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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Long Distance Mom: Seventeen and Having It All
July 18, 2012 - 8:45pm

My daughter Katie turned seventeen this week and we celebrated by eating, shopping, going to spin classes, eating more and listening to Casey Crescenzo of the Dear Hunter in concert in Chicago. Katie is the child who worries about her grades, studies a lot and rarely parties, but that night she looked radiant in her new sundress, flushed with her excitement about the band.

Since the much-talked about Atlantic article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” written by Ann-Marie Slaughter, Princeton’s first female dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, has been circulating, I tried to engage my daughter on this issue. 

            “Do you think it is possible for women to work full time in their careers and raise children well?  To ‘have it all’?”

            “I don’t know,” she said. 

            “I’ve been lucky,” I said.  “Like Slaughter, I could take off days to travel and see you.”

My daughter was raised in an environment where her father stayed home while I worked full time at university jobs, which eventually included moving across the country from my children to pursue an administrative career and commuting back home.   As I tried to re-explain this choice to my daughter—not something I do very often--I found myself agreeing with much of Slaughter’s calm outrage over how our society has not figured this co-parenting thing out, particularly for working women who do not have flexible academic schedules. 

I appreciated Slaughter’s personal insistence that whenever she is introduced to speak, she insists that the person “mention that I have two sons.”  Women in power need to talk about their children not hide them, Slaughter asserts whenever she can.  We need to change the patriarchal culture that considers time away from work as a weakness for women and men.  But how?

The concert was the highlight of my daughter’s two week visit, particularly because another favorite musician, Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra, turned up to play acoustic guitar and sing his soulful, indie songs.  It’s a real pleasure that my children have good musical tastes, so I did not think twice when I bought 3 tickets to go to the concert with Katie and her BFF Simone—one for me.  When I went up to the lonely bartender at the concert hall (lonely because everyone else there was under 21), he suggested to me that I could go outside and wait—

“They’ll be fine…”  he smiled.

“But I like the music!” I responded defensively to explain my presence at a rock concert with my seventeen-year old.

I finally did go downstairs and started to write notes for this column—to make it look like I had a purpose for being there beyond chaperoning my teenager.  I noticed that an older-looking guy next to me was also scribbling. 

            “Who are you writing for?” I asked.

            “I write for some music blogs,” he said.  “What about you?”

            “Mama, Phd for Inside Higher Ed.”

 We both smiled.


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