Research and motherhood: They go together like peanut butter and…salmon
I recently looked for weblogs written by other female academics who have been through infertility. But it turns out when you google academia + infertility + blog (or related terms) you get…me. And I’m already my most loyal reader. My reason for looking had to do with the strange place I find myself in right now–not really a stay at home mother, not really a working mother. Basically….a slacker mother.
At Mediocre Institution, you get no actual parental leave. I am not actually on leave right now, I’m just not getting paid because it’s summer and I don’t have a grant with summer salary built in. And in the fall, I will not actually be on leave. I am “released from teaching and service obligations” on account of Bun Bun. But research is the main part of my job, and I am supposed to be doing research RIGHT NOW. I’m supposed to be doing it in the fall, too.
Uh, I’m not doing SHIT right now. (I dropped by for a lab meeting last week to touch base with my research assistants, but mainly I’ve just been keeping in contact via sporadic e-mail.) And if anyone on my tenure committee finds this I’ll deny it, but I can’t see that changing in the fall.
I am super burned out, after all that awesome depression. (Hence my search specifically for blogs by academics who had been through IF.) And the burned out has been going on for a while, so I’m not involved in any exciting collaborations, or working on tons of projects or papers that I’m enthusiastic about, et cetera. And then there’s the convenient but also inconvenient timing of my tenure process: my file is in now, which means I’m being evaluated based on what I’ve done already, which does not exactly encourage me to work my ass off.
In some ways, I wish I had release from RESEARCH obligations. At the moment, I’d much rather teach and do committee work, which may require more scheduling, but doesn’t require a brain of any kind. And I wonder how many other academic women feel this way. The adjustments my workplace makes for parenting seem so reasonable, generous even. But they ignore the fact that research requires intellectual vigor, enthusiasm for creative thinking, uninterrupted productivity… I bet I’m not alone in finding it hard…no, impossible…to summon any of these things. And I’m wondering if my colleagues who seem to return to work without missing a beat are just better researchers than I am, or if they are hiding the fact that they feel this way too. I now know that many of them were hiding the fact that pregnancy was hard on them.
And I have to tell you, the role of slacker mother is not a totally desirable one. I have the work of a stay at home mother (all the household chores, the primary care-giving during the week) while also having to feel guilty about being a slacker. I find myself resenting my husband for sticking me with, say, the laundry, because goddammit, I’m a PROFESSOR, but of course, there’s no evidence of that whatsoever.
If you’re rolling your eyes and thinking So just work already! Well, see the part about being totally burned out. Or if you’re thinking I should quit, well, I have to wait to see whether my feelings about my career have actually have changed for good, and there’s also the fact that I’ve got a contract. And if you’re thinking I should do neither and stop feeling guilty, well, that sounds awesome. How do I do that? Teach me to have perfect control over my feelings, OH WISE ONE.
And if you’re thinking this is super boring and I don’t relate to any of it at all, I don’t blame you. This is absolutely one of those posts I warned you about, where my problems don’t look like problems to anyone but me.*
Except perhaps to other women in the same situation. So if you happen to know where all the post-infertility pre-tenure academic bloggers are hiding, feel free to point me in that direction.
*Particularly not to women who have to return to work after six weeks and would kill for a little more time with their child. I really don’t know how you do it.