Revising the old self image, round 2, part 2.
So why is looking like a slob and failing to publish in top journals presenting such a problem for our hero? Well, I haven’t been to this particular conference in several years because of BABIES. (Where is Bunny? my colleagues asked. Off having babies…) And the last time I saw a lot of these people (at a different conference) I was pregnant with Bunlet. And now I will be showing up pregnant again. Some part of me feels that by showing up pregnant, I’m signaling to everyone that I’m not serious about this academia shit. And I think the paper rejection hurt extra bad because a publication in a top journal would have given me something to mitigate this feeling. Sure, I’m basically a sow, but at least a sow with a great new paper coming out! A big fat rejection compounds the feeling of being a dilettante breeder. As does the fact that I can’t wear my Professor Uniform because my fetus is bulging out all over the place.
As a graduate student, I was explicitly given the message that parenthood and academia don’t go well together. We were informed that being an academic mother is a tough gig. We were informed that simply being told a woman is a mother may make people think of her as less competent (isn’t that the BEST?). Many of my female professors, particularly older ones, had no children. That may have been a choice and it may not have been, or it may have been a shitty sort of non-choice-choice. We were warned that while men can have photos of their kids on their office doors (and people will think better of them) when women display their parenthood, people think they’re JUST MOMMIES. And I know things are a ton better than they used to be, and a ton better in my fields than in, say, STEM fields, but I do see this cycle perpetuated in my peers. Peers at high-powered institutions have marveled at the fact that I have reproduced and said they feel they can’t have kids and tenure. Peers who do have kids typically have one child. Again, that may or may not be a choice. The occasional woman has two kids. But THREE? Unheard of.
So yeah, some part of me believes that serious people don’t have children. And especially not an endless stream of them.
I should hasten to add that I don’t believe the part of me that believes that. Of course serious people have children, even an endless stream of them. And the reality is that very few of the people at the conference know how many kids I have. Those who observe my state are more likely to think Wow, she looks like a bag of various sizes of watermelon! than Wow, she can’t possibly be very committed to research if she’s having yet another BABY. My conference friends may know I have kids, but even those who know me pretty well are not keeping track of my breeding stats. (Not on facebook! Nobody knows what the fuck is going on with me!)
So there are probably other things going on here, like my sense of being an unwilling passenger in this gestating body, and blah blah blah. But before I can gaze at my navel any more (conveniently lifted to a helpful gazing position!) I have to actually GO to this conference. Wish me well!