There appear to be two primary foci of the doctoral program – finish the dissertation and get an academic job. While I (mostly) had control over the first of these two, the second one was (mostly) out of my control. I did my work in becoming the best academic candidate I could; then, the rest was in the hands of the hiring committee to compare and contrast what they saw in the applications and decide who they liked the best and who they thought would be the best fit for their department.
So when the day came that the phone call arrived from my desired department offering an on-campus interview, I was ready to leave immediately and jump as high as they requested. Then I remembered…I had a child who was still nursing through the night. What should I do? Do I tell the potential department that I would be bringing my family? Do I leave my nursling at home for the first time and hope that he would not wean himself during those few days away?
The alluring job interview suddenly screeched to a halt as I was confronted with these decisions. To help make the decision, I sought advice from other female academics and received completely contradictory advice.
From those early in their careers, I was told candidly to absolutely not disclose that I have a family and to make sure that I’m playing by “their” rules. From those women that were tenured in academia, I was told that this would be a good chance to sort out if the potential department was a good fit (especially since my dissertation topic was on motherhood in academia).
Ultimately, I decided to share that I would be bringing my family, hence, I would not need to be picked up from the airport, but that they would find their way around during the day and I was still available for all meetings. So what was the response? Resoundingly positive. I was told it was a great choice and that they could set up a real estate agent to show us around.
While I had learned how I would address interviewing on campus with a nursing child, I had not expected to get pregnant following a potential academic job. Back to the drawing board. What do I do? The department was expecting me to relocate abroad prior to giving birth. Do I tell them that I am expecting? Do I ask for an extension and explain why?
Again I sought advice from other female academics, and looked inward. Would I be willing to move abroad and give birth in a country I am unfamiliar with, and without the support system I have developed?
In the end I decided that it was important for me to have my child where I was most comfortable. This meant that I although I wanted the academic position, I would ideally want an extension to begin and be willing to forgo the position if that was not possible. Once I got in touch with the potential future department, I was greeted with both a resounding yes about postponing, and also an unexpected, “congratulations.”
These experiences have left me personally feeling good about the idea of bringing a family into an academic environment, being a mother and academic. However, I know my experiences are not the only ones. I know that others have faced struggles and I ultimately I do not know how I have been perceived by these potential departments. Am I held in the same regard as other academics, those who are not parents?
A.S. CohenMiller is an emerging scholar in qualitative research with a focus on gender in academia. She is a Founding Editor and Managing Editor for Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy (www.journaldialogue.org). Blog: http://motheracademic.wordpress.com/ Twitter: @annaramona
Read more by
Opinions on Inside Higher Ed
Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U
What Others Are Reading