Archive for August 2008

Three More MotherTalk Mama, PhD Reviews…

Crunchy Granola read the book after a meeting in which a new faculty member was told, “There’s a university child care center, and efforts to expand it and create more flexible hours are underway. Child care has been at the top of the list of the faculty women’s association for years now.” Years?! Comments like this make me –and I think also Crunchy Granola–shake my head in frustration; just get it done, people. She comments, “the collection is a smart, funny-sad-crazy making-amazing-wonderful set of pieces that had me nodding as I read. The authors come from a variety of fields, and a range of institutions. This collection is well-worth reading for anyone considering an academic career, and also for any administrator mentoring faculty.

Mama PhD won’t surprise anyone who’s a reader of academic blogs. After all, there are lots of outlets these days for reading good personal writing on motherhood and academia, and I wondered whether I’d find the essays redundant or compelling. They were definitely compelling, though. I read quickly, learning about the different ways institutions create barriers for mothers advancing in their careers, or make it easier for those with children to advance. These are eloquent accounts of what choices women have made to accommodate their kids and careers.”

21st Century Mom read from the perspective of someone who’d been a grad student in the 70s, and is now mother to two grown daughters, both of whom are considering motherhood and graduate work. She writes:

“We want it all – family, work, friends and time to train and figuring out how to do that is one of life’s greatest tricks. The essays in Mama, PhD. are specific to being a mother in academia and address issues of sexism, negative perception and the tyranny of history but the solutions for how to “have it all” can be universally applied.

As a mother I want my daughters to “have it all” whatever that means to them. I want them to be able to define “it all” and to live a life that supports them in their efforts. I want their partners and their children, my future grandchildren, to “have it all” – a stable family, love, education, intellectual and cultural stimulation and financial stability. This book has, for me, been an antidote to the constant media messages telling us that trying to “have it all” is wrong, and selfish and impossible. Many of these women faced down the stereotypes, the negative attitudes, the professional denial and powered on, confident in their choices and their abilities.

I’ll be sending this book to my oldest daughter soon with instructions to send it to her little sister when she’s done. I hope they draw the same message from the book as did I. The world really can be your oyster as long as you can manage your time and your detractors and focus on your goals.”

And finally, Third Culture Mamma writes: “This book has been described as one that should be given to all mothers in or thinking about entering academia. I would also like to add for those who are thinking about leaving academia. One of the strengths of this compilation, and there are many, is that it presents all sides: those who have or are about to jump into the deths of academia, those who are a making their way though it come hell of high water and those who have decided to leave it.

While some of the experiences recounted in this collection do tell of departments and colleagues that are supportive, it also drives home the point that academia is just the same as almost all other industries – mothers are not welcome with open arms. However, besides the negative aspects, reading this book made me feel at home. The passion I have for academia and the possibilities of merging ith with motherhood, not ignoring the numerous challenges that it brings and that are transmitted in the book, is what I wanted to read, to help me see a possible future back in academia, and becoming a Mama, PhD.”

MotherTalk Blog Tour Round-Up

More from the MotherTalk bloggers:

Christa writes: “This book is a must-have for any woman who intends to pursue motherhood and academics. In truth, it should be required reading IN the universities for everyone–male and female–in education.”

And Susan says, “The writing in this book is alive, often very humorous, often fraught. The quality of these narratives is uniformly excellent. It’s creative nonfiction at its best: true stories that often read like fiction, with compelling narratives, and characters for whom much is at stake.”

And finally, from They Grow In Your Heart: “This book gave me a great deal of encouragement because so many other women have decided to forgo teaching full time – like I have. And there was a continuing theme that it’s okay if motherhood takes over the academic side of your life. OR if you decide to pursue your career. But, at the same time, it’s sad. It’s sad for our students and for our schools that so many women feel forced to choose between having a family and being an educator.

Mama PhD is a great read for anyone in academia considering motherhood, any moms in academia looking for a better way, and for all administration in schools everywhere. Actually, maybe it should be required reading for administrators!”

On Campus with Women Reviews Mama, PhD

The MotherTalk bloggers are taking the weekend off from their reviews, but here’s another nice response to the book, from a recent issue of On Campus with Women:

“These frank essays recognize the value of communicating with others over shared experience, and they offer comfort and sustenance to women who have found that motherhood shakes the foundations of academe’s infamous mind-body divide.

“…Celebratory but realistic, these essays illustrate the multitude of choices available (and still unavailable) to women and the great rewards (and considerable pitfalls) of fitting motherhood into the academic mold. In offering concrete suggestions to improve institutional support for women with children, the anthology connects personal experience to systemic change and gestures toward academe’s potential to provide truly family-friendly workplaces. Its stories will be of interest to young scholars contemplating motherhood, to current parents who feel isolated by expectations that they “perform childlessness,” and to anyone wondering how mothers are faring within the academy. “

Click here to read the complete review!

