• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


The War Between Academic Me and Mom Me

Intellectual alarm bells at a school event.

May 15, 2013

Last night I went to see my son's performing arts program. After an hour watching the band demonstrate their instruments, the staff dealing with a cranky sound system (they had to resort to the whole microphone-next-to-the-boom-box trick), and then the kids getting up to perform their dance routines while my four year old whined for more snacks from my bag (does she think I keep a hot dog stand in there?), I had pretty much traveled to my mental happy place to get through to the end.

When the third graders took the stage, my academic alarm bells went off. The boys' set included "Walk Like a Man," and the girls danced to "Dancing Queen" and "Big Girls Don't Cry." While the audience around me reveled in all the cuteness, I couldn't help but think how the school seemed to find the most gendered songs for the students to perform. Why can't girls cry? Why not boys? Walk like a Man? What does that even mean? It brought me to one of those moments that I find increasingly challenging in my own personal world: the war between my academic self vs. mom self. All my mom self wanted to do was applaud and beat the crush of parents to the front to congratulate my son. However, my academic self wanted to distribute some Judith Butler readings to the crowd and hold an emergency teach-in about gender-neutral programming.

For me, the challenge of academic parenting is balancing my academic training to question and test assumptions with my desire sometimes to simply have a conflict-free experience. I already explained to my son how we would not attend mother-son bowling day because it was exclusionary, but when I tried to suggest to the other mothers that both sons and daughters should be invited, my proposal did not go over that well. Perhaps what I see as my academic conflict faces all people as they set out into the world juggling their personal views with their desire to either fit in. At a faculty meeting, the expression of an opposing view is expected and even welcome, but at a school function (at least the ones I attend) it is greeted as a threat. Do you have challenges balancing your academic and mom selves? Are you welcomed as an academic mom in your community, or are you viewed with suspicion?


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