Motherhood As Misogyny

Jane Aiken

“I remember the day that I sat in a chair teaching my second class of the day, three days after having a C-section. I could not afford leave without pay, the only leave available. It was my fault anyway; I had not timed this pregnancy well. The others had been “academic babies”—born when I had time to stay at home. I now was on a beeper at work: I was beeped when the baby woke up so that I could run home, breastfeed her, and get back to work in time for office hours. And then there were the times I needed to pump breast milk in my office and worried that the factory-like sounds coming from inside might draw attention. Even evenings were fraught as I would run to my other children’s soccer games, dressed in business clothes and inevitably late, and endure the withering looks of fellow mothers, many balancing boxes of cupcakes in their laps for after games (yikes, when was it my turn again?). And why did I struggle so much to figure out how to get the children to the doctor? Did any of this ever occur to my husband? Why didn’t I ask him? Of course, it never ends. I am now the dean of a law school, having taken that job only once all my children were out of college, and I am worried that I will be missing my son’s graduation from medical school because, on the same day, I preside over this law school’s graduation. How much mental energy do I spend every day thinking about how to be the best mother I can be for my children? Motherhood has profoundly influenced my choices, my success as a law professor, my identity as a woman. Critical to that identity is my responsibility to put my children first no matter the impact on me. Mostly, I fail at that. I am caught in the double bind: expected to perform as a teacher and scholar yet criticized for not being selfless if I do not give appropriate primacy to the care of my children.”

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