lived experiences, Mothering, research

Motherhood and the Ivory tower of Academia

Mothers in Academia…oh what a topic! Riddled with controversy.


This graduation day is a micro representation of the ambivalent emotions I felt all throughout my research work, starting in 2010 with my Master of Research in Psychology.

My then 7 year old son on PhD graduation day

My story sits outside of the “modern academic mama” which usually means an educated class-privileged mother, who made a decision to have a baby once her academic career is somewhat established. Saying somewhat because this too is a loaded statement…

I started my formal academic journey After I had a baby… I think having a baby propelled me even harder towards all those bigger goals I had but didn’t have the courage to embark on before that. Because Motherhood has that effect! To undo you but also by turning you inside out, to rocket 🚀 you towards a life with meaning. A fuller, examined and rich life.
Because now you not only matter to you, you are part of a greater plan… you become an important background.

So, filled to the brim with excitement, I headed to pursue that rich academic career. Slap N1 came in the form of a small yet key factor-childcare! Took years to unpack my own guilt related to using family (3 hour flight away, thanks to my mum, my grandparents and my in-laws) for 4 sets of 6 week intervals to help out with childcare so that I can graduate.

All that in the wake of my father’s sudden death. Step away, grief! No time for you.

Add a partner who did the same degree while we had a 2 year old and the childcare part becomes deeply impossible. No structures in place to support us, we internalized an interesting inner narrative which opposed motherhood (parenting) against having a career in academy.

And then came the so called discriminatory microinequities…around those little ways in which your environment can offer grievances and slowly crush one’s Motherhood Identity.

These are too personal, too intimate, and almost too sticky to describe and unpack and they come from wellmeaning close encounters as much as they do from bigger structural inequalities.

Oh I can already tell how much I have been waiting to write this chapter… 📖

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