The Ideal Mother Vs. The Ideal Worker

The Ideal Mother Vs. The Ideal Worker

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a panel discussion about motherhood in academia.

Along with other female professors with children, I answered questions from the audience, most of whom were female Ph.D. students thinking about whether and when to have children — and whether academia was the right choice for them.

One of the questions — posed with greater eloquence and context — was essentially this: Is it possible to be a good academic and also a good mother?

I, and the other panelists, muddled through some answers. But the question has been nagging at me since. That’s because it was nagging at me long before I found myself asked by another person. It’s a question that many working mothers ask themselves in various forms — whether they are doing right by their kids and their careers, whether and how they could do less or do more or do better.

Admittedly, it’s a privilege to experience this as a dilemma. For many women, having a less demanding job — or no job at all — is not a realistic possibility. But for women considering careers in science, academia and beyond, the “mom penalty” is a reality that can shape their decisions and advancement. To read more from TANIA LOMBROZO, click here.