Archive for Working Mom

Running around Like a Crazy Woman: Why Less Is More

Simplicity Parenting book coverI am cur­rently read­ing Sim­plic­ity Par­ent­ing: Using the Extra­or­di­nary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Hap­pier and More Secure Kids. This book, by Kim John Payne, a school coun­selor and an edu­ca­tional con­sul­tant, has chal­lenged me to re-think the way I par­ent my chil­dren. He has encour­aged me to con­sider the ways my good inten­tions as a par­ent may have neg­a­tive con­se­quences on my child. This book is chal­leng­ing, provoca­tive, and inspiring.

Right now, Eliz­a­beth is 6 years old. She is play­ing t-ball. Begin­ning next week, we will have prac­tice or games 3 nights a week.

Pey­ton is 4 years old. He is play­ing t-ball. Eliz­a­beth and Pey­ton are not on the same team. Shane (my hus­band) is the assis­tant coach of Elizabeth’s team and the head coach of Peyton’s team.

For the next 8 weeks, we are going to be eat­ing, breath­ing, sleep­ing, and think­ing t-ball. T-ball every night of the week, except Wednes­day when we have church. T-ball on many Sat­ur­days. Sev­eral nights, both kids have a game, so we’ll be at the t-ball fields for close to 4 hours.

But we love t-ball. We like that our chil­dren are engag­ing in activ­i­ties (we think) they (will) like. I enjoy chat­ting with other par­ents and get­ting to know adults and chil­dren in our small com­mu­nity. We like that our chil­dren feel good about them­selves by play­ing and accom­plish­ing some­thing. We like to be Jesus to the com­mu­nity by serv­ing them. We like being involved. We like our kids start­ing and fin­ish­ing something.

But that’s not all. In the Win­ter, Eliz­a­beth played bas­ket­ball. In the Fall, Eliz­a­beth and Pey­ton both played soc­cer. And through it all, we had a new­born baby who is now 8 months old to cart around.

I pause now to ask myself, “What are we doing to our chil­dren by enrolling them in all these extracur­ric­u­lar activities?”

In the United States, par­ents are told the fol­low­ing dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive: “You must enroll your chil­dren in as many activ­i­ties as pos­si­ble at very a young age. The more the bet­ter. Bal­let. Dance. Swim­ming. Soc­cer. Sum­mer camps. Team sports. Indi­vid­ual sports. And on and on.”

Just look at some of the exam­ples of prodigy kids. Tiger Woods began golf at 2 years old. Andre Agassi started play­ing ten­nis around age 4. Cild actors like Drew Bar­ry­more and the Olsen twins began act­ing when they were young. I’m sure there are numer­ous other sto­ries (if you know of some, leave them in the comments).

In short, if you want your child to be good at some­thing, start them early on the activity/task. Mal­colm Glad­well even points out in Out­liers that to become good at some­thing, per­fect at it, you must put in over 10,000 hours of practice.

So what have we done to make our chil­dren suc­cess­ful? We begin early. We want them to reach that 10,000 hour mark well before their teenagers and it is deemed too late. Just con­sider the book The Bat­tle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (which I will write about soon). If you haven’t read it, you’ve prob­a­bly heard about the book (it was quite con­tro­ver­sial) and her “Chi­nese way of par­ent­ing.” The author–a law pro­fes­sor at Yale–spent count­less hours every sin­gle day mak­ing sure her chil­dren had mas­tered the piano and vio­lin. They prac­ticed all the time–literally. Even on vaca­tion. Every­where. Every. Sin­gle. Day.

But Sim­plic­ity Par­ent­ing asks a sim­ple ques­tion really, “Why?” 

Why do we do this to our chil­dren? What do they really gain through these activ­i­ties? And what is the cost of this atti­tude of more, more, and more? What are the results of our over-scheduled, over-stimulated, busy lives? Espe­cially on our children?

Through­out the book, he answers these ques­tions, and in quite provoca­tive terms. Put sim­ply, he says that “less is more.” Seems sim­ple, but when you unpack this idea in terms of sched­ules, tele­vi­sion, screen time, clut­ter, toys, your day hav­ing a rhythm, order, and flow, stress, antic­i­pa­tion, sleep, food and eat­ing, an ordi­nary day, and fil­ter­ing out the adult world from your chil­dren, you can see how this idea becomes even more convicting.

Less is more.

We have for­got­ten the gift of boredom.

Less is more.

Our chil­dren need unstruc­tured play time.

Less is more.

We need to clear away the clutter.

Less is more.

