I think I just might survive the eleventh plague of stomach bugs. I’m venturing beyond bread and gingerale today, and my body seems to be responding favorably to the culinary jolt. So I’m poking my head out for a semi-coherent rant.
I’m soooo sick and tired of hearing the term “mommy track”, which reared its ugly head in the blogosphere the past few days. It all began when FSP and Isis started discussing the issue of maternity leave, families and academia. The scenarios being debated on each blog vary to an extent, but they both deal with taking extended time away from academia to start a family. The consensus in both arenas seems to be yes, your career can overcome extended family leave, so long as you keep your foot in the door. Although some admit a mother who’s recently taken extended leave won’t be at the top of their game (well duh).
But I wonder – can you really compete at the highest level if you take extended time away from academia to start a family? What about just a little time, say less than 3 months? Even though I didn’t take extended leave when I had Monkey (only 8 weeks), the term “mommy track” has been spinning around in my head since I came back to work. And I can’t seem to eliminate the associated guilt. It’s a negative term, with negative consequences for a mother’s career. Yet it seems to be accepted in some circles as a fact of life; Wikipedia even has an article about it. I was recently floored when I heard two different professors at MRU (one male, one female) state that women who *choose* to have children are clearly not serious about academic science. I’m NOT exaggerating.
I’ve busted my ass this past year to *overcome* my *choice* to start a family. I took a very short maternity leave, partly because Hubby and I couldn’t afford to lose my paycheck, partly because I didn’t want to fall behind in an already insanely competitive tenure-track job market, partly because I couldn’t handle being at home all day long with Monkey. (Yeah, I know, I’m a terrible mother – go ahead and comment it out of your system.) I try to stay as focused as possible when I’m in the lab, avoid distractions on the web and in the break room, eat lunch while pumping, etc… But try as I may, I’ve still fallen behind, and I worry the resulting lag has affected how I’m viewed as a scientist.
Not only is my production taken a hit, but I’m walking around these days with an ooey-gooey maternal look on my face. My desk is plastered with pictures of Monkey, scattered among codon usage and data tables. My clothes often sport milk and spit-up stains. My priorities have changed, and nobody around here disputes the idea that motherhood should come first. Everyone is supportive when I need to duck out early for a pediatrician appointment, or when I look like hell because I was up all night with Monkey. Everyone agrees I should be taking care of my little boy. But, as a result, I know I won’t be considered on par with women who choose not to have children.
And then there’s the fact that I want more children – which really scares the shit out of me. The jury’s still out on whether my career will survive one child; can it endure a second? I want a family, and I really really want to continue pursuing my research. I want to at least try to be a rock star scientist, even if that’s not my number one, gotta-have-it-or-I’ll-just-die goal anymore. I’ll admit, I want to “have it all”. But tell me something – why is it wanting a family and kick-ass career the same as wanting to “have it all” when it’s a woman, and just…well…normal when it’s a man?
For their career to survive family, moms need help. There – I said it. We need time to physically and emotionally heal from the adventure of childbirth. We need to be given options on how to optimize our productivity before and after childbirth. We need childcare centers that are nearby and affordable. We need our husbands to be given paternity leave so that we don’t have to stay home as long, if we choose to go back to work earlier (so yeah, dads need some help too). Is there anything so fucking wrong with these things? Does it make us any less intelligent? Or any less of a scientist? A little more expensive, maybe, but I think we’re worth it. In fact, I know we are._____________________________________ Like what you’re reading? Click the banner to vote for my blog!