Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Mother-In-Law Is Worse Than Your Mother-In-Law

The reason I have time to write today, on this Major American Holiday, relates directly to the title of this post. I have been pondering the deep philosophical question of whether I would rather spend today with my mother-in-law or with my most loathsome colleague (mentioned in previous posts as Professor Troll). I think I would choose the latter, though if this question about my preferred holiday companions were on a multiple-choice test, a better answer would be none of the above or cats (Figure 1).

The reason I might choose my trollish colleague over my mother-in-law for a holiday companion is that I can respond to his rude comments as I wish -- sarcastic comments without guilt, faux-innocent remarks to him about his former classmates who are now all retiring in droves, passive-aggressive mention of my recent papers or grants, etc. However, on the rare occasions I have to see my mother-in-law, I am nice to her, however not nice she is. I am nice to her in person and I am nice to her in absentia (I never say anything negative about her to my daughter, for example). I can't even be sarcastic, and that is difficult for me.

Academic families are complicated, but real families are more so. Even so, I am glad to have a few days off from appointments, meetings, and so on, before diving back into the last few weeks of the term.


Anonymous said...

FSP, on this day of giving thanks let me say thanks to you! I have been reading your blog for some time now and as an aspiring physical sciences FSP it has been really helpful. I guess you are kind of an anonymous, informal, electronic mentor. Reading uncensored dispatches from someone a few rungs up the research ladder from me is great. Happy Holidays! (I am alone in a distant(ish) land this Thanksgiving and have thus escaped the perils of family complications. Of course, that means I have to get some work done...)

Anonymous said...

Dear FSP,

Happy thanksgiving to you!

I have stumbled upon your blog recently and have been enjoying present and past posts. As a youngish woman embarking on the path of academia (joined as faculty in a research institute in India last year), your insights are of great interest to me. Having spent close to 10 years in US of A, I feel quite nostalgic about holiday season there!


Female Science Professor said...

Thanks to all for the kind comments.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit uncertain about your strategy with your daughter. I expect your effortful niceness to your mil is exemplary, but if your daughter doesn't know of your effort, she misses out on the example.

Also, there must be many very small signs that your feelings are not entirely present in your actions. Your daughter is surely picking up on some of this, but she is handicapped by the fact that what she is seeing can't be described.

Anonymous said...

I'm also grateful for the opportunity to eavesdrop on the life of a (generally happy and productive, not to mention literate and funny) FSP. After reading your post, I'm also grateful that I don't yet have a child around whom I have to act grown-up and refrain from trashing my own crazy mother-in-law! Finally, I'm (kind of) grateful that my thesis is due quite soon, thereby giving me a *fabulous* excuse to avoid family get-togethers this year. Happy Thanksgiving!

Unbalanced Reaction said...

I love my family, but sometimes all I need to appreciate my lab and my coworkers is a little bit of quality time with my relatives. :)