Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Mothers in Academia

Mothers in Academia

Mari Castañeda
Kirsten Isgro
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Mothers in Academia
    Book Description:

    Featuring forthright testimonials by women who are or have been mothers as undergraduates, graduate students, academic staff, administrators, and professors, Mothers in Academia intimately portrays the experiences of women at various stages of motherhood while theoretically and empirically considering the conditions of working motherhood as academic life has become more laborious. As higher learning institutions have moved toward more corporate-based models of teaching, immense structural and cultural changes have transformed women's academic lives and, by extension, their families. Hoping to push reform as well as build recognition and a sense of community, this collection offers several potential solutions for integrating female scholars more wholly into academic life. Essays also reveal the often stark differences between women's encounters with the academy and the disparities among various ranks of women working in academia. Contributors -- including many women of color -- call attention to tokenism, scarce valuable networks, and the persistent burden to prove academic credentials. They also explore gendered parenting within the contexts of colonialism, racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, ageism, and heterosexism.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53458-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Education

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Mari Castañeda and Kirsten Isgro
  4. INTRODUCTION: Speaking Truth to Power to Change the Ivory Tower
    (pp. 1-14)
    Mari Castañeda and Kirsten Isgro

    We met in the autumn of 2000 in western Massachusetts, when both of us were embarking on new academic journeys: Mari was beginning her first professorial job fresh out of graduate school (a Chicana from the University of California–San Diego), with a five-year-old son in tow, and Kirsten was returning to her doctoral studies after a decade-long hiatus from graduate school. Mari relocated her family from Los Angeles, and Kirsten relocated from Vermont with her partner of five years and her aging dog. Both of us became parents while in graduate school, albeit with a fifteen-year age gap and...


    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 15-16)

      Over the course of her academic career as a renowned sociologist, Arlie Hochschild (1997) made poignant observations about the precarious balance between home and work life. Her work therefore provides us with a vocabulary to describe the second-shift phenomenon where mothers employed outside the home continue to carry the brunt of domestic work once they return home. Hochschild’s research also questions how human feelings have become commercialized in the global market place; she questions what emotional labor entails and the ways in which such labor is gendered. In many ways embodied through the chapters in this book, her work offers...

      (pp. 17-26)
      Michelle Kuhl, Michelle Mouton, Margaret Hostetler, Druscilla Scribner, Tracy Slagter and Orlee Hauser

      In 2006, six academic mothers from four disciplines at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh started a sociable reading group focused on the “mommy wars.” According to Toni Zimmerman, and her colleagues (2008), the media derives high ratings by explicitly pitting working moms against stay-at-home moms on TV programs. Many in our group had noticed a growing literature of mainstream articles and books on the subject, such as Lisa Belkin’s New York Times article “The Opt-Out Revolution” (2003), Linda Hirshman’s manifesto Get to Work (2006), and Danielle Crittenden’s What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us (1999). Women’s hallway conversations evolved into a...

    • 2 ACADEMIA OR BUST: Feeding the Hungry Mouths of the University, Babies, and Ourselves
      (pp. 27-36)
      Larissa M. Mercado-López

      “They tingle like a good idea, a sprouting poem, a witty paper title. I know she’s hungry even though we’re separated by concrete buildings, books, and oceans of parking lots. And I know that when we’re done, she will be as happy as a couplet, the milk on her chin the end of my body’s poem.”

      Eating is one of the many desires women have been expected to suppress. From the cumbersome belly-hugging clothes we wear to the expansive diet articles in magazines, the desire to enjoy food and fill our hungry panzers (bellies) with warmth and nutrition is squelched...

      (pp. 37-45)
      Wendy K. Wilde

      When i began my employment in the English Writing Program at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, a large, public university in New England in 1980, I was excited to be a secretary, following the footsteps of my mother, who was a secretary until she got married. I was nineteen years old. As I walked into 305 Bartlett Hall, the main office of a cluster of offices along the hallway, the atmosphere was casual and relaxed. Four women were gathered in the main office, sitting on the white, plastic bench or standing, drinking their coffee, talking about last night’s episode of...

