Schadenfreude, or the Girlfriends’ Guide Author is Getting a Divorce

I know this doesn’t say much for my spiritual advancement, but I had a wicked little moment of schadenfruede when I found out rather belatedly that Vicki Iovine was getting a divorce. You see, as a new mom in early 2001 there weren’t a lot of feminist mothering sources. The wave of feminist critiques of attachment parenting and regressive family values were still to be published. Mothering blogs weren’t yet a thing. I wouldn’t discover Brain, Child, in its first radical and spiky incarnation until later that year. I gave subscriptions to that lifeline of a magazine as baby shower presents for a decade until it changed hands. But in the aftermath of new motherhood, I had a copy of The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood. 

The top three things I remember from that book, and her previous one on pregnancy were:

• diuretics to take the morning you were going to see your OB-GYN to try to maintain the fiction you weren’t growing a person inside of you and the importance of dressing so you looked cute for your presumably male doctor

• how to make a pot of homemade low calorie soup and only eat that in order to lose the baby weight

• that my kitchen would not be as spotless as before I needed to make my peace with that

This was not very good advice for a graduate student mom trying to finish her dissertation with a new baby. Iovine’s book made me feel like I was doing motherhood wrong. I couldn’t understand how her advice was supposed to improve my life, and I was incredulous that her ideas of childcare and marriage were still relevant in the 21st century.

So you can imagine why I felt a certain pleasure that the image Iovine had presented of her flawless marriage as a mom with four kids didn’t turn out so well for her in the long run. In her Huffington Post essay, Iovine said she wanted a relationship with someone who had her back, unlike her ex-husband. She sure didn’t have my back as a new mom.

Then I remembered that a lot of Iovine’s advice to please men through our appearance and housekeeping reflects time honored advice women give other women to survive in male dominated societies. So even though her advice was crappy and toxic, I’ve decided to forgive her, and hope that she has some real girlfriends, with some feminist perspectives, that have her back through her divorce.

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

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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?