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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

A Ph.D., but Not an Academic
October 27, 2013 - 3:17pm

I will admit that the idea for this post originated in a place of cranky defensiveness. The comments on last week's post, as on a number of previous posts, seemed to presuppose that because I was writing personally, I must be unaware of current research and thinking in my field.

The only explanation I could initially think of was that the commenters assumed that because I don't teach at a university I must not be educated or intelligent. I started to write a clever, biting response, but on reflection, I realized it is possible that my writing just doesn't read as smart or educated to some readers. I can live with that.

I started thinking, though, about the number of real life friends who have expressed surprise that I didn't go into academia. I spent so many years hanging around universities (2 masters' degrees and a PhD, as well as several years writing development material and presidential speeches at a major university) that I can understand their confusion. Clearly, I love classrooms, and I read and write all the time, so what could be more perfect?

There are several reasons why I did not pursue a teaching career. None of them have to do with disrespect for those who do—I am inexpressibly grateful to the many brilliant and generous professors who have helped and inspired me over the years. They are personal:

1. I am a bad teacher.
I am a great supervisor of people who already have graduate degrees. I stink at explaining the fundamentals to people who may or may not be interested. This is  mostly because I don't actually understand how I know the things I know, and thus have a hard time explaining them to others. I would chalk this up to lefthandedness, but there isn't enough research to support the connection between left hand/right brain/intuitive thinking, so it is probably better to just say I am a lousy teacher.

2. Meetings.
When I am forced to sit in a room with others who would prefer to filibuster, or talk about their kids or their pet hamster, rather than zipping through the agenda, I tend to mutter under my breath and make offensive faces, and on more than one occasion I have excused myself to use the bathroom and not come back. I admire people who can tough it out and work cooperatively.  I am not one of them.

3. Homework.
Since I was a child, I have hated,the feeling that whatever I was doing, there was something more important, and less fun, that I really should be working on. When I finished my dissertation, I decided to be done with all that. Naturally, I haven't escaped it entirely—there are always taxes, and housework, and of course in my line of work clients do have emergencies. But I have managed to steer clear of jobs that require me to grade papers and write books and articles whether I want to or not.

My work as a therapist and clinical supervisor brings me new experiences every day. Teachers tell me this is true for them, as well—even if you are teaching the same material, the students will make it into a completely new course. I believe this, but what I do is more engaging to me.

I make use of the skills and interests of my university colleagues. I don't do research myself, but I try to stay current, especially in my areas of specialization (creativity, gender issues and the mind/body connection). I participate in seminars and webinars. And I read this blog, to find out what all of you smart and educated people are thinking about.

 

 

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