Today I am responding, in a thoughtful and angry manner, to an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education: It's All an Illusion by Simone Schweber. Actually, I liked a lot of what she had to say and especially how she gave her opinion through two anecdotes involving cupcakes and elevators. She basically said what we all know: it's hard to be a mother and an academic, and often times we fail at being either mothers or academics. But what made me angry was when she said this: "What I have learned, I suppose, since graduate school, is that I can't do it all, but I'm willing to keep trying to look like I am, knowing that I will frequently fail. "
Huh? How can we get through graduate school and then, once we become academics, agree to "keep up appearances"? Is it so that female graduate students, observing us, will say, "Gee, when I grow up I hope I can keep it all together like her?" Granted, Ms. Schweber has admitted in print that she frequently is NOT keeping it all together. But instead of saying "I'm willing to keep trying to look like I am" why not say THE CURRENT ACADEMIC SYSTEM IS HOSTILE TO FAMILIES AND ESPECIALLY TO WOMEN WHO WANT TO WORK AND BE MOTHERS. Perhaps, like many of us, Ms. Schweber has seen the futility in trying to change the system. But I don't think the answer is to focus on appearances, to keep looking like we are keeping it all together while we, in fact, are not. Why not just admit, once and for all, that it is damn near impossible to be a fabulously successful academic and a fabulously devoted mother at the same time, and it shouldn't be. There should be more support for working mothers and fathers. There should be time off for life events like the flu and the first day of kindergarten. If the academy is made up of people who know theory back and forth, why, pray tell, do we not put some of this radical theory into practice?
I, for one, will do so. I don't think parents should have to apologize for being committed to their children. I don't think I should have to apologize to Son for taking time for writing. I am a hopeless romantic: There IS a perfect world here, somewhere. We just have to make it. It's only an illusion if you refuse to stop acting.