No such thing as sacred space

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgAre reading the cheeky and well-illustrated Dr. Isis? If so, you’ll already know that she’s well on her way to meeting her goal of being a domestic and laboratoy goddess.

But I had to laugh when I caught with one of her recent entries. In the post she decries the claiming on her sacred adults-only second floor with innumerable toys, art supplies, etc.

Why did I laugh? Because this was the scene in my home office as I read her post.

A scene from Mommy's Office

Figure 1. Minnow hard at work in her mommy’s office. Please note the open desk drawers indicating that mommy’s stationery is now being shoved into the kitchen of a FisherPrice house.Also note the box that has still not been unpacked since we moved her 14 months ago. I’m pretty sure it’s the very last box.

I had once pictured a cozy retreat with desk, task lighting, shelves of novels and reference works, maybe a cozy chair for grading. Obviously, that’s not what I’ve got. The idea that Isis should get a whole floor of her house to herself is laughable. She may be a goddess, but that’s now match for the entropy of children’s playthings.


  1. #1 Isis the Scientist
    September 23, 2008

    Sciencewoman, Dr. Isis will reclaim the second floor of her house as a child-free zone. I simply must! I fear that if I don’t I will become intolerable.

    And I am glad to see that I am not the only person with that darned Fisher Price house in her home. I sometimes think that if I step on those Little People one more time in the middle of the night, the Fisher Proce house may have a horrible “accident.”

  2. #2 Interrobang
    September 23, 2008

    Every time I see blog post like this, it further strengthens my resolve never to sprog. Thank you. Thank you so much. 🙂

    (That’s a beautiful rug, by the way — aren’t you terrified of letting a small child exist anywhere near it? Also: Door locks?)

  3. #3 Rev Matt
    September 23, 2008

    I kept telling myself that I would retain a small part of the house as a child free zone so I could work and relax. It was a lie that kept me sane during the early years. BC (before children) we had a very hip modern high style look going on in our house with abstract art and fancy shiny furniture. It is no longer fancy. Or neat and tidy.

  4. #4 KJ
    September 23, 2008

    Luckily, my office has a door that my little one has not yet figured out how to open. But, more than once, I have pulled miniture monkeys and animal crackers out of my work bag, looking for a journal article. The worst was when I couldn’t find my wallet to pay for my coffee. I could only find diapers. Barristas don’t take huggies as tips.

  5. #5 Tara C. Smith
    September 23, 2008

    Since the divorce, my office has become my couch. At least y’all have a place you can ostensibly call “yours”…

  6. #6 Jessica Palmer
    September 23, 2008

    They still have Little People? You just made my day!! I think I sold all mine at a yardsale. . . along with, I fear, my Fisher-Price Castle. Sniff. Sniff.

  7. #7 PhysioProf
    September 23, 2008

    I fear that if I don’t I will become intolerable.


    Hey, SW, that carpet looks like something you’d see after a bad hit of fucking blotter acid.

  8. #8 D. C. Sessions
    September 23, 2008

    Well, that brings back memories. Fortunately I never really expected a “child-free zone,” so now that I have one, sort of, I’m free to enjoy it as the novelty it is.

    Just wait. You’ll have one yet. In, say, twenty or so years.

    At which point, of course, the “grandchild-free zone” enters the planning stage …

  9. #9 Isis the Scientist
    September 23, 2008

    I fear that if I don’t I will become intolerable.


    Hey, SW, that carpet looks like something you’d see after a bad hit of fucking blotter acid.

    PP, your ability to be an ass amazes me.

  10. #10 Leni
    September 23, 2008

    I’m with Interrobang. Door locks, not a bad thing. My parents had them and my siblings and I survived it. We also learned to pick locks, but we survived it.

    That said, I wanted to kill my nieces and nephews after one day of having their grubby little hands all over my stuff. I wanted, several times in the course of 24 hours, to be that steward on the airplane who gave a whining toddler a vodka and apple juice cocktail to shut him up. Now I’m missing a few of the little rocks from my chintzy fossil collection, my bathmat met the bathmat gods, and my beloved down comforter has a giant yellow stain on it 🙁

    Gross. And my sink was clogged up. Probably with fossils, unidentifiable kid goo, and that little Buddha statuette I can’t seem to find anywhere. Rats! They are evil, sticky little rats!

    Although seriously, you could have the space you want, SW. You’d just have to install a locking a door and set some boundaries. It’s been done before. And even if you only get 50% compliance, that’s still 50% more than you had before!

  11. #11 Isis the Scientist
    September 24, 2008

    Leni, it sounds like you had a tough go of it. That being said, I think you’d be a amazed at how much tolerant of the destruction when the children are yours. I haven’t had a comb with all its teeth in years.

  12. #12 Isis the Scientist
    September 24, 2008

    …much tolerant of the destruction you are…

    Sorry. Its early and I have been up with crying children.

  13. #13 D. C. Sessions
    September 24, 2008

    Sorry. Its early and I have been up with crying children.

    No apologies required. If it helps, remember that crying is good — it means that they’re breathing.

