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Good mother, good academic?

I wrote this four years ago. The struggle remains the same, so yes, publish. And god, I so want to be over this dilemma.

2016. Yesterday I was proofreading my manuscript at home when the Little Big Boss came over crying. I had to put my pen down and console her. She didn't want to leave my lap so we compromised. We put her play doh on the table and I tried to work while she played. It went smoothly -- for about five minutes! Haha!

The Artist in Residence is familiar with this scene. Starting when she was eight years old, she had to come along with me to academic conferences. She'd stay in her chair reading, or drawing and writing in her notebooks. People praised her and commented on how she was remarkably well-behaved. I had no idea just how remarkable her ability to sit still and focus was, until the Little Big Boss came along. With this one, sitting together quietly for a stretch of time is a much bigger challenge. The things that kept the Artist content at conferences were pens and paper. Easy. The things that absorb the Boss completely are water, sand, pebbles, and soap suds. Not so easy.

Is it possible to be a good academic and a good mother? I recently encountered this question on NPR.

I have no answers. And neither did psychologist Tania Lombrozo. A lot of what she said made sense to me though.

This fictional creature [ is a cultural and historical anomaly. Today's mothers actually spend more time with their children, on average, than mothers of the mid-'60s. Moreover, humans are cooperative breeders. Being raised by mom and mom alone is not a "natural" condition, nor one we should reasonably aspire to.
Equally fictitious is the "ideal worker." Sociologist Mary Blair-Loy characterizes the supporting cultural ideology as one that "defines the career as a calling or vocation that deserves single-minded allegiance and gives meaning and purpose to life." The ideal worker is always available, unconstrained by obligations beyond the workplace. It follows that the ideal worker is not a caregiver and, certainly, not an ideal mother.

All I know is that it's a struggle every damn day. Sometimes I'm saddled with guilt over lost time with the girls. Sometimes I feel frustrated when I have to set aside work for family. Either way, it's hard to let go. (And to think I speak from a position of privilege with a capital P.)

Every now and then something makes being torn seem worthwhile. I guess.


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