I was in a meeting with one of my superiors this week in discussions about my academic future and upcoming promotion when I was asked, "So it seems you've decided not to go on the Mommy Track?"
I assume this was an ill-advised attempt to say that I've chosen not to be a stay-at-home-mom?
But what a strange question that somehow felt it disparaged moms everywhere, especially stay-at-home moms, but also those of us trying to balance work and parenting.
I was completely taken aback. And slightly offended.
The question raised the tension that is often there, usually implicit, in my work and personal life balance. That there is a conflict between working or staying home. And it is not just my own internal conflict. At work I feel I must profess my loyalty to the institution, pledge my undying willingness to work late nights and weekends on the latest publication deadline or grant submission. Also that I feel I am supposed to profess that of course my daughter's feeding issues/teething/stomach flu/night terrors, etc. would never impact my work performance, never ever!
But come on! Of course sleep deprivation, etc., impacts my work performance on a given day. And maybe wrong to admit, but also true that my willingness to work around the clock 7 days a week is reduced now that I have a little person at home completely dependent on me. I try to minimize the impact of any of these things on my professional life, but the truth is, yes, as a parent and family member, I have other responsibilities outside of work too, that are also important. I am striving to juggle them as best as I can. I juggle them mostly successfully, I think, and yet...
These are some of the unspoken truths and tensions that I find in being a professional working mom. Truths and tensions that don't seem entirely allowable in the world I inhabit (instead, there are many junior women faculty recruited...but there are few senior women faculty. Gosh, I wonder why they all leave? Is it because it is nearly untenable to balance the two - both important roles - women often find themselves in?) The fact is that it seems ok to be in my role and be an academic and a mom as long as it appears that my mommying does not infringe on my professional life. Which to an extent of course, I get. They hired me to do a job, which I do well, thanks very much (hence the promotion). But I have different limits professionally now that I am a mom than I had as a younger, not-yet-parenting person.
So when my superior asked, "So it seems you've decided not to go on the Mommy Track?"
This is how I answered:
"Oh, no, I am on the Mommy Track. It is a dual track that runs in parallel to my academic clinical research career."
Probably not the most politic answer. But it pretty much stopped that conversation in its tracks.
Click here to subscribe