More from the MotherTalk/Mama, PhD Blog Tour

Here’s a round-up of the last few reviews of Mama, PhD from the MotherTalk bloggers:

Life in the Hundred Acre Wood writes, “Though the anthology paints an honest yet bleak picture of academia, it is not all gloom and doom. Some women do find ways to make it work (though a few had partners able to share equally in the child care). Others, such as the single mothers, are down right heroic in their abilities to balance their work hours with raising a family. But the essays that tugged at me most, were the ones where the unrelenting demands of academia had permanently derailed these brilliant and talented mothers from attaining the holy grail — a tenured position at a major research university. These pieces were an unpleasant reminder of the number of brain cells lost to society when we don’t accommodate parents.”

PCOS Baby says, “It was a very open, sometimes brutally frank, look at the academy and essentially how it fails women who want to also have a family. And yes, some of the contributors talk about how it also fails men who want to have a family—but they also make the point that men are not responsible for the physical demands of both pregnancy, birth, and nursing a baby.

“. . .I think this book should be required reading for any woman going into any sort of graduate education program. And their partners.”

And just so you know that I’m not only quoting the raves, Here We Go Again had some nice things to say about the book–and does think it is a great book for our target audience–but mostly it really wasn’t her cup of tea:

“In general, I didn’t hate this book. I didn’t like it much either. I wouldn’t have bought it for myself. In my opinion, it wasn’t really a book for pleasure reading, which is all I do now. However, if you want to write a scholarly paper on women in academia, cite away. This would be a great research tool or a great read if you were considering either becoming a professor or a graduate student and wanted to know how it worked with motherhood. But for casual reading, try Anne of Green Gables. (I am re-reading the eight book series this week. I am on book six, Anne of Ingleside, right now.)”

Of course, we also think that the book’s right for anyone considering graduate work or a career in higher education, and interested in how that might work with family life, and we do like Anne of Green Gables, too, so we’ll just agree to agree on that!

MotherTalk Blog Tour: Mama, PhD!

After writing ten or a dozen reviews for MotherTalk myself, I’m thrilled that for the next two weeks, it’s my book being reviewed by the MotherTalk bloggers. Here are some highlights from the first couple days:

Mama, PhD is not just a shoulder to cry on for readers grappling with what they may have thought were unique troubles in juggling academia and motherhood, it is also a call to arms for women and men in academia to make change happen, to make academia a place consistent with the lives of both men and women. Evans and Grant, the editors of the book, understand that there is a power in speaking out, that when women hear many other women are struggling in exactly the same fashion we suddenly see our experiences not as personal incompetence but as a larger injustice.”
blue milk

“I hope that Mama, PhD will spread the word through the bastions of higher education: policies that marginalize women also marginalize our children, our future, and our present. The glass ceiling is cracking in the business world; the marble ceiling has shattered, but gender equity hasn’t cracked the ivory tower yet.”
Compost Happens

“I loved that a wide range of disciplines, ages, geography, and experiences are represented by the essays. The women representing the sciences, psychology, economics, and history add a depth to the conversation, one that I’m not sure could be achieved in a book of MFA’s and English PhD’s. Consequently, I would make this book a must-read and a must-gift for any woman contemplating or living with a graduate degree. Because so many of the women report being blindsided by parenthood and its impact on their careers, I think this is an especially important read for those considering a graduate degree.”
Life Is a Banquet

And from Peter’s Cross Station:

“… it’s not all about the choice between dropping out or suffering, Mama PhD also tells more than one tale of a mother at the end of her rope who was thrown a fresh one by an enlightened advisor, mentor or department chair. There are a few corners of academe that have put all the feminist theory of the past thirty years into some kind of practice and support actual women (and their children). There are small institutions that place a community value on families and children and the well-rounded well being of professors.”

Check out the MotherTalk site for more updates on the tour!

Saturday Sea Lions

The Marine Mammal Center, just north of us in Marin County, rescues, rehabilitates and then releases between five hundred and a thousand orphaned and injured seals, sea lions, otters and other marine mammals every year. Yesterday, we got to witness 8 sea lions being released back into the wild (there were 9 ready to go back to the sea, but apparently one managed to release himself before we got to the beach; nice!) The eight were released in two groups, and when the first carrier was opened, the sea lion came out, sniffed the air, and then walked over to the other carriers, waiting for the rest of the group before they all headed down to the water together.

A Tale of Three Restaurants

A blog post — with lots of pictures! — about eating out with the boys in France, over at the Learning to Eat blog. Check it out!

