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Academic Motherhood

How Faculty Manage Work and Family

Kelly Ward and Lisa Ellen Wolf-Wendel

Publication Year: 2012

Academic Motherhood tells the story of over one hundred women who are both professors and mothers and examines how they navigated their professional lives at different career stages. Kelly Ward and Lisa Wolf-Wendel base their findings on a longitudinal study that asks how women faculty on the tenure track manage work and family in their early careers (pre-tenure) when their children are young (under the age of five), and then again in mid-career (post-tenure) when their children are older. The women studied work in a range of institutional settings—research universities, comprehensive universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges—and in a variety of disciplines, including the sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences.

Much of the existing literature on balancing work and family presents a pessimistic view and offers cautionary tales of what to avoid and how to avoid it. In contrast, the goal of Academic Motherhood is to help tenure track faculty and the institutions at which they are employed “make it work.” Writing for administrators, prospective and current faculty as well as scholars, Ward and Wolf-Wendel bring an element of hope and optimism to the topic of work and family in academe. They provide insight and policy recommendations that support faculty with children and offer mechanisms for problem-solving at personal, departmental, institutional, and national levels.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

We would like to acknowledge the many people who have provided support for us throughout this project. We both had the support of our institutional colleagues, who discussed ideas with us, encouraged us, questioned us, and pushed us to think about work and family in new and different ways. ...

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Chapter 1. Motherhood and an Academic Career: A Negotiable Goal

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pp. 1-12

Academic women courageous (or foolish) enough to mention to their colleagues an interest in children and family are often met with a barrage of bad news, the received wisdom of the challenges of a journey fraught with difficulties. The general narrative suggests that both faculty life and parenthood are all consuming and irreconcilable, ...

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Chapter 2. Origins of the Study

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pp. 13-27

Before providing more detail about our research study and presenting the findings from the interviews, we thought it would be helpful to present more information about our lives as academics and mothers to provide perspective and background information. ...

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Chapter 3. Understanding the Existing Narratives and Counternarratives

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pp. 28-46

There is a “narrative of constraint,” reinforced in the research literature and in academic lore, which suggests that tenure-track faculty life is not compatible with outside pursuits, like motherhood. The label was introduced by KerryAnn O’Meara and her colleagues, Aimee LaPointe Terosky and Anna Neumann (2008), ...

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Chapter 4. Managing Work and Family in the Early Career

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pp. 47-62

Amy is a thirty-six-year-old second-year professor at Flagship University and an emerging scholar in her field. She’s been married for two years and has a new baby. She thought a lot about the timing of having her child, and she wasn’t sure she was ready in terms of her career, but she felt ready in terms of her biological clock. ...

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Chapter 5. Mid-Career Perspectives on Work and Family

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pp. 63-87

Andrea is enjoying her life as an associate professor and the mother of two school-aged children. Life is still complicated, but the stress of the pretenure era and of having little babies who rely on her for everything seems to have dissipated to a large degree. ...

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Chapter 6. The Role of Disciplinary and Departmental Contexts

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pp. 88-109

Throughout this book, as throughout the early and mid-career interviews, we were struck by the commonality of experience among the faculty women in the study regardless of where they worked and what discipline they were in. Academic mothers had more in common as a group than they had differences. ...

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Chapter 7. Institutional Type Differences

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pp. 110-148

Generally speaking, research related to academic life, work, and family has failed to consider organizational perspectives. The vast majority of research on academics and motherhood is based on the experiences of faculty at research universities. ...

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Chapter 8. Social Capital and Dual Careers

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pp. 149-164

As discussed in chapters 6 and 7, the academic profession as experienced by women with children is shaped by the cultures and expectations of particular disciplines and institutions. There is another important layer that shapes how individuals experience their academic positions—that of their marital status and social class. ...

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Chapter 9. Leaving the Tenure Track

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pp. 165-178

What about people who did not get tenure? What about those who left the tenure track? Did people leave academia all together? Although it is hard to identify the specific number of women who did not get tenure, or who are no longer on the tenure track due to attrition between the early- and mid-career phases of the study, ...

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Chapter 10. Policy Perspectives

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pp. 179-211

Sarah got pregnant in her third year on the tenure track at a comprehensive state university. After trying to get pregnant for two years, she was ecstatic. She told a few colleagues she was pregnant and everyone was happy for her. One of her friends, a colleague in another department, asked her what she was going to do when she had the baby ...

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Chapter 11. Conclusions, Recommendations, and Parting Thoughts

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pp. 212-246

The findings from this project suggest that family plays a role in how people develop in their academic careers, just as careers play a role in how people evolve in their family. The intent of this project, and subsequently this book, is to show that these paths can be integrated in ways that are meaningful and gratifying. ...


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pp. 247-258


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pp. 259-264

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About the Authors

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Kelly Ward earned her Ph.D. from Penn State in 1995. She has held administrative and faculty positions at the University of Montana and Oklahoma State University. She is currently serving as chair and professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling Psychology at Washington State University. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813553214
E-ISBN-10: 0813553210
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813553849
Print-ISBN-10: 0813553849

Page Count: 276
Illustrations: 24 photos
Publication Year: 2012