An apology to female academics and career mothers everywhere
My tenure process has been set in motion. (For those of you who don’t spend tons of time around academics, this is an elaborate evaluation that will determine whether or not I get to keep my job FOREVER, so it’s supposedly a big deal.) This stage of the process is not inherently stressful, but just knowing it is afoot creates some ambient anxiety. In addition, next week is spring break, and WOW, I was supposed to have accomplished A GREAT MANY THINGS before then. WHOOPS. The semester is more than halfway over and my ability to focus on my research is…nonexistent. I keep thinking it’s just a question of making a list and a plan and having a hearty go at it, but then my brain floats off and I think about babies.
Leading to an amazing revelation: I didn’t appreciate the ways in which this was going to be hard.
Just as I was an asshole about infertility before I had some personal experience, so I was blasé about the physical and psychological effects of gestating a fetus before I had some personal experience. I always imagined that when pregnant, I’d just push through the pain and work smarter. That knowing I had a Major Life Change coming would motivate me to be super productive. That I would churn out massive quantities of top quality research in this remaining semester. And importantly, that having a baby wasn’t such a hurdle in the life of an academic woman. That the life of a female academic parent isn’t that much harder than the life of a male academic parent. That women who let motherhood get in the way of their careers must not have cared too much about their careers.
I know. What an ASSHOLE I was.
I’m not sure how much infertility has skewed my perceptions. I mean, I’m coming to the experience of pregnancy with two years of depression under my belt, and it’s possible I would have operated more like my Model Lady Academic had I not felt that a certain degree of focus on my fetus was justified. Had I not been so terrified of losing him for Part 1 and so overjoyed to have him with me for Parts 2 and 3 that I felt like it was pretty much FINE to spend every moment thinking of him. But even had I not gone through IF, it would still have been exhausting to be pregnant and very, very hard to stay focused on intellectual shit when I can barely remember what words are. And I’ve had an extremely easy pregnancy. (KNOCK ON WOOD.) And pregnancy is the easy part of being a parent.
Anyway, I would like to revise my former opinions. Having a baby is a massive hurdle in the life of an academic woman. The life of a female academic parent is massively harder than the life of a male academic parent. (And I don’t even know that from personal experience yet, but as I watch some of you deal with career/family challenges, I can tell.) Women who let motherhood get in the way of their careers may or may NOT have cared about their careers. At the moment, there’s a tiny…something or other… poking out of my belly, and I can’t image caring about anything but that.