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Mama, PhD: Women Write about Motherhood and Academic Life

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  201 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 19th 2008 by Rutgers University Press
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Elevate Difference
At the beginning of the second year of my MA program in English, I found out that one of my advisors was pregnant. I’ll never forget what she said to me: “You know, you would think that academia would be a supportive place to have a kid. It’s so not.” She was a then-junior faculty member, and would put off going up for tenure for two years.

When I started reading the individual essays in Mama PhD, I realized that my advisor’s story was the rule rather than the exception. The collection is divide
Aug 28, 2008 Jeannette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mommy-books, academia
This book made me feel like I wasn't a loser after all.

It is a collection of several essays by women grappling with their scholarly and motherly identities.
Literary Mama
My first reaction to Mama, PhD, a provocative collection of 35 personal essays and commentaries by 42 women about motherhood and academic life, was a powerful desire to tell my own story. Edited by Elrena Evans and Caroline Grant, the book features deeply personal and engaging essays that bring to life many facets of this topic: the internal fracturing that comes with considering whether or not to have a child, vivid descriptions of the body's blossoming during pregnancy, poignant accounts of ho ...more
Feb 28, 2015 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an enjoyable collection of stories, especially for a new mom/grad student feeling disillusioned with academia.

The editors did a nice job of cultivating a variety of stories. Some were success stories, while others were extremely discouraging - but that was good, because it felt more real. I read some stories feeling hopeful for the future, some stories worried about my prospects, and others grateful for the hurdles I avoided in my own journey.

Some of the stories were a drag, and so many

I was recommended this book while at a conference in the US with my then 5-month old. Now that I've finished it, I am very thankful that I chose to take my PhD in the UK. Sure, it's not easy trying to get it finished, while looking after a 9 month old - quel surprise! - but the amount of support available here is so much better than what is described for the US in this book. I had plenty of (unpaid) leave, my college will pay half the childcare costs should I want it, my library rights continued
Jennifer Glass
A thought provoking book, that brings up common themes: (1) most academics don't know how to deal with people with babies and (2) babies are way harder than you think before you get pregnant. I was disappointed that so few of the essays were written by women who successfully combined motherhood and academia. Amen to this quote (actually taken from another paper, Drago & Williams, 2000): “We should stop measuring commitment by the ability of an academic to have a spouse ready, willing, and ab ...more
Jun 08, 2010 Asho rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-we-own
If anything, this book simply drove home a suspicion I have had since joining a PhD program at a major research university: motherhood and the tenure track are not compatible. Although the essays were insightful, I was hoping for a more uplifting collection. It's depressing how few of the women represented seem to satisfactorily juggle parenting and academia. It seems like the essay writers either gave up or vastly modified their academic careers to suit family life, or gave up spending time wit ...more
Aug 14, 2012 Lulu marked it as for-another-day  ·  review of another edition
This is another one of those "dipping" collections: where I keep this on my bedside table and dip into it everyone now and then to read one or two entries on a weekend afternoon or perhaps before bed. The authors of "Professor Mommy" suggest that this collection tends toward the "impossible" view of the academic-mommyhood debate, but I'm not sure if it's there yet. There have been at least two pieces already by women who aren't mothers, but who do talk about the ways in which they connect with t ...more
Jun 29, 2008 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
This is a thought-provoking and highly readable collection of essays on a topic that has been, to date, woefully under-represented. I'm guilty of this myself, having gotten my BA and departed the academic world never to look back. Though I had friends negotiating the tenuous road through dissertations and job applications, I never realized the myriad of obstacles, from emotional to financial to prejudicial, that faced women on this road, most particularly women thinking about having children. Un ...more
Oct 07, 2010 Joanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is fantastic. As a woman who is navigating between a non-traditional academic career and raising small toddlers, I found this book inspiring. I really like the way that many paths are presented in a way that is extremely respectful of women's choices--whether it's staying at home completely, or pursuing a tenure-track careers while raising children. I became teary-eyed more than once reading these beautiful essays, and thinking about the intersections in my own life between scholarship ...more
This collection of short essays from women attempting to balance family and academic life is simultaneously affirming, infuriating, inspiring, and depressing. Although colleges and universities tout the growth in numbers of female faculty over the years, little seems to have changed in the culture of academia to bridge connections between the mind and body, and to support faculty as holistic beings.

If you're looking for an inspiring book that will leave you feeling like "yes, I can do this - I
Catherine Gillespie
Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life is a book of essays by women with doctorates who are also mothers. The women, some of whom are still in academia and some of whom left after having children, write about the struggles of women in the profession, particularly mothers, the rewards and trials of the paths they chose, and the lessons they have learned. The writers range from a single mom who got her PhD at Stanford with two elementary aged children, to a woman who got a job a ...more
Jul 08, 2008 Kristen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, memoirs
Maybe I wasn't in the mood for this book since kids aren't in the near future and I've been a bit down on my dissertation. But, honestly, this book seemed like a bunch of whining.

Writing a dissertation is hard. Getting a tenure is hard. Trying to succeed in a world filled with men is hard. And while these things are most definitely made harder when you choose to have children, I still have a bit of "get over it" going on.

But the book was worthwhile to alert me to some of the tips and strategies
Mel Murata
This is an excellent look at the "Ivory Tower" through the perspective of a large number of women. Divided into separate groups of essays, each part looks at different perspectives of academic mothers and mothers-to-be.

