Looking For: Traditional Wife

The System is not made for me. Graduate students are not supposed to have families to care for, houses to clean, meals to prepare and clean up, or groceries to buy. They are not supposed to organize birthday parties, coordinate repairs, clean and sell a house, finish a basement, wash laundry, fold laundry, garden, or cut lawns. I need someone to do all these things for me. (*edit: Can I also add that this person must care for the physical and emotional health of all members of the family, including me? And let me tell you, grad students are Needy.)

Graduate students are supposed to read, research, think, discuss, write, present, read, research, think, etc ad infinitum. My job should be to go to school then come home and study in isolation, with occasional breaks for midnight rollerblading and Chinese takeout. It’s supposed to be a lot of work, but it’s supposed to be doable.

For some crazy reason, maybe because I managed an undergraduate degree with small children around, I thought I could do this too. It’s been an interesting month and a half — maybe because of the fun I’ve been having with family law court, police, children’s aid, and counsellors (could another agency possibly be interested in my life?). Somehow I think that even if my life were stable, with no drama or crises, it would still be too much to be a grad student and mother.

I met a 4th year student yesterday who is married, planning to do the MA next year. He’s only a few years younger than me — in his early 30s. His wife lives one and a half hours away, he has an apartment here… he has a kid that doesn’t live with him and she has 3 kids — but they’re her kids, not his. Because they are her kids, according to their arrangement, there’s no need for him to be there. He’s focused on one part of his life — school.

I don’t have that option. My identities are completely interlocked. I’m not a student from 9-5 and a mother from 5-9 and a partner from 9-midnight. I cannot separate out one piece of my self and put the rest on pause or say they are insignificant or disposable. I am all of me. Like it says in my bio on this site: I am a feminist-activist-artist-geek-parent-student. I am all of these things at once. I can do what I do because of all of these things. The skills that I have, the insight that I bring, I bring because of these multi-dimensions.

Alas, the Institution of Academia is not made for real people. To receive funding I must be a full-time student. The perception is that unless I am full-time, I am not a serious researcher, that maybe I have a job somewhere. Maybe it’s time (or past time) for Academia to realize that there are other responsibilities in a person’s life and that these other things do not preclude people from making contributions to the Academy.

As long as the system runs as is, the only people in academia will be the ones that fit the mold: young people, no family responsibilities, no primary childcare responsibilities. Hmmm sound familiar? This is going to be a problem because more and more people want undergraduate degrees and there aren’t enough good teachers to fill the roles. By excluding a woman like me from academia, a good potential educator and researcher is lost. There has got to be a change. Maybe more distance education options, maybe a part-time option with funding. It’s sad to think I may have to give this up because the logistics are beyond me.


4 Responses, Leave a Reply
  1. Jacqui583
    13 October 2007, 10:53 am

    You are absolutely right, and of course because women are still much more likely to be the primary caretakers in the home it’s also a gender issue.

    For all of my kids’ lives (they’re in their late teens now) I have been a single parent (have been since the kids were quite young), have worked full time and am a union activist after work hours. I can so relate to you being overwhelmed. I recently started doing my BA in Women’s Studies on a part time basis, and took two classes this term instead of one. Even though one of those classes is online I’m still finding it takes a lot of my time and is a bit overwhelming.

    When people would ask me when the kids were younger how I do it, I’d think “well you just do.” There are no other options so you make it work. Each aspect of my life was not as good (read perfect) as others who didn’t have such a full plate, but oh well. I don’t have any regrets for how I’ve done things, simply because I still believe I had no other options; this was how I needed to live my life.

    At times I felt my life completely sucked and I was so full of guilt; guilt for not having the energy or the time to do everything I wanted to with the kids, guilt if I missed a meeting, or had to take time off work. Whatever you did in one arena seemed to take away from the others. My house was never “Martha Stewart” (dust bunnies? I’d have a whole warren!) and we did more than our share of take-out. Now I look back and figure I did the best I could with what options I had. I’m even getting pretty good at squashing that guilt! lol And my kids are both proud of me. That means a lot!

    I know it’s really tough right now, but I hope you find a way to hang in there. 🙂

  2. MollyM
    26 October 2007, 9:53 pm

    Will this motherhood thing pay well? Does it come with health benefits? Because if it does on either of those fronts, Im in. Im currently trying to battle the sides of myself and make them fit into one nice, human sized package. Being raised in a household where Motherhood was emphasised as a right and duty for me, I rebelled against the idea for a long time. Now my biological clock is ticking louder than my deadlines.

  3. Skye
    01 November 2007, 5:01 pm

    When I was in graduate school, even though it was a professional degree and not an academic degree, it seemed that graduate students weren’t even supposed to have partners let alone kids. It would interfere with all the “networking” (read: drinking) that the students did to make sure they were well-positioned to find jobs.

  4. Candace
    01 November 2007, 6:35 pm

    Tell me about it. We’ve been told not to have jobs and if we do not to tell anyone! No one said anything about not having family or other responsibilities. Guess they can’t control everything. /:sigh:/

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