Four Things Meme

Because Ericka is recovering from her cold, but I haven’t yet, I’m doing everything she’s doing today. Including this meme, even though I should probably be sleeping…

Four jobs I’ve had in my life:
1. Babysitter/mother’s helper
2. Hardware salesgirl
3. Fabric swatch cutter at Esprit
4. Permissions manager at a literary agency, a job which required that I call Maurice Sendak daily

Four movies I’ve watched more than once:
1. Manny and Lo
2. The Searchers
3. Big Night
4. Toy Story 2

Four places I have lived:
1. Tokyo
2. Oxford
3. Manhattan
4. Berkeley

Four TV shows I watch:
1. Mad Men
2. Top Chef
3. Project Runway
4. Weeds

Four places I have been:
1. The Philippines (does it count if I don’t remember?)
2. Moscow (ditto)
3. Barcelona
4. Toledo

Four people who email me regularly:
1. Libby
2. Elrena
3. My parents (one of whom has a blog)
4. Literary Mama editors seeking approvals on pieces they want to publish (and if any of you are reading this, I know I’m behind! you’re next!)

Four of my favorite foods:
1. chocolate
2. peaches
3. chard, sauteed with pine nuts and raisins (really)
4. homemade granola

Four of my favorite beverages:
1. milk
2. tea
3. water
4. red wine

Four places I’d rather be right now (at the moment, I’m sitting in the boys’ room waiting for Eli to fall asleep for his nap, so I’m not really complaining…)
1. out in the sun
2. back on the French barge with my family
3. in a bookstore
4. in bed

Four things I’m looking forward to in the next year:
1. Mama, PhD readings
2. taking the boys to my parents’ house (next week!)
3. finding a great publisher for Learning to Eat
4. watching the boys move on to 1st grade and preschool

If you read this, consider yourself tagged!

Sweet Dreams

Ben’s never been a particularly terrific sleeper. He didn’t really sleep through the night until he was three, when we threw so many changes at him at once (new house! big boy bed! toilet training! baby brother! preschool!) that, clearly exhausted by all the upheaval, he finally started sleeping through. And for a time, his sleeping was pretty good, although I couldn’t really appreciate it (on account of the new baby), but I had my wits sufficiently about me to note it in my journal: “We’ve never had such a run of great sleep. If only I could sleep so well!”

Since then the sleep has come, and it has gone, and right now it is gone. He doesn’t fall to sleep easily, he doesn’t stay asleep. Occasionally we have tried charts and rewards for staying in bed all night, and have had varying degrees of success, but I think he just might not ever be the kind of person who sleeps from night to day without being awake in the middle of the night for a while. And I don’t stress about that too much because he gets it from me, after all (and a middle of the night cuddle from a warm kid isn’t so bad).

But the hopping out of bed every ten minutes for 2 hours after I’ve said goodnight drives me wild. I am not at my best mom self after much of that. So, inspired by Aliki‘s post the other about the other part of the sleep issue, we are taking steps.

Ben is beset by worries and bad dreams; most recently he has worried about being a passenger on the Titanic, or about falling off his bike during the Tour de France. So we’ve been talking a lot about worried thoughts and happy thoughts, and trying to switch from one to the other (again, who am I to parent him through this?!) And he likes to make lists, so we decided that a list by his bed, of good dreams, might be useful fodder for him to refer to when he is anxious. I suggested the first thing on the list, and then he got into the spirit of it and really started to dream big.

I think his prize for staying in bed will be making pain au chocolat.

Mission: Eiffel Tower

The first time we’d tried to visit the Eiffel Tower, we traveled via the batobus, which offers a scenic ride down the Seine.

Too scenic, as it turned out.

We arrived at 7pm and faced lines that snaked from the entrance back and forth all the way across the plaza. We were without sufficient food or line distractions to survive the wait, so we risked – and faced – the boys’ loud and bitter disappointment by turning back and regrouping.

The next day was stormy and windy and Eli didn’t nap. We debated: on the one hand, the weather might be keeping the crowds down; maybe a tired boy would be a docile and patient line stander…. But probably not, on both counts. We stayed home and cooked dinner.

Finally, we planned our ascent of the Eiffel Tower like mountaineers plan for Everest. In this case, Tony and I were the Tibetan sherpas, and the boys were Sandy Hill Pittman, who show up and have every desire met, needing only to put their bodies where they’re told and not use up too much oxygen. I was grateful they didn’t want cappuccino (although come to think of it, at the base of the Eiffel Tower, that would be easy to provide).

We’d been advised that the lines are shorter in the late afternoon, so we waited until after Eli’s nap, hoping that the boys would be well-rested, the lines a little easier, and that we’d get up to the top and out before it was way too late for dinner (or even bed). We brought Eli’s view master and discs, Ben’s journal, 2 cameras (since Ben’s a big photographer now), and windbreakers in case it was cold at the top. More importantly, I spent Eli’s naptime packing up food:

carrot sticks, water bottles, baby bell cheeses, 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, 2 nutella sandwiches (never underestimate the motivating power of chocolate), 2 Z bars, and a ziploc bag of almonds and raisins. We set off at 4, arriving at the base at 5pm. Tony grabbed a bench with the boys while I staked out our place on line.

We didn’t make it out without any tears (from Eli, when I started walking down a flight of stairs holding his hand rather than letting him hold the banister):

But, we made it up, we made it down, and we made it back home, our backpacks empty, four and a half hours later.

cross-posted at Learning to Eat