  14. #14 ScienceWoman
    September 24, 2008

    re: the fisher-price house. It is actually left over from my childhood. My mom saved all the cool toys and sent them to us after we arrived in Mystery City. They do make modern FP stuff, but they’ve made the people so big (and unswallowable) that the houses, cars, planes…now all suck. Our solution: Give her the sets now and the people later when she’s fully past the putting-things-in-the-mouth stage.

    re: the rug. A hand me down from the in-laws. This room is over the unheated garage and the rug provides a nice extra layer of insulation.

    re: door locks. I’m taking care of Minnow while Spouse sleeps. And you want me to lock her out of the room? People, please. And yes, children (and the associated messes) are much more tolerable when they are your progeny.

  15. #15 John Paul Minda
    September 24, 2008

    My child-freezone is supposed to the whole house. After 8:30 pm. But any other time, there seem to be no such thing.

    We have a playroom (the two-car garage deviod of cars with paneling and floors). But its never enough. So kid stuff spills into the living room. I have 6 DVDs. My kids have 346. Mostly those barbie princess movies (the “diamond castle”).

    I do not even have my own TV shows. All I ask is that I can watch one NFL game a week. Pittsburgh or Buffalo. But with only one TV, I get pushed out of the way because someone wants to watch a “kid show”.

    One day, one girl was playing game on the family iMac, the other girl was playing a game on my Mac Book and my wife was using her laptop. There was no computer for Dad. Despite the fact that Dad bought ALL THREE OF THEM!

    Other problems:

    1. I institute a no eating rule in my Honda Pilot. Never sticks. The food does stick.

    2. Hannah Montana and Highschool musical is always on the CD player.

    3. HM is even on my ipod! I hate Hannah Montana.

    4. They write notes to me on the front of students’s un-defended dissertations that I am reading. (“Natalie. Love. Mommy. Dad. Sylvie. Cat.”)

    5. Even my university office is not free. Drawings, pictures and notes. And here I am wasting valuable time writing about what a pain my kids are.

    Good thing they are so sweet, cute and charming.

  16. #16 Leni
    September 25, 2008

    Isis wrote:

    Leni, it sounds like you had a tough go of it. That being said, I think you’d be a amazed at how much tolerant of the destruction when the children are yours.

    Oh, I’m not surprised at all. I’m convinced that this ability is responsible for the survival of our race. And I’m not so intolerant in practice. Those sticky little rats can get just about anything out of me they want.

    Just because it annoyed me doesn’t mean I let the kids know that. At least I try very hard not to.

    I just complain about it later to strangers in a safe place because I’m not going to say this stuff to my sister! The woman has a debilitating, career ending injury, 4 kids (3 of whom are under the age of six), another 6 year old step-child with serious emotional issues half time, and large quantities of pain killers to dull the miserable pain she is constantly in. I will not complain to her about how annoying her children can be. Besides, my guess is that she already knows!

    And if that playroom/office pictured above is any indication of the degree of chaos one child can create. Multiply that mess times 4.5, throw in a sullen teenager and a sullen, overworked husband, mind-numbing pain killers, and just imagine what her office looks like. This one here looks like a freaking Martha Stewart dream office in comparison!

    Sciencewoman wrote:

    re: door locks. I’m taking care of Minnow while Spouse sleeps. And you want me to lock her out of the room? People, please.

    Well, I was thinking more along the lines of neither of you being in your dream-space when you’re on kid duty. Correct the homework at the kitchen table. Get a laptop and a zipdrive. I’m not saying it to be a jerk, I’m just saying that it’s probably doable. And far as life goes, it’s definitely one of the more solvable problems.

    More seriously, I’m not as unsympathetic as I’m sure I sound. I know it’s tough. My mom was a single parent with 3 kids and 2 jobs, while being in the Army Reserves and doing without the benefit of spousal or (ex-spousal) assistance for a great deal of it. For several years (albeit when I was the only kid left at home) she did all this on top of driving two hours one-way to school, two nights a week to get a PhD. I know it’s hard, I’ve seen it and lived it.

    That woman worked her ass off, but she also locked her bedroom door and spent what little time she had with us in the common living areas, which we *mostly* respected.

    Look, if it won’t work for you it won’t work for you, and that’s just fine. But please don’t act like it’s not a solvable problem, or that I’m suggesting you neglect your children.

    …And if all that wasn’t enough, I can tell you about my brother-in-law’s family (6 kids) who lived in a one room, tin roofed, no running water, concrete floor shack in rural Mexico. Somehow his parents created a “sacred space” even though they had to hang up blankets to do it. Or my mother’s parents, who lived (until their very early and untimely, if not surprising, deaths) in a 3 bedroom ranch house with 10 kids.

    I don’t mean to be an ass, but I have to say, I just don’t feel much moved by the plight of a somewhat untidy room. Particularly since you chose to have children, don’t really seem to mind the mess much, and seem to have worked out a pretty good solution with someone who appears to be willing to share the work. As far as I can tell you have it pretty darn good!

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