    • 4 BREAKING THE GLASS CEILING WHILE BEING A MOTHER: Parenting, Teaching, Research, and Administration
      (pp. 46-56)
      Kim Powell

      From the beginning of my academic career, I was determined to stay single and childless, which would allow me to have complete focus as I worked on my M.A. and Ph.D. degrees and become a faculty member at Luther College in 1992. My first three years at Luther were fully concentrated on teaching and research; my career was my life. I heard female faculty with children talk about the struggles of balancing work and home. They would say they could not attend evening events, something expected as part of the culture of a small liberal arts school, and at the...

    • 5 TO TELL OR NOT TO TELL: Single Motherhood and the Academic Job Market
      (pp. 57-65)
      Virginia L. Lewis

      Two things have meant the most to me during my adult life: being a mother and being an academician. Without either of these roles, my self-realization would be incomplete. Although these specific roles are unique to me, they represent what philosopher Alan Gewirth (1998) designates “aspirations” that bring fulfillment to human beings and should be protected in any setting involving the safeguarding of human dignity. Although past models of academic performance have been developed based on male professors who do not bear primary responsibility for the care of children—men like my own father—there is increasing recognition that these...

    • 6 CLASS, RACE, AND MOTHERHOOD: Raising Children of Color in a Space of Privilege
      (pp. 66-78)
      Irene Mata

      When i tell people that I moved to Massachusetts from San Diego, California, I always get the same question: “Why?” Why would one choose to leave sunny California with its perfect weather for the cold of the Northeast? A valid question, but one that most young academics coming out of graduate school know too well is not really a question of choice. Always aware of the tight job market and the looming student loans that must be repaid, we go where the job takes us. The weather, however, is the more manageable of challenges I have faced in my relocation....


    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 79-80)

      The essays in part ii discuss some of the unexpected challenges and unanticipated revelations mothers in academia have encountered. These unexpected circumstances include cultural relocation and acculturation; terminal illness; overt and covert forms of racism, sexism, and classism; and the encounter with a deeper understanding of how motherhood creates moments of enlightenment and power. We begin this part with Vanessa Adel’s essay “Four Kids and a Dissertation: Queering the Balance Between Family and Academia,” which deals with family dynamics and an ethics of care as she deliberates the politics of transracial adoption. As part of a lesbian couple, Vanessa shares...

    • 7 FOUR KIDS AND A DISSERTATION: Queering the Balance Between Family and Academia
      (pp. 81-91)
      Vanessa Adel

      In the fall of 2008, my partner and I were faced with a momentous decision: whether to welcome a fourth baby into our lives or not. We had three children, ages seven, six, and three at the time, whom we had adopted through social services. The youngest two shared the same birth mother, and she—a woman who had suffered a long history of drug abuse, violence, racism, and social and familial neglect—had just given birth to a baby girl, three months premature. Our social worker called us a little more than two weeks after the girl was born,...

    • 8 “TÍA MARÍA DE LA MATERNITY LEAVE”: Reflections on Race, Class, and the Natural-Birth Experience
      (pp. 92-99)
      Susana L. Gallardo

      “You know, have you checked with Faculty Affairs about maternity leave?” asked my colleague María. It was late September, and we were four weeks into the fall semester. I was somewhat successfully juggling three classes despite losing sleep, breastfeeding my two-month-old daughter, and breast-pumping my leaky boobs in the faculty office I shared with María and another colleague.

      “Not Faculty Affairs,” I responded, “but I’ve gone over the contract online, and there are only references to paid leaves for full-time professors.” I had spent several hours doing that the previous spring at her suggestion and had promptly forgotten about it....