The true power of less is that it cre­ates smarter and more imag­i­na­tive, ener­getic, inde­pen­dent, cre­ative, self-confident kids. Kids that know how to solve prob­lems, get along well with oth­ers, fig­ure things out, and build a deep rela­tion­ship with their par­ents and others.

Sim­plic­ity par­ent­ing is worth the try.

For those of you inter­ested in learn­ing more about the book, you might like to watch this infor­ma­tive four-minute video by the author.


Women, Mothers, and Tenure: Why Babies Complicate Academic Work

I men­tioned in my last post that I was going to write about moth­er­hood and acad­e­mia. Many of you sensed the dilemma I was push­ing against in that post. How can one be both a mother and an academic?

Women have tra­di­tion­ally been dis­crim­i­nated against in the acad­emy (see this arti­cle in the Chron­i­cle of Higher Ed for an overview):

  • Women receive tenure at a lesser rate than men.
  • Women are paid sig­nif­i­cantly less than men.
  • Women’s raises are sig­nif­i­cantly less than men’s raises are.
  • Women are more likely to quit their tenure-track jobs than men because of exter­nal factors.
  • Women are far more likely to vol­un­teer their ser­vice to their depart­ment (or uni­ver­sity) by fill­ing labor-intensive but-not-really-related-to-tenure-and-promotion-and-prestige admin­is­tra­tive posi­tions that their male coun­ter­parts will not hold.

When you add a fam­ily to an already dis­crim­i­nated against gen­der, the results are even more stag­ger­ing. A recent arti­cle by Mary Ann Mason titled, “Women, Tenure, and the Law,” finds that women with chil­dren are sig­nif­i­cantly less likely to achieve tenure than men or than women with­out chil­dren. So, whereas all women are dis­crim­i­nated against in terms of pay, women with chil­dren face even more dis­crim­i­na­tion. In short, Mason writes, “For women, a crit­i­cal fac­tor in tenure denial is their gen­der and fam­ily responsibilities.”

Women with chil­dren are also much more likely to become lec­tur­ers or adjuncts, posi­tions that typ­i­cally hold sig­nif­i­cantly less pay than tenure-track posi­tions, are noto­ri­ous for hav­ing poor work­ing con­di­tions, do not offer much job secu­rity, and are much less pres­ti­gious than tenure-track positions.

What’s more is the stress that tenure and pro­mo­tion takes–probably on all women (and men, too), but espe­cially on women with chil­dren. Not only are you hav­ing and rais­ing chil­dren, cook­ing, doing laun­dry, wak­ing up in the mid­dle of the night for years, but you are also work­ing to estab­lish your­self in the field, write and pub­lish, plan and design new courses, read as much as you can, and serve your depart­ment, uni­ver­sity, and dis­ci­pline. One his­tory pro­fes­sor argues that women with chil­dren are “pro­fes­sion­ally infe­rior to men” dur­ing the child-bearing and child-rearing days because women are “sim­ply unable to work as hard, as long, or as well as child­less pro­fes­sors or aca­d­e­mic fathers.” While I wouldn’t go so far to say women are “pro­fes­sion­ally infe­rior,” I do rec­og­nize that moth­ers, lit­er­ally, can­not work as much as child­less pro­fes­sors (men or women) or even aca­d­e­mic fathers (who although they are par­ents, too, are not often the des­ig­nated care­taker when it comes to their chil­dren. There was even a recent study about how when par­ents are home at the same time, the woman is still the pri­mary parent–even when both peo­ple work. See this arti­cle for more infor­ma­tion about dif­fer­ences between aca­d­e­mic moth­ers and fathers).

Finally, women who are, or who are to become, moth­ers also face dis­crim­i­na­tion when they become preg­nant. Per­haps it is this way in most jobs for women. I don’t know. But in the acad­emy, moth­er­hood car­ries with it a lot of bag­gage. And preg­nancy is even seen, by some, as a lia­bil­ity. Preg­nancy marks the body. Preg­nancy marks the woman. Peo­ple make assump­tions about preg­nant women. About moth­ers. About being a mother and an academic.

Again the dilemma.

What about me? I had one child as a grad­u­ate stu­dent. I was ABD (All But Dis­ser­ta­tion) when my daugh­ter Eliz­a­beth was born. I wrote my dis­ser­ta­tion dur­ing her first year of life (I still don’t know how I did that–a sup­port­ive fam­ily was a big part of that).

I went on the job mar­ket when she was 4 months old. She had just turned one when I took a tenure-track position.

Since being in acad­e­mia, I’ve had two chil­dren on the tenure-track. Am I bold or what? Three kids. It’s unheard of in acad­e­mia. At least if you’re a woman.