My only complaint about the book is that it is so thoroughly biased against the Academy. Many of the women in the book leave their careers or choose alternative careers because they feel that motherhood and scholarship are mutually exclusive due to the Academy's lack of support f
Jul 03, 2008 Suzanne rated it it was amazing
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 bette ...more
Apr 28, 2009 Ladan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed Angelica Duran's uplifting, well-rounded essay. Quick Milton quote from Of Education: "In those vernal seasons of the year when the air is calm and pleasant, it were an injury and sullenness against nature not to go out and see her riches and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth." (86)

"As mothers and as academics, we need to consciously shrug off the feelings of failure, the sense of ourselves being under intense scrutiny and always found lacking. Life's energy is finall
Jan 11, 2010 Shalinee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Collection of experiences/thoughts of women in academics regarding motherhood. Found it very humanities-centric, which is probably fair given the dismal number of female academics outside of humanities and social sciences. Related with only one of the contributors who saw and maintained a balance between tenure and family for years, but then she decided to give up academics for freelance writing. Could have appreciate a few more "positive" stories (the one that's in there is insanely idyllic) bu ...more
Jan 01, 2015 Erika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-s-issues
Lots of very good, thoughtful, touching, amusing, horrifying essays -- confirming that the issues facing women who want to succeed in academia are not different in nature from the issues facing women in large law firms, or perhaps corporate America too. Whether they are different in scale is a different question and one few people can answer (not having swum in both ponds). My own takeaway may be that I am not working hard enough (yet) in my academic position. I don't feel pulled away from the f ...more
Sasha Turchyn
Jul 24, 2010 Sasha Turchyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is at times encouraging and at times depressing. I am a PhD in a tenure track position with two small kids. I moved myself out of the US system and into the European system and when I shared this book with one of my European colleagues who was pregnant she read it and returned it to me with the comment "god I am glad I don't work in the US". So there are definitely essays in here that are hard to read. But mostly I found it nice to identify with other people in similar work-life balanc ...more
A nice collection of stories from prof-mommas all over, but I wanted more here somehow...I didn't especially love the organization, nor the seemingly endless predictable introductions to each woman's essay, outlining her many, many spectacular accomplishments (lots of horn-tooting) and then coming to a crisis: can't get pregnant, can't stay pregnant, isn't supported by academia.

I think I was just asking too much of this book.
Most of the essays in this book were written about having kids while in grad school rather than while in tenure-track faculty positions. Also, a number of chapters ended with the author abandoning her career and/or deciding to become an independent scholar rather than pursuing a faculty position, which I found disheartening and not helpful. Overall, this book had a negative tone that did NOT give me hope as a new tenure-track faculty member and soon-to-be mom.
Joan Singh
Feb 26, 2013 Joan Singh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely required reading for any new mom or mom to be in academia. It was thought provoking and offered surprisingly on point insights to life/work balance. Being a new mom myself and working in academia only further validates the many vignettes included in this fantastic compilation. I can say without a doubt, Mama PHD sheds light on multiple issues with regards to being a woman, child rearing, and academia all in one.
Feb 19, 2011 Lara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must-read for anyone in graduate school or academia who has already started a family or is contemplating doing so. I identified with many of the experiences these women describe, and it is thoroughly comforting to be reminded that the mind/body conflict is one that is widespread, yet manageable.
May 08, 2009 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kate
This collection of different women's stories of being moms and academics (sometimes former) is at turns amusing, frustrating, inspiring, and downright depressing. I really like the "momifesto" near the end, and might copy that out for future reference. Mostly a "fun" read, with a few felicitous good-ideas-to-steal moments and a few righteous anger moments, too...
Jul 05, 2009 Zoe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I learned from this book: Having a family and a career is ridiculously hard, so give these ladies some respect. Also, the academy is about the MIND and family is about the BODY. Pretty much every essay touched on that dichotomy. I really enjoyed this collection, but it left me feeling a deflated.
Dec 28, 2008 Jenny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was hoping for a book of essays that was all, "YES! You can do this. Women make different decisions with their PhD, but there is support out there and it works out." Instead it is more, "Life is tough, but you'll make it through. Good luck."

Less inspirational; more you-are-not-the-only-one-going-through-it.
Aug 26, 2010 Annie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mixed feelings about this one--probably *not* because of the book itself but because of the stark reality it represents of trying to succeed in academia as a mother. It discouraged, rather than inspired, me and I was really hoping to be inspired.

Still, the essays are very well-written and provide a sense of solidarity that there are others experiencing the same roller coaster ride.
Jan 15, 2011 Agnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love the personal stories in this book. Fantastic for those negotiating parenting and study, and also valuable for early career academics. I keep this on my bookshelf in my office and pick it up when I am feeling ambivalent (about motherhood or academia). I also subscribe to the great MamaPhD blog. There's a Papa PhD book out now too...
Apr 22, 2011 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a relatively varied look at the post doctorate world for mothers. As someone who is a mother and going back to get her PhD, this is a very discouraging text. I am hoping my experience isn't as dreadful and I don't end up as bitter as many of these writers.
Jun 22, 2009 Adrienne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great collection (including one by a UR faculty member) of women who have balanced life in "the academy" with motherhood. I think it's relevant to all lines of work and the pressures of being a mom/successful career woman.
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