    • 9 THREADS THAT BIND: A Testimonio to Puerto Rican Working Mothers
      (pp. 100-110)
      Maura I. Toro-Morn

      Feminist scholars have written eloquent accounts describing and analyzing the dehumanizing and exploitative conditions found in the global assembly line (Fernandez-Kelly 1983; Bose and Acosta-Belen 1995; Safa 1995; Chang 2000; Parreñas 2001; Salzinger 2003; Nash 2005; Colón et al. 2008). In the past twenty years, a voluminous body of scholarship has helped map out the conditions of working mothers and daughters across Asia, Latin America, and Africa. We know that “women have become the new industrial proletariat in export-based industries” (Jaggar 2001, 305) and that gender stereotypes of Third World women workers as submissive, passive, and secondary earners continue to...

      (pp. 111-122)
      Olivia Perlow

      This chapter provides a personal account of my experiences as a mother and graduate student attending a historically black college/university (HBCU). I trace my narrative through the critical theorizing of black feminist scholars who have examined the ways in which whiteness, patriarchy, and capitalism are interrelated systems of oppression that mutually reinforce one another on multiple levels (Collins 2000; Landry 2007). Societal institutions such as universities act as conduits through which the oppressive values of these systems are often transmitted to its members on macro-, meso-, and microscales (Landry 2007). It is my contention that although HBCUs were designed to...

    • 11 SOBREVIVIENDO (AND THRIVING) IN THE ACADEMY: My Tías’ Counterconsejos and Advice
      (pp. 123-136)
      J. Estrella Torrez

      I watched her rise, weary of the potential comments that were intended to intimidate me or challenge my beginning years as an academic. Although I didn’t know her well, and we hadn’t been formally introduced, I did know of her politics (which diverged from my own). She was an elder, a Chicana from the 1960s who had cracked the glass ceiling of academia, and for that reason I respected her, but the academy had killed her radicalism and left her cynical. As cliché as it may sound, the newly retired dean had become what she at one time fought against:...

    • 12 REVOLVING DOORS: Mother-Woman Rhythms in Academic Spaces
      (pp. 137-148)
      Allia A. Matta

      “The semester begins. The planning, the teaching, the grading of papers, the dinners to cook, the homework to check, and the reading to do, and then even more reading. I now use a rolling briefcase bag because of all of the books and papers I have to carry across campus. This is my new life in New England in the academy. I have journeyed far to get here. I open the door to the university’s seminar room. I am the only woman in this small cohort of graduate students. I am also the oldest student. I arrive early, and I...


    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 149-150)

      As in the few existing anthologies that focus on the work–life balance for mothers, we conclude our volume with solutions for creating more parent-friendly institutions of higher learning in order to change the ivory tower. This final part begins with a very concrete example of how contemporary libraries are developing policies that are more compatible with women’s service needs and research interests and by extension their families’ needs. One policy and ideological change that Gilda Baeza Ortego addresses in “Academic Library Policies: Advocating for Mothers’ Research and Service Needs” is the need to examine critically how academic libraries have...

    • 13 ACADEMIC LIBRARY POLICIES: Advocating for Mothers’ Research and Service Needs
      (pp. 151-159)
      Gilda Baeza Ortego

      Academic libraries have often been referred to as the heart of the university. This designation has been attributed to Charles William Eliot, a nineteenth-century president of Harvard University (Brophy 2005, 1). During that era, academic libraries served principally as the central depository for collections that supported the intellectual pursuits primarily of male faculty and students. The predominance of men in higher education was a phenomenon of social norms that prevailed early in the history of higher education. As Dale Gyure has noted, colleges in colonial America were established for “training ministers and gentlemen” (2008, 110). Although colleges’ mission gradually diversified...

      (pp. 160-169)
      Barbara A. W. Eversole, Darlene M. Hantzis and Mandy A. Reid

      Academic women know that our presence in our profession evidences earlier acts of transgressive border crossing. Despite years of challenging borders and revising the profile of professors, however, women represent a minority of the newly hired and of professors in every legitimate rank. We are officially welcomed in the academic house, but the culture of the academy teaches us repeatedly that women are not (yet) “rightful residents” of our professional homes. The persistent discomfort of a problematic fit characterizes most academic women and rises significantly for academic mothers. Talking together about our lives as “momprofs,” we recognized the powerful pedagogy...

