Confessions of a Mommy-Professor: How I Handled Parenthood and Job Demands as a College Professor
Working parents (and moms, especially) have muddled through the demands of raising their children and doing work for thousands of years. As a mom and young assistant professor, I have some confessions I’d like to share—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
1. I brought my child to extra-curricular activities. I was asked to be co-advisor for our department’s honor society. So I brought my daughter to various events including a fair, fundraiser walk, and our induction ceremony. It was a great way to include my daughter in job-related activities.2. My daughter had a diaper blow-out the first time she visited campus. The good news is that I had an extra onesie in her diaper bag. The bad news is that there was no changing table. So there I was—on the floor, my baby on a mat, and me trying my best not to get poop everywhere. It happens.
3. I ignored knocks at the door when I was pumping in my office. When my office door was closed, in effect, I was not there. So when I was pumping milk for my baby, I totally ignored any knock at the door (and some phone calls, too).
4. I knowingly sent my child to daycare when she was sick. This is the plight of every working mom. Your child has a runny nose, a terrible cough, and acts like they feel miserable but…no fever! So off we went to daycare. As a working mom, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do—especially when you have no family or friends to help.
5. I resented my job at times. These were some of my darkest days as a new mom and new college professor. It’s sad but true. There were many times when I would drop my daughter off at daycare and I would say to myself, “Why am I doing this? I want to be with her 24/7, but I can’t because I have to go to work. It’s because there are students that need me and research that needs to be done. But your daughter needs you, too.” And so it was, I resented my job, or more specifically, I resented being away from my daughter. How did I handle this? First, I found solace in the competencies that I was mastering in my career, which kept me going. Secondly, I knew that my daughter was okay without me for a while, and I reminded myself of all the research showing the benefits of daycare (e.g., children have strong immune systems, social skills, etc.).
6. I do experiments on my child without IRB approval. As an experimental psychologist, I couldn’t help myself. I tested out my daughter’s development in mastery over object permanence, interest in novel stimuli, small-motor skills, and theory of mind. Obviously these weren’t formal experiments (n = 1, really?), but I enjoyed applying my psychology knowledge to learning more about my daughter and how awesome she is.
7. My lectures were overloaded with parenting-related examples. I’m totally guilty here. I just hope my students didn’t get too sick of the parenting or child examples.
8. At home, I worked on PowerPoint slides instead of playing with my daughter. Yes, it’s true. When I went home, I continued to do more work. It was something I couldn’t get around, unless I wanted to just “wing it” in class the next day. However, my second semester was much better. I only needed to tweak some things, and so my time with my daughter at home was our time again.
9. I love my child more than my career. I used to feel like I had to hide this sentiment from my colleagues and administrators, but now I realize that most people feel this way, too, and that it’s okay! When conflicts between job and family arise, deal with them as best you can. But at the end of the day, one side will trump the other. Sometimes my career would trump my family (see #4). Ultimately, however, my family is more important to me than my career.