Friday, April 27, 2007

Speechless

Can you all read this article and let me know what you think?

Goode, Julia. "Perfect Family Planning." The Chronicle of Higher Education, 24 April 2007. [free access.]

Outline: This is an opinion piece by an untenured law professor, on how she is planning / has planned all her pregnancies to create the minimum amount of fuss in her workplace.

Here's an excerpt:

I am an academic dean's dream professor. After two pregnancies, I had canceled only one class and asked for no maternity leaves and no reduced teaching load.

Me, I'm kind of appalled by the tone and the purport of the article, but I'm trying to see things from her point of view. What do you think?

Yours in perplexity,
Mimi

18 comments:

nomotherearth said...

I'm all for planning, I love to plan, but this woman sounds like she has gone off the deep end. Or her kids are actually robots. Or she is, in fact, THE Supermom who can do it all. I didn't think they existed. Do tenure track- related research with a newborn?

What is lacking in this article is the humanity. The real live people.

Omaha Mama said...

Plan your job around your kids. Stay home with them when they are sick. Take as much maternity leave as you can. Those are a few of my career mottos.

Guess I'm no one's dream anything, except for my kids'.

Mimi said...

Nomo -- I love planning too! But researching with a newborn in the house? I barely managed to copyedit 30 pages in one month, with major babycare help from Pynchon. Copyedit--ie, **spellcheck**. It was all I could manage.

Omaha -- Yeah! What seemed missing was, um, anything about the kids other than their obligingness at being born when convenient. That seemed weird to me ...

cinnamon gurl said...

As I read, two things stood out to me:

Also, it's just in my nature to avoid unnecessarily inconveniencing others.

Part of this thinking is related to the mat leave situation in the US I think. Here, my employer doesn't see it so much as an inconvenience to try to avoid as it is a simple fact of life, the cost of doing business. I think it's quite terrible to support the inconvenience way of thinking without challenging it.

In addition, my new academic life was so much more flexible than my former position at a large law firm that I was constantly amazed at having any home life at all.

I don't even know what to say to this bit...

cinnamon gurl said...

Oh yeah, and I'm pretty sure that even she hadn't had a miscarriage her great research/baby plan would have gone pie-faced.

cinnamon gurl said...

I think maybe I meant pear-shaped not pie-faced? Whatever...

NotSoSage said...

Wow. I don't know what to say. I can't imagine expecting to care for a newborn and do research, even with access to light and broadband.

And, yes, what is lacking is anything about her relationship to her kids and her husband. Even the way she describes their "comfortable rhythm" of family life: We were a family of four fairly independent humans; we could all talk, feed ourselves, dress ourselves, go to the potty, and even read to varying degrees.

Is that what you call family life? I'd like a little bit more than "four fairly independent humans", thank you very much.

What bothers me here is the precedent it sets. While I think she has a right to set things up in a way that suits her, it's strange that she doesn't mention the down side. And there MUST be a downside. There's a down side to staying at home, too. And that sets up an expectation that the decision that she's made is an easy one, which it couldn't be, even if it's the right one for her.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

OK, I only read your synopsis. But I tell you, I know many women like this. In fact just the other day I met a woman who planned to go back to work just 3 weeks post-partum. (I met her the week before the baby was born.)

Some American women -- I was one -- want to insist that their children will not interrupt their lives. Marriage didn't interrupt it, why should child-rearing? We are free, we are enabled, we are the heirs to the feminist movement! We won't be our mothers, tied down to dirty diapers!

So I am not surprised that she had those thoughts ... but I am surprised that now that she's a mom she still thinks it.

kittenpie said...

I occurs to me that babies are by nature inconvenient, no matter how much planning (and I planned too, and will again, but for different reasons) is involved. Personally, I'm not sure that pretending to be an automaton does anyone any favours in the end. Especially since at least automatons aren't likely to go around crowing in self-congratulation or becoming bitter when they realize later that maybe it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. It will all depend on how good her imitation is... Will her self-programming prevail? Or will an emotion leak out and bring down the whole plan? Only time will tell - but I bet she won't publish about it, should the plan break down along the way.

slouching mom said...

Yeah, I'm opinionated and snarky, because I'm coming right out and saying--

That was totally disgusting. And scary.

Karen said...

Okay, that made me feel very sad. I think I was maybe sad when I started reading it, but I am measurably more sad now. I wish she felt differently about herself. I wish she wasn't so afraid. I wish our country really believed maternity leave was valuable. Her plan sounds taxing; I can taste her fear and it just seems inevitable that sooner or later it's all gonna crash and burn. And she's gonna hate that. I don't know what that will look like, but it might be an improvement.

bubandpie said...

I do think that the U.S./Canada cultural gap is a factor in the way many of us are responding to that article. My jaw drops at the idea of returning to teaching two days a week when the baby is only 4 weeks old - but that's because I don't live in an environment where many women are returning to full-time work at 4 weeks post-partum because it's that or lose their jobs.

Oh, The Joys said...

I don't even have to read the article to tell you she's making it harder for the rest of us to get what we need and it makes me resentful. So there.

Mimi said...

Joys -- that was kind of my reaction too: by martyrizing herself in this way, somehow that makes me look like a slacker and a bad professor by comparison. It's like competimommying, only without competing at being a mommy, but at not letting mommyness bring any kind of change at all into your life. Weird.

Bloor West Mama said...

One of my husbands directors at his job went back to work full time as a consultant in IT three months after having twins.

My jaw dropped when I found out. I was just getting my shit together at three months with one child, I could not imagine doing more than making sure that she was fed and happy let alone be a director of a very busy consulting firm.

I just feel for the children. They deserve a parent that actually puts them first and not their careers but there are women out there that have different priorities.

OK, long enough comment. I am done now.

Jenifer said...

It is 1am so I have no energy for the article, but from the excerpt I can say I agree with you. I am glad her children obliged, what happens when they don't.

This certainly doesn't help anyone.

Beck said...

She's like Linda Hirshman's dream mother (aside from foolishly having three children, not the prescribed one) - someone who puts her career completely first, her children merely carefully scheduled individuals who have never caused her to "inconvience" anyone at her work. But the final conclusion of her article is a bit more cheery - the acceptance that babies WILL interfere with life and careers and plans is a healthy one, I think.

Lawyer Mama said...

I'm disgusted, but I do know women like this. I've worked with them before. Oh & this quote:

"In addition, my new academic life was so much more flexible than my former position at a large law firm that I was constantly amazed at having any home life at all."

It's totally true. Having worked, slept, and basically lived at a large firm (pre-babies). I know women *and* men who have escaped large firms for comparatively relaxing academic schedules.

I think OTJ nailed it - every person with an attitude like this makes it that much harder to change societal expectations of women.

(Love your blog, BTW!)