It’s the Least You Can Do: Managing Your Career and Family

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve been reading a lot about leaving the academy, the time crunch we’re all under, and mental health issues. One of the main ways I think that being an academic and being a parent intersect is through the feeling of things never being done, more is always being asked of you, and never feeling that what you’ve done is good enough.

There are institutional reasons for these feelings, on the levels of both the family and the university. At work, we have the restructuring of universities into more businesslike models. Just one example of this is the trend towards jacking up enrollments: we have bigger class sizes with increasingly unprepared students. Many institutions are experiencing mission drift: we’re being asked to publish more, and earlier (hello tenure file!) with fewer resources such as professional development budgets and sabbaticals. On the parenting end, there has been a trend since WWII towards thinking of kids as products that their parents, especially their mothers, produce. There is more and more pressure to get kids tutoring, to shape and “grow” kids with an eye towards their achievements and college acceptance letters, as if they were a start up company and not small humans.

Even with these structural issues, there are aspects of our parenting and work that we can control. Below are my eight suggestions on how to do that.

 1) It’s the least you can do.

You’re probably an overachiever. If you’re reading this you probably have an advanced degree or are working towards one. Can I give you permission to stop? Continue reading

Making Mothering Studies Scholars Visible

Thursday Thought: I once heard someone in another field refer to mothering studies as “Jocelyn’s thing” as if I’d made it up in my basement. Mothering Studies has a several decades long intellectual history, including the work of Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, and many, many others.

So a special shoutout to the Museum of Motherhood in NY which is holding its annual conference right now: March 6-8. The theme this year: Making Motherhood Visible. The Museum is inducting three founding Mothering Studies scholars into its Motherhood Hall of Fame: Phyllis Chesler known her her longstanding feminist activism as well as work such as Mothers on Trial (1986), Barbara Katz Rothman whose book about race and adoption, Weaving a Family (2005), I’ve taught many times, and the one and only Andrea O’Reilly, founder of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement. MIRCI has nurtured so many of us second generation mothering studies scholars, myself included.

Andrea-OReillyO’Reilly’s keynote address will discuss the lack of inclusion of maternal perspectives in women’s studies, during a time period where a variety of identity categories are accepted and seen as legitimate subjects of research.

From her interview with York University: “It also shows that my work as both a scholar of motherhood, and more specifically as founder-director of a research centre (Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement, formerly the Association for Research on Mothering) and press (Demeter Press) on motherhood, being so honourably recognized has proven the naysayers wrong – that motherhood does matter and that motherhood studies has indeed arrived, now with a museum of its own.”

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Thursday Thought: Rebel Don’t Recline

Thursday Thought: Rebel Don't Recline

We’ve all read about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and the inevitable backlash. I’m sure a lot of you have read Rosa Brook’s fantastic essay “Recline!” which encourages women not to buy into the superwoman myth in order so that we can have time to read for pleasure and spend time with friends. Imagine that. Reading for pleasure and spending time having fun. So my Thursday Thought: how can we harness our inner fourteen-year-old (or the unpredictable lunacy of someone like Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack) and rebel against family and workplace norms that ask us to be everything to everyone? What if we stopped being “good girls” and started following our own inner compasses? What would outlaw motherhood and/or outlaw academia look like for you?