Anna and Nadia were staying with me last weekend. The main reason was “All kids’ birthday,” but we were also hoping to spend some time together and to do some girls stuff. Which we did, and while the girls were here I was thinking (as I usually do in such cases) about how much parenting had changed since the time I had small children.
It’s also worth noting that I was in the process of listening to the audiobook “All the rage.” In addition to the fact that this book makes you think about gender inequality at home like never before, there was something else.
I always use my own life as an example of “you can have it all.” I used to say that if you plan everything carefully and can distinguish important things from unimportant, you can be a successful parent and a successful professional. And I still believe it is true, but it depends on how you define a successful parent.
My older son birthday is on September 28, and my twins birthday is on August 23. And since for the past ten years it was challenging to get everybody together in one place, we stopped trying to do it twice, and ended up having one big “combined” birthday. This year the day was September 22 – we had the most lovely brunch at Maison Parisienne in Lakeview.
You might ask – why I needed a second job? As I’ve mentioned earlier, the pay in the University was close to nothing and often paid months later than it was due. The next question would be – if that was the case, then why I would stay at this job? Why I won’t find another job instead of looking for a second one? Oddly enough, the job in the University was the only one I could consider “a real job,” the others were “ways to make money.”
This presumption goes back to the Soviet Union. At that time you were supposed to have only one job, less some rare exception. Also, since there can’t be unemployment in the socialist state, you should have always been employed. Also, it was extremely undesirable to change jobs; you would always need a solid, respectable reason to leave your job. Our employment history was a physical object. It was called “a Labor Booklet.” When you start a new job, an HR person would ask for your Labor Booklet and would put a record, indicating your place of employment, your position and title, and the date you started. You could not start any new position anywhere without presenting your Labor Booklet, which would have a record of when and for what reason your previous employment was terminated.
Another follow-up for my visit with my daughter. I’ve realized that I ran pretty fast through the first months of Vlad’s and Anna’s life, focusing more on what was happening with the country. I didn’t write much about our everyday lives, and how it was – raising baby twins amid the economic collapse.
There were many aspects of parenting, where I would make decisions in the survival mode, not because I liked a certain approach better, but because that was the only option. I do not have a lot of pictures from that time. I didn’t own a camera, and taking pictures was not an everyday activity. Boris would occasionally bring his camera with him, and then we would have a photo session.
Anna was asking me how Nadia is different from her at the same age. I replied that she is different because all human beings are different. But I am finding it hard to pinpoint, what are the exact difference,
Our parenting styles are different. When Anna was two, her life was undoubtfully more structured than Nadia’s. There was no question about what clothes to put on, whether to have dinner or not, and what will be served. There was no throwing away food. There were no reading books on the potty. Part of it was survival, me being a single working mom of three in an unstable economy. But part of it was a starting point.
I was an incredibly liberal parent by Russian standards those days. I didn’t spend all day disciplining a child. I would let them do tons of things other parents won’t. But by the nowadays civilized standards, it was still very rigorous parenting.
To cover the past two weeks: it was crazy at work. An interesting fact is that it was mostly good stuff. Good things were happening, and some decisions I’ve been waiting for for a long time were finally made and approved. But it was tiresome. When you need to sit at the meetings for 6 to 7 hours every day, and not just “sit,” but actively listen and participate, you are done by the end of the day — so done, as if you worked 16 hours straight.
There was also a lot happening outside work — things related to the December conference in Chicago, which I am heavily involved in. Boris and I were finalizing yet another paper submission. I was trying to make sure my direct report will present our work at another conference, which I am unable to attend. All stuff with my Mom. All things with my volunteering.
And then I took two days off and went to Madison to babysit my granddaughter Nadia. I can’t remember another moment in my life when I would gladly disconnect from my work email, Slack, etc. I checked what was going on a couple of times (literally!), but without any hesitation replied: this can wait till Tuesday.
It still took me some time to relax, but by midday Saturday, when I was leaving, I already felt pretty good.
I returned home to my long weekend to-do list, but I am keeping thinking about everything that happened during this visit, most about my conversations with Anna. A couple of months ago, I started to write a post about Anna’s and my parenting styles, and then put it aside. I think now I will be able to finish it :).
In fall 1992, I had two problems to address: finding a second job and enrolling Vlad and Anna into daycare. I’ve already mentioned it briefly in previous posts, but I will elaborate more here. The daycare situation was really weird. Since the very early days of the USSR, it was proclaimed that women are liberated from the house slavery and can in enslaved at work. During 1920-30, women were encouraged to bring their babies to daycare at a very early age. Technically speaking the “nurseries” which would take children starting from 3 months of age existed even at my time. But you would be considered a horrible mother if you would send your child to a nursery. Since women were allowed to stay home until a child reaches the age of 18 months, the groups which would take smaller children have been closing right and left.
I found one nursery which still had a group for toddlers from 12 to 24 months, just one for the whole Gavan, the part of the city where we lived. This nursery was partially subsidized by one of the largest shipbuilding plants in the town, so I guess that was the reason.
The event as significant, as the last Russian revolution deserves more extensive description. However, for my whole family and me these days will be forever associated with the birth of Vlad and Anna, my extraordinary twins. Anna likes to joke that she brought down communism, and whether you agree with this statement or not, the connection will always be there.
I was eight months pregnant; the doctors did not believe there were any chances I could go full -term, so I was due to the hospital on August 24. The coup started on August 19, and we all understood that it was a coup. And the people said: no! I know, these days it is fashionable to question the latter statement. But that’s how we felt back then, and it felt damn good! The only thing I’ve resented back then was that I was in no condition to go to a protest to the Palace Square! Which tells something about me :).
The world was collapsing, the radio was turned on in the hospital delivery room, we were breastfeeding our babies while listening to the news about the Communist party offices being shut down. That’s how the new chapter for our family has started.
My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.