Tuesday, May 10, 2011


My career is going very well. Recently, I was elected to the Executive Board of the national academic organization for cinema scholars, I am running the Gender Studies program on campus, my book, The Apartment Plot, came out a few months ago, I've organized some great conferences, I've had some good speaking invitations, and I just got promoted. It is all good, but I still feel ambivalent about it. It isn't that I feel success is undeserved. I don't have that kind of self-loathing. Instead, I both want success and fear it. Or, rather, I want success but fear what it entails. Mainly extra work. Every step up, every bit of recognition, carries with it the threat of more meetings, more committees, more travel, more time away from the family. Yes, I can tell my kids that it is good that their mom works and has her own identity, and they believe it, but when that means I miss a recital or some other school event or even when it means I miss a few breakfasts or dinners with them, it makes me feel guilty. And I know that every thing I do affects my husband and takes away from his work time. as he takes up the slack for me (in addition to doing his own usual share) with the kids. At the same time, when I tell a work-related person that I will only stay at the conference for a shortened time or will skip a dinner, because I want to see my family or need to got a recital, I feel like a feeb, a failure. This is the familiar bind of the working mom. But what to do? Sometimes I fantasize about having an Alice, like in The Brady Bunch. But, aside from the expense, I don't want someone else being my substitute at home or even being in my home that much. I treasure the private space of our home and our family. Watching Big Love, I sometimes think that what I need is a sister-wife, someone who shares my family and has the same stakes as I do, who can spell me and my husband when necessary. But I wouldn't like the husband sharing, or the assumption that my sister wife should be a stay-at-home mom herself (or the creepy polygamist dresses). I guess one way to look at it is that I have managed so far, and seem to be getting rewarded and recognized for good work, despite my constant feeling that I'm not doing enough or will be found out. Maybe the more we all assert our right to not be everywhere at every minute -- to miss a recital, leave a conference early, dodge a meeting -- we can help make new rules and new expectations.


  1. I've touched on this a bit below (in a much crankier way than I'd intended to, I fear) in response to your post "Who Rules" -- I hear you on the juggling entailed in the life of the working mom, and I'm hoping that the way I live my life helps to make new rules and new expectations (hard as the process is).

  2. I hope that the way I supervise you lives up to my own ideals and never makes you feel lesser for being a mom, or that you are not taken seriously. This is one benefit of getting promoted, that I can work the system.

  3. Pam, you ROCK as a supervisor! The day you told me last January (2010) that you'd be driving in early to observe my 9:30 class rather than spend the night in SB because "my kids are in Chicago and that's where I sleep, too" was the day I knew I wanted this position. And the interview here was BY FAR the most comfortable one I had precisely because I knew I didn't have to (not that I could) "perform childlessness" to be taken seriously. Thank YOU!

  4. You have nailed it again, Pam.

    Here's one for you...my boss, whom you may remember as the person who just allowed women in the office to wear pants as of Jan 3, 2010, praises women who prioritize work over their children. An example: a third year pediatric resident in our program was pregnant and requested only two weeks off for maternity leave, though she is allowed up to 8 weeks, I think. My boss's comment: "That [resident name] is a class act. She's only missing two weeks of work."

    How are those two things related? She's conflicted and confused more than us, but I have to report to her!