Academia and Babies

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A couple of my former graduate school classmates posted this article on Facebook about the heavy penalty that female academics play when you have kids. It’s disheartening when you’re a smart girl who has been brought up to dream big and that you can be anything you want to be. Not so in academia. In ways that are antiquated in the business world, women with children are often black-listed from positions due to the fact that they are parents. In the institutions where I have worked, you basically have to sell your soul in order to get daycare on campus. Academics’ bizarre hours don’t often fit in traditional daycare schedules. Forget working from home. As I write this post, a very wiggly 22 month old is demanding much attention for “toast” or “water” or some other weird request involving something that sounds like “shoe” but isn’t his shoe.

From my own experiences in academia, I would say that academics at Research I universities is more challenging for women with children than any other field. As a woman who has been raised to succeed and to jump in with both feet, it is difficult to have a human baby and a “research baby”. You’re congratulated on your publications in the seminal journals in your field, but tell someone you’re pregnant, and they shoot you sideways glances and practically say, “Dead man walking.” The lack of family-friendly attitude is one of the reasons that I’m a PhD drop-out. There are days when I miss the academic rigor an intellectual conversations. There are only so many times you can talk to teenagers about what “butterballin'” means (look it up in Urban Dictionary) and why it’s inappropriate to talk about in class.  There have been many times when I have run out of animal sounds that I know for “Old MacDonald”, but I don’t have to worry about missing future tee-ball games or not being able to progress in my career due to having a family. Academia will always be there; but spending time with my little boy who gets excited about watching sea lions at the zoo won’t always be there.

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