Brock University

Mothering Within the Borders of the "Ivory Tower"

This session examines the complex role and experience of gender, family, and work in academia. Specifically, this session explores how mothers work within the borders and boundaries of academia. How are women constructed by/within academia as mothers? How do women who are also mothers experience academia? In what ways do academic institutions provide spaces of inclusion and exclusion to women with children, how do intersections of class, race, ability and sexual orientation work with mothering identity for inclusivity and/or exclusion in academic institutions? We welcome narratives/auto ethnographies and other research papers that explore this issue in its complexity. More specifically, this session welcomes, but is not limited to, papers on the following topics: mothering on the margins in academia; the invisibility of mothering in academia; representations of female faculty and administrators as mothers; teaching and doing mothering; inclusion and/or exclusion of female faculty members from faculty and/or administrative positions due to their mothering role; choosing/doing/balancing the mommy track and/or the tenure track; negotiating the reproductive clock versus the tenure clock; combining mothering, teaching, research, and service; attitudes entrenched in the academic environment and culture towards female faculty members who are/become mothers; accepting, negotiating, and/or resisting multiple ideologies and discourses including the good mother versus the good academic discourses, the parent or perish versus the publish or perish discourses, and the mother guilt versus the academic guilt discourses. This session welcomes papers from an interdisciplinary approach, as well as from both a qualitative and quantitative methodological approach.

Session Organizer: Caroline McDonald-Harker, Mount Royal University, ; Irene Shankar, Mount Royal University,


Parenting princesses: Tales from with the belly of (Beauty and) the Beast

Kristin Lozanski, Dept. of Sociology King's University College , , Christine Lavrence, Dept. of Sociology King's University College ,

As both feminist academics and as mothers raising pre-K daughters, we struggle daily to negotiate the tensions between princesses and feminism, the personal and the political, and theory and praxis. While princess culture has come under strong critique for the ways in which it admittedly reproduces problematic cultural norms of beauty, passivity, and heteronormativity, we argue that this critique must be situated within a context of intensive parenting, which is itself classed and gendered. Although princess culture is a manifestation of the individualism and de-politicization characteristic of post-feminism, the critiques of mothers who do not shield their daughters from princess culture reiterate highly gendered judgments that echo the deep divisions between women known as the “mommy wars.” As an alternative, we explore the possibilities, and limitations, of “benign neglect” insomuch as this approach leaves space for the agency of children and for the disruption of the norms of motherhood.


Climbing the Ivory Tower: On Emerging Adulthood, Marriage, Motherhood and the Construction of an Academic Identity

Kelly Ruest, Carleton University Ph.D. Student in Sociology Dissertation Supervisor:  Dr. Alan Hunt ,

This paper and presentation will be based on the author's auto-ethnographic component of her current work in progress, a doctoral disseration entitled:  "Are We There Yet:  Women of Generations X and Y Reflect on Pathways to Adulthood."  This dissertation will entail an analysis of the process through which young women re-construct their identities and life course as they attempt to make lifestyle choices following graduation from a post-secondary education program.  The substantive focus of this analysis will be women's use of the concept of "time" and their experiences of "anxiety" or lack thereof as they negotiate lifestyle choices vis-a-vis their corporeality.  This is lifestyle choices for a self that is both biological and social.  Theoretically, we will explore what happens to the social self when the 'adult' roles we are socialied to occupy do not exist for us to perform at the time we might expect to perform them.  By calling into question the social phenomenon of the "quarterlife-crisis," the author seeks to examine whether or not discontinuities between anticipatory socialiation and the experience of lived everyday-life during emerging adulthood in post-industrial credentialist society are, in large part what contribute to anxieties and a sense of paralysis relating to timing life-style choices.  The author will discuss her personal experiences of negotiating graduate school, work, marriage and motherhood in relation to theoretical concepts provided by the works of Beck, and Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, Giddens, and Bourdieu.  Substantively, this work will be discussed in relation to the works of Jeffrey Arnett, Rachel Thomson et. al. and Oliver Robinson,


“Mothers in Academia: Negotiating the Discourses of the 'Good Mother' and the 'Good Academic'”

Caroline McDonald-Harker, Mount Royal University,

The ideology of the “good mother” which permeates our current society creates compelling but often unrealistic standards for women who are mothers. Some mothers are more regulated by the ideology of good mothering than others, such as working mothers. Working mothers in academia are no exception to this. In fact academics who are mothers are also held to another ideology, that of the “good academic”, creating yet more standards for them to be held to. This paper examines the complex role and experience of gender, family, and work in academia. In specific, this paper discusses the multiple, competing and often contradictory roles, demands, and relationships between academic women’s personal lives as mothers in the private sphere, and their professional lives as academics in the public sphere. This paper pays particular attention to the interconnections between ideology, experience, and agency that structures, shapes, and influences the lives and experiences of academic mothers.


“Off Track: Motherhood as Impediments to the Tenure Track Career”

Irene Shankar, Mount Royal University,

In this paper, using auto ethnographic accounts, I will examine the multiple implications of giving birth while on the tenure track stream. More specifically, using a Canadian university as a case study, I will highlight and discuss particular institutional policies, which serve to hinder tenure track faculty members’ progression and success within academia. I will argue that such policies inevitably privilege particular bodies within academia and further marginalize female and lone parent faculty members.


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