    • 15 TALES FROM THE TENURE TRACK: The Necessity of Social Support in Balancing the Challenges of Tenure and Motherhood
      (pp. 170-180)
      Sandra L. French and Lisa Baker-Webster

      More women are enrolled in U.S. degree-granting colleges and universities as undergraduates, graduates, and professional students than at any other time in history (National Center for Education Statistics 2011). Yet despite the higher numbers of women entering the academy as students, full-time tenure-track and tenured women faculty make up only 34 percent of the academy (West and Curtis 2006). Several scholars argue that the explanation for these statistics lies in systemic inequities in the higher-education environment. For example, University of California–Berkeley emeritus education scholar Geraldine Clifford (1983) criticized the fact that traditional histories of higher education either ignore or...

      (pp. 181-190)
      Summer R. Cunningham

      The new Graduate Student Orientation at my university seems to be quite a well-attended event. After sitting through a two-hour presentation in the student union’s filled-to-capacity, seven-hundred-seat theater, we have adjourned to one of the neighboring ballrooms, where several colleges, student services representatives, and community interest groups have set up informational booths. The Graduate School has provided lunch, and I can’t help but wonder if the free food is part of the draw for most of the students present. Admittedly, it is for me. I grab a veggie burger and a bottle of water and head over to a table...

    • 17 MAKING IT WORK: Success Strategies for Graduate Student Mothers
      (pp. 191-199)
      Erynn Masi de Casanova and Tamara Mose Brown

      Several years ago the American Sociological Association (2004) published a research brief in response to sociology graduate students’ and early career academics’ commonly asked question, “When is the best time to have a baby?” The answer: there is no “best time” to have a baby because any combination of childbearing/child rearing and academic pursuits involves challenges and sacrifices. Yet given the disproportionate involvement of women in caregiving because of gender roles in our society, women’s careers are more affected by parenthood than are men’s (Hays 1996; Kennelly and Spalter-Roth 2006; Stone 2007a). In terms of the distribution of housework and...

    • 18 ACADEMIC MOTHERS ON LEAVE (BUT ON THE CLOCK), ON THE LINE (AND OFF THE RECORD): Toward Improving Parental-Leave Policies and Practices
      (pp. 200-212)
      Colleen S. Conley and Devin C. Carey

      Achieving a work–life balance is particularly challenging for women; mothers spend substantially more time than fathers engaged in caregiving, even when accounting for hours of paid employment (Bond et al. 2003; Hochschild and Machung 2003; O’Laughlin and Bischoff 2005). Because academic work is so pervasive, boundless, and demanding, often to the exclusion or detriment of family responsibilities, the challenges of the work–life balance are particularly salient for academic women (Drago and Williams 2000; American Association of University Professors [AAUP] 2001; Wolf-Wendel and Ward 2006). Despite increased rates of earning doctoral degrees, women are drastically underrepresented in tenured and...

    • 19 SUPPORTING ACADEMIC MOTHERS: Creating a Work Environment with Choices
      (pp. 213-226)
      Brenda K. Bushouse

      At an academic conference in 2009, I participated on a panel in which faculty described their career trajectories to aspiring graduate students and recent Ph.D.s. Until that day, I had not realized that I had a story to tell, but as I saw the reactions from the young, female graduate students and assistant professors and answered their questions, I realized that these women were aspiring to have my life. From their vantage point, I had attained the “holy grail” of tenure while mothering, with the added feature that my husband also attained tenure at the same institution. These women wanted...

  8. EPILOGUE: Final Reflections
    (pp. 227-230)
    Mari Castañeda and Kirsten Isgro

    A decade into the twenty-first century, the ideals of a stable job market and family-friendly policies are in disarray due to the near U.S. economic meltdown and the dismantling of public-policy initiatives birthed during the civil rights movement. Over the three years we have been working on this book project, large grassroots uprisings have taken place around the world, and people are justifiably upset about the deep inequities in society. Much of the current financial crisis we see on Wall Street is reverberating in our academic halls as well (Ross 2009). It is statistically complicated to compare senior executive and...

    (pp. 231-256)
  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 257-260)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 261-274)