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Mama, PHD: Women Write about Motherhood and Academic Life Paperback – May 19 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press (May 19 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813543185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813543185
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #377,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"An optimistic narrative of work-family balance among women with PhDs. Mama PhD gave advice about achieving a successful work-family balance in academia, presented several models of success, and left me with a more optimistic view of my chances at balancing child raising with a successful career."
Arielle Kuperberg, Women’s Studies Quarterly

From the Inside Flap

Every year, American universities publish glowing reports stating their commitment to diversity, often showing statistics of female hires as proof of success. Yet, although women make up increasing numbers of graduate students, graduate degree recipients, and even new hires, academic life remains overwhelming a man's world. The reality that the statistics fail to highlight is that the presence of women, specifically those with children, in the ranks of tenured faculty has not increased in a generation. Further, those women who do achieve tenure track placement tend to report slow advancement, income disparity, and lack of job satisfaction compared to their male colleagues.

Amid these disadvantages, what is a Mama, PhD to do? This literary anthology brings together a selection of deeply felt personal narratives by smart, interesting women who explore the continued inequality of the sexes in higher education and suggest changes that could make universities more family-friendly workplaces.

The contributors hail from a wide array of disciplines and bring with them a variety of perspectives, including those of single and adoptive parents. They address topics that range from the level of policy to practical day-to-day concerns, including caring for a child with special needs, breastfeeding on campus, negotiating viable maternity and family leave policies, job-sharing and telecommuting options, and fitting into desk/chair combinations while eight months pregnant.

Candid, provocative, and sometimes with a wry sense of humor, the thirty-five essays in this anthology speak to and offer support for any woman attempting to combine work and family, as well as anyone who is interested in improving the university's ability to live up to its reputation to be among the most progressive of American institutions.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Superbly, beautifully written articles that express very heartfelt reflections on the difficulties of balancing family and academic work. I think any woman, or even any man, facing this challenge will relate to most if not all of this book. It helped make the struggle easier to know I was not alone in the unrelentless feelings of guilt, division and stretch.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
From women who have gone before: balancing the Mama and the PhD June 30 2008
By Merrie - Published on
Format: Paperback
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.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Not just for PhDs July 27 2008
By Suzanne Kamata - Published on
Format: Paperback
Although I am not an academic, (I teach as an adjunct and have occasional fantasies about becoming a professor), I found this book highly engaging. Who knew that the academy, that last bastion of liberal arts, was so conservative? The writers offer up stories of trying to accomodate both scholarship and motherhood - and occasionally giving up, as well as tips on how to deal with colleagues and antiquated policies regarding maternity leave and childcare, and ideas on how everything could be better. Some of my favorite essays were by the iconoclasts - Elrena Evans on trying to fit in as a feminist Christian while teaching barefoot, Angelica Duran on being a single mother from a low income family and making it work anyhow, and Jennifer Margulis on teaching (or trying to) in Niger.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Food for thought indeed! July 4 2008
By Elizabeth Cody - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I graduated from college with my BA, I never looked back. My mother/career tug of war was solved when I sold my first book three weeks after my daughter was born. I've worked at home ever since. I've certainly read my share of books on the issue of mothers in the workplace, but never one like this. I'm ashamed to admit that the plight of our most highly educated women ascending the ivory tower while endeavoring to begin families of their own had never blipped across my radar. Until now. I devoured essay after essay by these outstanding women, losing myself in their stories. I was astonished to learn the obstacles, the tribulations, and the plethora of unfortunate remarks they encountered and endured. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, but particularly women considering or enjoying a career in the realms of higher education. Well done, Mama PHDs!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Great support for mothers leaving academia, not-so-great help to mothers wanting to stay Nov. 30 2013
By Momproff - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an academic with two small children, I wanted to love this book and did appreciate how much the authors in it struggle with balancing family and work life in a field that is, unfortunately, one of the most unfriendly to mothers among the career tracks out there. At first I loved how the stories women shared made me feel like I wasn't alone in this struggle. However, I eventually really disliked how it made me feel like I was alone in the joys I experience with my work. As the book went on, it just became more and more ... and more ... of the same: a LOT of commiserating and not enough hope or advice on how to make it work if you love your job--and as a woman in academia, I know from experience that there is indeed hope and there are a lot of mothers who want to stay in academia. Those voices are not included in this book; it's primarily focused on the experiences of women who became too fed up with academia to stay in it. It would be much more helpful to have more of a diversity of voices. Academia isn't all bad, but you wouldn't know it from reading this book. I liked Professor Mommy better--it has much more of a "can do" outlook to it and the authors of that book seemed more helpful and mentor-like to me as I read it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
thoughtful and engaging June 30 2008
By Raleigh Zwerin - Published on
Format: Paperback
Mama Phd is an anthology of heartfelt essays written by women. The writers beautifully describe the challenge of balancing family and academic life. This book will resonate with all mamas, working or stay-at-home. I couldn't put it down.