Thursday, August 28, 2008

MotherTalk: Mama, Ph.D.

Mama Ph.D.: Women Write about Motherhood and Academic Life
Elrena Evans and Caroline Grant
Rutgers University Press, 2008
262 pages/$19.95
ISBN: 978-0-8135-4318-5

Mama Ph.D. features essays by an amazing set of women, mothers and academics exploring blending family life with the academic in different personal situations, but with generally the same outcome. The academic is not particularly accommodating to mothers in general and mothers with young children in specific. In reading this book, it is painfully clear that something needs to be done to close the inequality gap and open up opportunities for fair pay, support in childcare and plain respect.

From the back of the book:

Every year, American universities publish glowing reports stating their commitment to diversity, often showing statistics of female hires as proof of success. Yet, academic life remains overwhelmingly a man's world and the presence of women, specifically with young children, in the ranks of tenured faculty has not increased in a generation. This anthology explores the continued inequality of the sexes in higher education and suggests changes that could make universities more family-friendly workplaces.

At one point in Susan O'Doherty's essay, The Wire Mother, she's talking about her experience with spontaneous abortions and says this: "One elderly male gynecologist had admonished me, 'You career girls do this to yourselves. You want to do everything men do-maybe you want to be men. When you're ready to grow up and be a mother, you won't have this problem.' "

Eh, what?! Reading that tipped the scale of reason for me and I actually yelled at the page in such outrage, I startled myself.

As long as we have this sort of thought (not confined to the elderly male gynecologists), how can we acquire respect, and family-friendly work and education atmospheres?

I loved reading these essays. They offered a personal view into these women's lives and a voice that tells everyone this situation needs to change.

I never actually finished college, for several reasons. I got sidetracked by many things: the more exciting aspects of life (like bar-hopping and partying-just a bit, hey- I just turned 21 at that point); later, my growing debt of student loans that I'll never be able to pay back, and-much later-having a child. I suppose I could still go back and finish. I keep telling myself I should.

However, I do about as much reading, learning and research at home and on my own that I would do in a college setting. The difference is, I probably won't get any sort of degree for that.

Caroline Grant's Website
Elena Evans Website
Mama PhD site

Read an excerpt from Mama PhD

Read other reviews at MotherTalk

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