Baby Clothes in the Times of My Motherhood

In August, when my girls were visiting me here, Anna and I started talking about baby clothes when they all were babies. I funny thing is that there was a very little difference between the times when I was a baby and Igor’s times. Things just started to change at Vlad’s and Anna’s time, but a little bit too late for us – I still got a full share of caring for the babies without civilization’s advantages.
When I finished my story, Anna said that I should write a blog post about it because she never understood my challenges before. To illustrate my story, I pulled up a couple of Igor’s pictures when he was 1-2 months old; however, you’ll mostly have to use your imagination :).

There were two tops; both didn’t have any buttons or snaps or fasteners – nothing to hold them together. Such tops were called raspashonks – which can be translated as “no fastener.” The one going under was made of chintz (cotton, but not the stretchy kind). It had short sleeves and was put on a baby with the opening on the back. The upper one had long sleeves and was made of thin flannel, and it was put on a baby with the opening on the front. Both were short, just to the baby’s waist.

Diapers were made of gauze. Most of the time, three layers were sewn together in a triangle. You would fold this triangle twice and put it over the baby’s bottom, between the thighs and over the hips. If you are wondering whether there was anything water-proof, the answer is no. Even when the first leak-proof covers started to appear, pediatricians disapproved of them. They were saying babies develop a rush because of them.

Over a diaper, you would swaddle the baby’s body’s bottom in a small rectangle chintz swaddler (pelenka). Then you could put a small rectangular piece of plastic under the baby’s butt, and then you would swaddle her with a flannel pelenka. For night sleep, you would swaddle in the baby’s arms as well.

I believe this gives a good idea about the volume of washing – cleaning required, and why I was never rushing to change the diaper the moment, it was wet. Oh yes, and multiply by two, and by the absence of a washing machine!

Some Thoughts About “The Second Shift”

I read this book accidentally. I didn’t even know that the book in which the term “second shift” was first introduced. I saw a Russian blog post, in which was saying something to the effect, that “I saw that book review, and that review had an excerpt from this book, and it looks so dumb, this couple does not have enough money, it is not about sharing responsibilities. That didn’t sound right to me, and I decided to check out the book they talked about and turned out that it’s that classic. The translation was not super accurate, and in any case, you should not judge the book by just a couple of pages. I tried to reason, got a dismissive reply of “we do not need any of your American experience,” and walked away (that’s why I am trying not to get into any discussions on Russian blogosphere these days). 

I was going to return the book because I thought – well, I already checked to source and proved that the author of the blog post was wrong, why should I finish this book? I do not need to know anything about the “second shift at home.” But the book already captured my attention, and I ended up finishing it – after all, it’s classic 🙂

And then I thought – why I am saying I do not care about the second shift? Why is it that I never felt it’s a problem in my life?

The answer is obvious: my first marriage was brief, and in the second one, we rarely shared the house. And then I remember something else, from the times which I described in my previous blog post. One of my co-workers talked about her daughter, how she does not have time to do things with her children, because she is busy with this and that. And I said: well, how come I have time to do this and that, and some more? For which she replied; It’s easier on you! You do not have a husband!

Funny thing, I agreed on the spot. I knew that it was easier when you do not need to sync with somebody else on your schedule, parenting style, food preferences, and million other things. 

Which makes me wonder: why the amount of housework multiplies when people start to live together? All these families from the book had some household chores issues even before they had any children. And when you live by yourself, you need to do stuff for yourself, and you can’t blame anybody except yourself when things are not done. People usually do not complain that they have “too much to do” when they are single. It should be less work for each of the two people when they move in together. Why is it more?

I hope that eventually, somebody will explain it to me!

1995: Gigs and Odd Jobs

Since I was fired from Urbansoft, looking for some side jobs, which would put bread on the table, became a part of my life. Most of the time, these jobs were very loosely related to my skills. However, by 1990’s standards, I had decent written English, which was a way to make money.

After the HighDoc project, there was one more, which I consider an epic fail on my part.

Boris was a part of the group, which was contracted by Nortel to write a reporting system – I want to say, for their first cellular data, but I need to double-check with Boris. (Correction: Nortel thing was later, what we did in 1994 was a project for GTE Labs, and it happened because of Boris’ connections to Micheal Brodie – more shame on me! ) He incorporated me to write a user manual for that system. As usual, the pay was verbally negotiated. And I failed it unimaginably.
Although I was full-time employed by the University, the attendance was optional, and there was no real research work. I would come to the office twice a week and spend time meeting with people and talking about random stuff. On the days at home, I often started my day going to the city center and checking “what’s new” in the stores. I was still not accustomed to the fact that there were consumer goods available, and I could buy things that I liked. Shopping for produce was another adventure, with multiple food stands on every corner, different prices and different quality.

There were always emails to answer and some cooking to be done at home, and then there was time to go and pick up the kids from the daycare. When I would sit to write my technical documentation, I didn’t progress much and was still thinking that I have enough time to finish. After some time, I realized that there is no way I could finish on time. Boris was sending me the parts of the reporting system, which were already done, and I had almost no documentation. I told him that I failed just four days before the stuff was due. He managed to write up something and had us covered, but that’s the shame I had to carry for many years.

