Aeron Haynie became a mother the year after she received tenure at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay (and exactly one day after she turned 40). Formerly chair of English, she is now on sabbatical and relishes each day.
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November 19, 2008
One of my best friends has been struggling for the last ten years to finish her dissertation. She’s brilliant, has an impeccable academic pedigree, and her graduate papers are charmingly readable. Many times I have urged her to just quit; she has an independent income, and besides, she’s so smart, she doesn’t need a PhD to prove it. Yet a combination of family pressure, guilt, and habit have propelled her onward. As Matt Groening’s early cartoon illustrates, graduate school asks you to put off your life.
November 13, 2008
Last night I attended a parents’-night talk on healthy eating at my daughter’s preschool. I had no intention of going; as an avid reader of books on nutrition and someone who cooks absurdly healthy meals, I knew they would be preaching to the choir. But my daughter was in a frenzy of excitement and begged that we attend the “party at school,” so I forced my husband to sit for an hour in an uncomfortable chair while two nursing students nervously lectured to 15 parents about the food pyramid.
November 6, 2008
Of all the possible reactions to Barack Obama’s historical victory this week, I wasn’t prepared for a lead story about the black and red dress Michelle Obama wore to her husband’s acceptance in Chicago. If you read the comments (and I’m not suggesting you do; the punctuation alone will drive you mad) you’ll find a pathological animosity toward the next first lady’s appearance: her teeth, her size, how she walks, how she stands.
October 29, 2008
Tomorrow is my best friend’s birthday and I’ve decided to give her an unusual present: I’m paying to have her house cleaned. I admit I love having my own house cleaned, despite the political and ethical issues it raises. According to Mason and Goulden’s study, academic women with children spend an average of 14 hours a week on housework (compared to the 11.6 hours a week men with children spend) in addition to 26.7 hours a week “care giving.” Taken together, that’s a second job.
October 22, 2008
Flying back from my conference last weekend, I experienced a moment of rare satisfaction: the conference had gone well, our book debuted, and I’d made some new friends. I’m in the productive period in my life right now: I’m engaged in satisfying scholarly projects, I’m happy being married, I’m enjoying my four year old daughter, and I finally have a community of friends outside of the university. How does this make me feel? Frustrated that it took me so long. If only I had been this confident in my twenties, I lament to myself, I would be really successful by now.
October 15, 2008
Today I travel to my lone academic conference of the year (not counting conferences within driving distance). Like many professors who teach at regional state institutions, one conference a year is all my university pays for. When I was starting out, I attended more, and paid for much of the costs out of my own pocket. While some conferences feel like a waste of time and energy, at their best conferences can be exciting ways to meet other interested scholars, learn about ground-breaking new research, get feedback on developing ideas, and network.
October 8, 2008
This week I was invited by the University of Central Arkansas to read my essay from Mama, PhD and lead a discussion about gender, motherhood, and academia. The soft warm air and elegant buildings of the campus felt very exotic to this Wisconsinite. However, my conversations with faculty members were very familiar.
October 2, 2008
So far my sabbatical is not what I expected. I thought I’d stare for hours at a blank computer screen as I tried to muster enough enthusiasm to finish my book. My husband, on the other hand, was more concerned that I’d stay in my pajamas all day, not shower, and get nutty from a lack of social interaction.
September 17, 2008
When I was a girl, I took a trip to visit my grandparents in Florida. Leaving Buffalo, NY in November and flying up past the gray clouds into an immediately bright sunny sky was a revelation. I had no idea the sky was still bright and sunny in November; I actually thought it turned gray all the way up to the heavens until April.
September 10, 2008
This is the second week of my sabbatical and already I have a sinking feeling that I’m not accomplishing enough.