I'm late to the party for this week's Bright Maidens topic, but I've really been enjoying everyone's contributions. The dilemma of stay-at-home mom vs. working mom is one that I wrestle with. I'm still asking God to show me the proper balance between my scholarly goals and my desire for motherhood.
On the other hand, I can identify with some women's professional angst . Grad school messes with your head in many ways, and that includes how you think about parenthood. After spending years of blood, sweat, and tears on an advanced degree, all you can think about is getting a job that will let you use it. When you make the "terrible life choice" of grad school, you make a commitment to a field you are passionate about. I didn't set out to follow a different path than my mom, it just happened that way.
When I graduated from college with no marriage prospects, I figured I might as well pay the bills doing something I loved. Thanks to Divine Providence, I started a competitive master's program ... and met my future husband two weeks into the school year. The Betrothed's love for history and Catholic family life both made me fall in love with him. I had happy daydreams of us being one of those faculty couples beloved around campus for their dinner parties, cute kids, campus ministry involvement, and banter-filled joint lectures. Here was someone who understood all the things that I valued, both sacred and secular.
It's sad to see how children can be a professional afterthought for academics. Some people in our fields would say to delay kids until tenure or several job promotions. (Waiting for pregnancy until your late 30s always works out well, right?)
That kind of attitude looks at just half the picture. Scholarly publications can feel like birthing a child, but they don't really go on to have developing lives of their own. They sit on shelves collecting dust until someone makes future grad students read them. Academia doesn't love me back, or need me to teach it what life is about. Sitting alone in an archive is cold and lonely. No one coos about how adorable your Chapter 6 footnotes are. (If they do, they need help.)
When I see examples of women writing dissertations while pregnant, I feel like there is hope in the world. It may not be possible to have it "all," but I would love to try to have at least some. I deeply desire to have a family with my historian fiance, but I have also been fighting long and hard to break into the museum field. Both parts of my life are valuable to me.
Making family a priority might be a counter-cultural choice that will keep me from becoming a super-famous and powerful curator, but I'm ok with that.When I freak out the logistics of my future motherhood, The Betrothed is always level-headed. He reassures me that his professor schedule won't be a typical 9 to 5 gig. Sometimes he'll gently chide me, saying "Hey, you're forgetting that there's another adult in the equation here!" It's so encouraging to know that raising a family is a project we'll tackle together. As Jen Fulweiler recently pointed out, fatherhood is a man's vocation, not his career.
So what kind of mom will I be? I have no idea. Will The Betrothed and I be able to balance our work schedules so one of us is always home? Will I chase after little ones during the day and then work on a journal article after they're in bed? Will I leave my field altogether, or will I go back for a PhD once the kids are school-aged? It's too soon to tell. For now I just have to keep asking God how I'm supposed to serve him with all my abilities.
Any over-educated moms out there? I'd love to know how/if you balance scholarship and parenthood.