I do not remember how we got involved with Bank Saint Petersburg, there were some connections involved, but I do not recall the details. Somebody somehow talked them into trying to use Oracle. It was Oracle 6, and the installation process was a journey with an unpredictable outcome. The group consisted of Boris, Yuri, and myself. I have a vague recollection that there was somebody else, maybe a person from the bank. We were supposed to install and teach others to use Oracle, and that was the first experience for all of us. I do not know how we managed to present it as if we were competent, but the task was completed, and we got some insane money. I used my portion to take the kids to Poland in summer (I will tell this story later).

The Bank gig happened in spring 1995, when I was finalizing my Ph.D. Thesis, which will be a topic of some future post.

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.

Children’s Fashions in the 1960s

Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation. A young woman asked me what people wore in Russia in the 50s and 60s. She was asking whether the fashions were the same as in the US at the same time, or not. She started to google the images and asked me whether they represented reality.

And I remembered that several years ago, I wrote a blog post about the children’s clothing in the 1960s when I was a child myself. It was so different from the modern kid’s clothes that nowadays, parents will find it hard to believe. 

What a preschool girl in the 1960s would wear indoors:

  • cotton undies which would be up to the waist
  • a waist with elastic garters for stockings
  • cotton stockings
  • drawers
  • a dress
  • an apron with a pocket
  • slippers

Long hair was supposed to be braided neatly, for shorter hair pigtails would be fine, but only if they were really short, not touching the shoulders. Short haircuts were quite common as well.

Boys also wore waists with elastics and stockings; the only difference was that they wouldn’t wear dresses and drawers but instead shirts and short trousers. By my time, boys didn’t wear aprons, although it was not uncommon just ten years before. I am going to consider it gender discrimination 🙂

I hated aprons, because they would cover any pretty dress I would wear. I hated waists, because they had buttons on the back. You can imagine how long it would take to dress and undress even for a five-year-old (and you were supposed to change into your pajamas for a nap). But for the outdoors, it was even worse!

In winter you had to put on:

  1.  Woolen pants
  2. Woolen socks
  3. Valenki with galoshes over them
  4. A fur, of a faux-fur hat, tired under the chin, which you would expect. What you won’t expect that there HAD to be a cotton kerchief (for boys and girls alike). The ends would cross under the chin and tired at the back of your neck. The idea was that there is no chance of any cold air to get to your ears.
  5. A woolen cardigan.
  6. Woolen mittens attached to the elastic ribbon (the ribbon was placed inside the sleeves of your overcoat)
  7. Overcoat, made either of rabbit fur or squirrel fur or woolen cloth with a fur or faux-fur collar.
  8. A woolen scarf.
  9. Optionally – a belt to keep the overcoat closer to the body.

And in preschool, children would go to play outside twice a day!

I do not have any pictures of myself in full gear, but here are two pictures which I copied from 1962 Soviet book about children upbringing

This is a photograph of preschool children playing outside
That picture from the same book shows what I’ve described 🙂

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.

What is Art in the Perspective of a Two-year Old

Anna and Nadia were visiting me last weekend. We asked Nadia whether she wants to see art, the dinosaurs in the Field Museum, or the whales in the Aquarium, and she said – art! So we went to the Art Institute.
Anna wanted to see Andy Warhol e

xhibit, but Nadia refused to acknowledge it as an art :). After being there for ten minutes, she started to ask, “can we see the art now?”

We went to the Ryan Educational Center to do the family project – a shadow box. Then we went to see Chagall’s “American Windows.” To our surprise, Nadia liked them a lot! She was sitting on her knees by the first window, then running to the second one and sitting there, and then moving to the third one. She spent at least ten minutes there, and would probably spend more if we would let her. So you can’t even say that an abstract art in not for toddlers. Go figure!

Visiting Aquarium with my Girls

Better later than never:). We visited the Shedd with Anna and Nadia when they were last time in town, on September 21. And back then I said: I need to write a thank you letter to the Aquarium! And I meant to write a blog post, but never did. So here is it.

Shedd is one of my most favorite places, but out of all my children, only Anna shares my love. And when we were deciding where to go with Nadia, we both voted for this destination. 

I used to have a family membership to Shedd when I had kids at home, but now I have an individual one. Still, they gave me a free guest pass, including the show. 

We were all wondering, how Nadia will react to her first Aquarium visit (she saw the whales in the ocean when they were in Australia), and belugas and whales indeed enchanted her. 

The thing I wanted to mention is how much more toddler-friendly Aquarium has become since my kids were kids. The whole Polar Play Zone is designed just for kid’s play and exploration. And we were extremely grateful for the cafe staff. When we picked our food, we were asked multiple times whether we know that this kids’ dish is cold. When Nadia spilled her milk, four people rushed to our table, all reassuring that everything is alright, one mopping the floor, another wiping the table, yet another putting the “wet floor” sign, and another staff bringing a new mild carton (we thanked, but didn’t take:)) And while cleaning they were asking how are we enjoying the visit, aside of this spilled milk :). I thought it was so-so nice of them!

“Having It All” Then and Now

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.

Continue reading ““Having It All” Then and Now”