*Update (2 hours after orig­i­nal post): As I was dri­ving home today, I was reflect­ing on this post, and I wanted to add one last com­ment. One of the things I hope for is that women in acad­e­mia (and other jobs) can find men­tors, oth­ers who have paved the way for newer fac­ulty like me to suc­ceed by get­ting tenure. I go up for tenure next year. Not only do I hope to get it, but I also hope that, one day, I can be one of these mentors.


I am a mother; I am an academic

I am an aca­d­e­mic. I am a mother.

This is who I am.

Mom” to Eliz­a­beth, my affec­tion­ate, com­pas­sion­ate, smart, sen­si­tive, and shy six– (and a half )year-old girl.

Mommy” to Pey­ton Poe, my artic­u­late, talk­a­tive, curi­ous, rough-and-tumble four-year old thinker-boy.

Momma” to Levi, my happy, accident-prone, I’ll-eat-anything-and-don’t-require-much-sleep, bald eight-month-old baby boy.

I am a mother. I am an aca­d­e­mic. But acad­e­mia makes it hard to be and do both.

Yet, this is who I am.

Which role comes first? Which role comes sec­ond? How do I bal­ance moth­er­hood, wom­an­hood, and the acad­emy? How can I be a great mom and a great scholar and teacher? These ques­tions are on my mind every day.

In the next sev­eral blog posts, I will explore more about these issues. I hope you will join me.


Why I Created a Web Site

It is offi­cial. I have a Web site. This site has been many years in the mak­ing (at least in my mind plan­ning it). Over the years, I have spent a great deal of time work­ing with a vari­ety of soft­ware pro­grams (Dreamweaver, Front­Page, Netscape Composer–remember that one?). I have learned these pro­grams. I have even taught stu­dents how to use them. I have drawn by hand what I wanted my site to look like, includ­ing where to place the images, texts, and links. But I have never offi­cially cre­ated my own site. Now, I finally have. I bought my own domain name (kara­poealexan­der was taken!??). I paid for a host, and I now have site (I use Word­Press). Yea!

This site is intended for a vari­ety of pur­poses and audiences.

One pur­pose of this site is to develop an online pro­fes­sional iden­tity. An aca­d­e­mic, a scholar, a teacher. Audi­ences who are inter­ested in me as a pro­fes­sional per­haps want to see me blog about issues per­tain­ing to my teach­ing or my schol­ar­ship. They may want to look at my CV and see my back­ground. They may want to down­load a syl­labus or sam­ple assign­ments, which is per­fectly fine. They might want to see a pic­ture of me since they’ve never met me in per­son. This aca­d­e­mic audi­ence is pro­fes­sional, anti-religious (I assume), intel­lec­tual, and smart. I find them a bit intimidating.

A sec­ond pur­pose of this site is to con­nect with my stu­dents. model for stu­dents what it is like to have a pro­fes­sional online pres­ence. I teach stu­dents major­ing in Pro­fes­sional Writ­ing, and in our courses we often dis­cuss what it means to have a pro­fes­sional online pres­ence. It was all well and good, except I didn’t have a Web site. Yet I was requir­ing them to have one. That didn’t go together. This site, then, is intended to not only show stu­dents that I have an online pres­ence but also to model to them the numer­ous ways writ­ers can use tech­nol­ogy to write, blog, get jobs, find fol­low­ers, and con­nect to var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties and audi­ences. I also cre­ated a Web site so that my stu­dents could come here for course mate­ri­als. I have used Black­board in the past, but I find this open access a bit more in line with my own ped­a­gogy. I am glad to know that stu­dents will be uti­liz­ing this site.

The last–and per­haps main–purpose of this site is to write. I have blogged on and off since 2006, a year after my first child was born when I wanted to doc­u­ment her life. But I have not been a faith­ful blog­ger for a few years. In recent months, how­ever, I have been read­ing more and more blogs, and what first moti­vated me to finally cre­ate a Web site was because I wanted to enter the conversations.

The con­ver­sa­tions I am most inter­ested in per­tain to var­i­ous aspects of my iden­tity as a work­ing mother, a female aca­d­e­mic, a Chris­t­ian, and a preacher’s wife. Most of what I blog about will be about these issues of moth­er­hood, wom­an­hood, acad­e­mia, and faith. I rec­og­nize that my audi­ences are diverse and that some areas I write about will not always inter­est my read­ers. I do hope, how­ever, that I can find my niche in the conversation.

I’m always inter­ested in your com­ments and feed­back, so feel free to leave com­ments or to sub­scribe to my social media using the icon but­tons on the site.

And if you’re inter­ested, you can find my pre­vi­ous blogs at:

http://karapoealexander.blogspot.com/

http://readinganew.blogspot.com/