Thanks to Fer, New Soc Prof, Olderwoman, ORJ, Char and Carly for their great comments on the previous post. This is part of the reason I started this blog – I wanted to have these important conversations. Many of my thoughts are tied into what they said, so I’ll try to incorporate them all together.
As mentioned by NSP, OW, and ORJ, I do think that academia is a better place to be a mommy than most other places. In a prior life, I worked on Wall Street, and being a mommy was really not possible, at least not the type of mommy I wanted to be. It was one of the reasons I got out early. Young professionals mothers, a few years older than I, were told that their promotion track and salary and bonus would be frozen as long as their home responsibilities interfered with their work life. In banking, with children, it is almost impossible for that not to happen as the norms are 9 – 9 days. But this only seemed to apply to women, not men.
In academia, I see a huge differences, which is one of the reasons that I wanted to become a professor – the lifestyle. But, like Fer says, I do think that it’s more difficult to be a mommy in academia* than a childless woman OR a daddy. The biggest issue, it seems, is that you have the constraints on your time, which can hamper making connections and building networks. A professor asked me the other day if I’d like to be involved in a project over the summer that would take at least one full day from my weekend every weekend. As much as I’d love to be involved, I had to turn it down due to my family responsibilities. Now there are two issues with this – one, does that make me look less committed to my work (an argument made as to why mommies are disadvantaged, like ABC commenter said) and two, this professor is also a daddy – how is he negotiating the time away from his kids to do this work on the weekends?
Char says it should be the same constraints on daddies as mommies, but as Carly said, it’s not. The article showed that men actually receive an advantage from being daddies. Correll argues that role of a daddy and that of a committed competent worker are very much in line, while that of a mother and a committed competent worker are not congruent. In banking, being a daddy was not a big deal at all – while I saw at least 4 women be put on the frozen track, I saw countless others become daddies without the same consequence. Men were congratulated on providing for their growing families by staying late at work – incidentally, because many of them were avoiding their responsibilities at home!
Personally, I definitely feel the pressure to perform above and beyond my peers to prove that being a mommy does not make me less committed or competent, although many assume that it will. I had a professor say to me this weekend that I must be happy that the summer is coming so that I could “catch up.” This same professor told me that I should consider a week a successful one if I haven’t had to make too many excuses about turning in stuff late. This is all because I’m a mother to two small children – the expectation is that I am struggling, when in fact, I am not.
But of course, motherhood also intersects with race and class, so my anecdotal experience of feeling the need to be twice as good to get half as much respect may also come from my experiences being black and working-class. So it’s even more sobering to know that motherhood, in and of itself, has become yet another marker of low-status.
* actual citation, in case not able to access the link: Ward, Kelly and Lisa Wolf-Wendel. 2007. “Academic Motherhood: Managing Complex Roles in Research Institutions.” The Review of Higher Education 27: 233-257.