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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Long Distance Mom: Should my son become a college professor?
March 13, 2013 - 9:38pm

How often do offspring repeat their parent’s profession?  

Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending time with several members of my dissertation committee at the Society for Cinema & Media Studies conference in Chicago.  My chair, Maureen Turim, was with her grown daughter, Mika Turim-Nygren, and professor dad, Scott Nygren.  Mika is seeking a doctorate in literature at UIC (and looks a bit like actress Amanda Seyfried).  It was quite the family event.  They all gave presentations!  When I Googled Mika, I found that she is already a professional blogger and travel writer who has worked with Groupon while getting her graduate degree.

I am fascinated to see that someone else's child is also considering a career in academia.  My own son, Nick, said to me just a few weeks ago that he could imagine himself as a college professor.  Despite his distaste for the cafeteria food, Nick's love of his Art History class seems to have brought this on.  But is this desire a delusion?  Will he get a job in this market?

My immediate reaction to Nick’s suggestion was “Talk him out of it.”   Nick did not even want to start college, so why would I hesitate when he wants to stay in it forever?  Unlike myself, who only took off a year between undergrad and grad school and then started teaching ABD, I want Nick to take more time out to work in the “real world,” the world with less-guaranteed job commitments, perhaps, but not one with so much judgement over intellectual value.  I don't really want my son to doubt himself so much…

My oscillating feelings about whether Nick should choose academia are reflected in the recent controversy over Susan Adams' Forbes article in which she claims, quoting a 2013 CareerCast study, that college professors have the least stressful job in America.  The uproar from academics over how they measured "stress level" was so vast  that Adams wrote a humorous follow-up, at least acknowledging that academics disagree with the survey and her assumptions.  Forbes has also just published a related piece by David Kroll, "Top 10 Reasons Being a University Professor is a Stressful Job."

I finished my degree over 18 years ago and gave birth to two children while writing my dissertation.  Both the fun and the anxiety of graduate school are intimately tied together for me—sort of like childbirth—but the respect I have for my profession is genuine, as is my belief in the necessity of this job.  Tackling huge workloads and constant evaluation are just part of it.

There are worse things a child could do….

 

 

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