What kind of academic are you today?

One of the best things I’ve ever seen on the internet is philosopher Linda Martín Alcoff’s employment history. http://www.alcoff.com/content/emphis.html It starts with babysitter, has waitress at Pizza Hut in the middle, and ends with Professor of Philosophy. When I read that, I felt relieved and grateful that for once a well-known academic wasn’t pretending that being a professor was the only kind of work they’d ever done. I loved that Alcoff wasn’t hiding the kinds of labor she’d preformed on the way to becoming a famous academic.

I could certainly post my own similar employment history that would start with babysitting and include working at a McDonalds on a highway. Instead, in the spirit of Mothering in the Academy, I’d like to post all of the kinds of academic mothers I’ve been.

  • Pregnant PhD candidate
  • Graduate Student Mother of a baby with only part time childcare
  • On the job market while nursing and with a young toddler
  • Adjunct mother (at an R1 and a community college) with toddler
  • Unemployed academic mother with preschooler
  • On the job market while pregnant
  • Tenure track mother at a regional master’s degree institution
  • Tenure track mother while pregnant and with a preschool child in a department where no other faculty members had children
  • Tenure track mother with newborn baby and no paid parental leave at an institution where the tenure clock does not stop
  • Tenure track mother with two kids under 6
  • Tenure track mother, teaching and attending conferences while nursing
  • Tenure track mother with a partner who couldn’t find work in our home state
  • Tenure track mother with a commuter marriage
  • Tenured mother with a commuter marriage and two children
  • Tenured mother in a department that now has several faculty members who are either expecting children or have small children at home.
  • Visiting Scholar at an elite R1 university, on leave from tenured position so her family can live together.

I bring all of these experiences to this blog and my work coaching parents in the academy.

So tell me, what kind of academic are you today, and what kind have you been in the past?


2 thoughts on “What kind of academic are you today?

  1. -a master’s student who was repeatedly told to “wait to have kids until you’ve finished coursework, it’s only 2 years”

    -a PhD student with a prestigious fellowship at an R1 who was told to “wait to have kids until you’ve finished coursework, it’s only 2.5 years”

    -a PhD student studying for exams and writing a prospectus who was told “wait until you’re in candidacy so you can focus”

    -a PhD candidate who was told, “wait until you’ve written at least two chapters so you can apply for grants and publish something before the stress of a baby”

    -a PhD candidate who was told, “wait until you’re done with the job market. you can’t be visibly pregnant on the job market, or too pregnant to fly for an interview”

    -a PhD candidate who was told, “wait until you have a job lined up for next year. you don’t want to add any extra stress right now”

    Who am I now?
    -a PhD candidate, 3 months away from graduating with strong publication record, fellowships and grants, and no job. and no children, who was told at my last meeting with my advisor, “just grieve the loss, you would be a worse academic if you became a mother”

    (i’m in my early 30s…)


  2. Your comment makes me think about the blurry lines between our academic selves and our selves outside the academy. It is also about the oftentimes very very blurry line between our dissertation chair/advisors giving us career advice that turns out to be personal advice. I try to encourage academics I coach to find an academic life mentor. This doesn’t need to be someone in your field, but someone who has parts of their personal life (like perhaps having children while on the job market) who may be able to advise you in different ways than academic advisors who have chosen path you don’t want to take.


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