Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Holding my womb hostage

All around me are babies. Friends trying to conceive, being pregnant, having babies, and raising toddlers surround me as I remained chained to my desk, trying to get my Ph.D. in computer science. It seems surreal in a way, that my friends are making little people while I'm publishing papers. I feel like I'm not contributing to evolution like I should. I feel like I'm way behind. I feel inadequate in my singledom. In terms of having babies, I'm old, with only seven more years before I need to start worrying about the safety of my own body and of the child.

As I do with any problem I face, I research. I read and read about the topic until I can recite passages from medical studies, until my head swims with statistics, and until my dreams are engorged by the subject matter. I'm currently re-reading "Misconceptions," by Naomi Wolf,
When I was growing up, I knew exactly how I wanted my life to be 'after the revolution' in gender roles and work expectations that I fully expected would arrive just in time--that is, before I had children. I had wanted to work at a job I cared about and share child rearing with a man I loved. I had wanted us to be a mother and a father raising children side by side, the man moving into the world of children, the woman moving in to the world of work, in equitable balance, maybe each working flexibly from home, the two making the same world and sharing the same experiences and values.

'Ha,' as women usually comment at this point in the fantasy.
Each time I read this above passage, I get angry. I get so angry that I will have to fight in my marriage for equality in child-rearing. I am angry, because in that passage is every fantasy that I, too, have about raising children in this supposed post-revolution era. I want the flexible job, the loving, egalitarian husband, the community day care, and the village helping to raise my child.

I already have to fight for equality at work. As a female computer scientist, I have to work every day to dispel the unspoken myth that the only reason I got into this school is because I have tits. I have to fight my socially polite creeds, and yell above the other rude voices to finish my own sentences. I have to fight against the stereotypes of my field and try to change a culture of men to a culture of scientists. Tired of fighting, will I really be able to go home after a day's work and fight there too?

My fears about equality in marriage and child rearing are based in reality, especially as a potential Ph.D. graduate looking for a job. Family formation affects significantly whether or not women acheive tenure in academia. Of tenured female faculty at Berkeley, 11% report that they stayed single because of their career. Moreover,
Only one in three women who takes a fast-track university job before having a child ever becomes a mother. Women who achieve tenure are more than twice as likely as their male counterparts to be single twelve years after earning the PhD...women who are married when they begin their faculty careers are much more likely than men in the same position to divorce or separate from their spouses. Women, it seems, cannot have it all—tenure and a family—while men can.
Without many options, I'm holding my womb hostage. Until I find a midwife who doesn't know the words "episiotomy" and "caesarean" as standard birthing practice, until I find a job that doesn't expect answered e-mails at 3 am and considers me a brain on a stick, until I find a group of people who would support me with safe community-based childcare, until I find a suitable husband who doesn't think me a crackpot feminist, but just a person who wants things to be fair for people. Until then. Maybe then.


patbergschneider said...

Very very very well said. Much respect.

Tony said...

I thought I posted this yesterday, but I must not have hit submit.

Anyway, I <3 Naomi Wolf.

shannon said...

If it helps you feel better we aren't trying anymore. Got to be too much of a chore and I realized that the world is a scary I really want to bring a child into it right now?

That being said, if it happens it happens.

Tejaswi said...

Very well put. I wish you the very best with your career and everthing else. You are very talented. I appreciate because you tell all this.

Was feeling really low today. I feel better after reading your posts for 2 hours straight. Thank You.