a couple of questions …
    Yeah, we don’t have access to after care for Ian. Our case manager told us that and insinuated that I was damn lucky that they were paying Ian’s bill for his out of district school, so I should just keep my fat mouth shut. So, I did.
    I don’t spend two hours doing homework with Ian. I spent three or four hours doing homework with Ian. It’s okay. He’s learning a lot and isn’t complaining. Third grade involves a lot more language based work and this is his weakness. His vocabulary has some surprising gaps. He asked me what a plastic bag was today. Really bizarre, but easily fixed. I’m really giving him three hours of therapy every day. And it helps me learn what his strengths. Apparently, he can add double and triple diget numbers in his head.

  19. Well, that makes me crazy. What about inclusion? Grumble grumble grumble. I’ve noticed that with schools, you have the lever of IDEA to get your kid what he needs, but extra stuff like activities and child care can be really complicated if you don’t find sympathetic people who are willing to do things a little differently.
    I hate realizing we are lucky, because I don’t feel like we have it all that great.

  20. I’m glad to hear that you’re happy writing in the library. Often, I think, it can be a little change like that (going out of the house, actually devoting a specific time to the enterprise, commitment) that can make the difference in both making something valuable, and in giving yourself the feeling that you’re doing something valuable.

  21. I highly recommend you check out the Versatile PhD website. I recently was asked to serve on a virtual panel at Versatile PhD for social scientists and humanists with PhDs who are working outside the tenure track (I work in academic affairs full time, with an option to teach if I want to). My panel will take place the week of Nov. 15. Anyway, this online community would really help you think about your options in and outside the academy. A suggestion…

  22. I would love to read a book of yours. I’ve been quietly reading and enjoying your blog for a number years now, and I think you have a good personal story to tell about intersections between motherhood, politics and work. A memoir-type book, but one that personalises the political: how parenting practices, job markets, etc conspire to maintain patriarchy/something along that line. Anyway, if you put out a book, I would buy it. :-)

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