“May I ask you how you do this?”
I had just entered my first work council meeting as a representative of the employees of the university where I work.
The woman who asked me, is part of the supportive team which helps with the administrative part of our university.
I asked her what she was talking about.
“Well, you are able to pursue a career which you seem to love, how do you do that, what is your mystery?”
Erm. Mixed feelings all over. I have a partner, husband, who helps a lot and works near home and often brings our children to school. But erm. How, why, and again why, should I seem to be an exception? Is it because I am female? Does that make my career, ambitions, and potential different? Please compare my situation with a same age man with two kids, is it also not normal to be working fulltime and trying to excel?
I am very in fond of gender neutrality, but I do have to acknowledge that pregnancies did take a lot of my careerpotential(time). They hampered my opportunities and slowed me down. Which is probably not the same for men. Although the restless nights thereafter do were a shared struggle. I was not in there alone. Actually, my husband may have taken more of the cries at night then I have. But my husband and I, we did discuss who want to achieve what and what are our ambitions in life. Nights before important presentations, he woke up several times during the night to comfort our children, he pushed me to take my sleep. So, I realize that it is still a shock in the 21st century that a husband wants to support his wife in her career?
O, and, there is no exclusivity rule about parenthood nor for academia. You can do several things in different life domains at the same time. Careers don’t stop when you become a mother.
Last week, I took my children to my university to pick something up which I forgot. I asked my children politly to be quiet in the corridor, which, off course, is like an open invitation to scream your lungs out (“hellloooo” yelled my youngest when I opened the door of the corridor 🙂 ). An older male colleague opened the door of his office and asked me what children were doing at work since it was nog x-mas yet… He asked me whether those ‘things’ were mine, refering to my children. He didn’t knew I already have two of those. The next conversation we had a couple of days later, he noticed I am not an active researcher…
Maybe, can we just put things in perspective, acknowledging facts (pregnancies and life events do take time) without underestimating each other?