Mama, PhD

In today’s world, a Mama, PhD, is (at best) an awkward thing to be. The glistening Ivory Tower is a place of the mind, and a place they try to make a disconnected mind. It is the realm of the intellectuals who are not busy with the physical realm. And the realm of motherhood is, firstly, a physical one. Making the two opposite spheres of “All Mind” and “All Body” mesh is an intense juggling act made worse by the academy’s continued unfriendliness towards women, and in particular, mamas. If you try to balance both, the academy says, they must be in worlds as separate as the Mind and the Body. Parallel tracks that never, ever cross – and it would really be preferable if you’d just choose between one or the other.

And that’s where this book comes in. As the Introduction explains, “With no easy solution for the struggles they encounter, women take a variety of different approaches as they attempt to reconcile family and academy.” The essays anthologized are real women sharing their stories of bringing together both hemispheres, the Mama and the PhD; of women who have chosen to put one on hold for the sake of the other, and of women still deciding. They talk candidly of the difficulties and the sacrifices, and share how they’ve come to terms with their decisions regarding motherhood and the academy. There are stories of women who have not only not chosen, but have brought the two halves of themselves together into a whole. The last section of the book, “Momifesto”, shares brighter hopes for change and a new future for the Mama, PhDs. And in the essay with the same title, women considering this balancing act will be encouraged by the compilation of ten things the authors wished they’d known.

In short, “Mama, PhD” is a necessary book for any woman considering, muddling through, or interested in the shaky balance between motherhood and the academy. And yet, while this is geared specifically for those in or through graduate school, many of the themes – balancing work, careers, and children – will ring true for women in the working world as well. It’s a book where the authors write honestly of their struggles and consequent decisions, one that will make you better informed about the choices you may face (or have faced), and one that will spark plenty of discussion. But even more, it’s one that will leave you encouraged, as you read the stories of those that have gone before. 

I think this genre is sufficiently specific as to not require any age recommendation.  I actually reviewed this for my friend Elrena, one of the editors, but found it fascinating even though I’m way below the targeted audience.


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