- Professor Mommy: Finding Work-Family Balance in Academia by Rachel Connelly and Kristen Ghodsee
During my schooling and professional life, I have met few women in leadership positions who were also primary caregivers to young children. My lesson from these observations has been that women make choices between professional and family life. In other words, in order to be an exceptional professional, a woman has to give up some of motherhood and vice versa. Now, I am in the position of negotiating this intersection for myself.
Within the last year, I accepted the new titles of Dr. Bondi and, most recently, mama. In the wake of these changes, I have been trying to visualize my academic career alongside my role as a mother. It is truly difficult for me to imagine, since what I have been taught about the roles of mother and professional are largely incompatible. When I think about what it means to be a mother, I imagine someone who puts her family first, is available to spend time with her young children, and drops everything when needed by a child. I have learned that professionals are able to come to work and focus on it without more important obligations (aka "distractions"). While thinking about my own career path, I wonder to what extent being a tenure-track faculty member and mama are compatible. I ask myself such questions as: Is it possible? What will it take? Is it worth it? Do I want that? Professor Mommy: Finding Work-Family Balance in Academia offers questions I need to think about for myself. It also demonstrates that the roles of professor and mommy are compatible for some women.
In Professor Mommy, Rachel Connelly and Kristen Ghodsee present a thorough set of questions for women to consider and strategies to utilize in order to make informed decisions about pursuing both an academic career and family life. Connelly and Ghodsee seek to refute the myth that women must choose between a family and an academic life; they argue that women can become "professor mommies," and provide suggestions for planning an intentional approach toward achieving tenure. The authors succeed in offering possibilities for the compatibility of academe and motherhood, although the roles of professor and mommy described by the authors will not align with some women's needs and desires for parenting. [End Page 230]
Many new PhDs, women in particular, are confronted with the question of whether tenure-track faculty positions and parenthood—specifically, notions of what it means to be a good mother—are compatible. The number of women earning PhDs has grown by around 15 percent in recent years, from 44 to 51 percent of all doctorates, thereby increasing the audience asking this question of compatibility.
The authors of Professor Mommy are both tenured professors at Bowdoin College and mothers, but they have different experiences. Connelly is a full professor of economics, and Ghodsee is an associate professor of women's studies. In addition to being in different fields, the authors have different parenting experiences: Connelly is raising four children with a partner, while Ghodsee is raising one child as a single parent. Their stated purpose for writing this book is to fill the void in women's stories about securing tenure while raising children.
Professor Mommy is a practical guide written for women who are considering or currently combining family life and the pursuit of tenure. The authors recognize that tenure-track fathers have challenges when they are involved parents of small children, but Connelly and Ghodsee intentionally speak to the particular concerns and situations that mothers face. Although the authors focus on the experiences of women, they offer guidance about the tenure process that would likely benefit any graduate student or new faculty member. For example, the authors emphasize learning the institutional and departmental expectations, which is useful guidance for any junior faculty member on the market or working toward tenure.
Professor Mommy begins by challenging myths of academic life and motherhood—including the myth that academic...