Professor Mommy: Finding Work/Family Balance in Academia (with Rachel Connelly)

Professor Mommy Cover

Professor Mommy is a guide for women who want to combine the life of the mind with the joys of motherhood. The book provides practical suggestions gleaned from the experiences of the authors, together with those of other women who have successfully combined parenting with professorships. Professor Mommy addresses key questions—when to have children and how many to have; what kinds of academic institutions are the most family friendly; how true or not true are the beliefs that many people hold about academic life, and so on—for women throughout all stages of their academic careers, from graduate school through full professor. The authors follow the demands of motherhood all the way from infancy to the teenage years. At each stage, the authors offer invaluable advice and tested strategies for juggling the demands and achieving the rewards of an academic career and motherhood.

Written in clear, jargon-free prose, the book is accessible to women in all disciplines, with concise chapters for the time-constrained academic. The book's conversational tone is supplemented with a review of the most current scholarship on work/family balance and a survey of emerging family-friendly practices at U.S. colleges and universities. Professor Mommy asserts that the faculty mother has become and will remain a permanent fixture on the landscape of the American academy.

Endorsements and Reviews:

“Bowdoin College professors address the challenges of pursuing an academic career while raising children, offering counsel and advice to women seeking to combine “the life of the mind with the joys of motherhood.” Connelly, the mother of four sons, is an economist whose international research addresses intersections between work and family life; Ghodsee is an expert in gender and women’s studies who received Fulbright and National Science Foundation grants. Their individual experiences inform the book, which provides not only a step-by-step program from graduate studies to tenure but also a “what to expect when you’re expecting” and mothering while chiseling out a profile inside ivied halls. Connelly and Ghodsee tell tough truths–academics is a hard and demanding career for anyone, and most difficult for women with children–but they recommend outsourcing whatever does not contribute directly to your job; availing yourself of good full- or part-time child care; finding an institution with fair work-family policies; attending conferences, networking, and coauthoring publications; saying “no” to nonessential work; relocating as opportunities arise; and staying hypervigilant about time management. A well-presented guidebook for academics, there is little attorneys, physicians, CEOs, or other professional women would find useful. “(Publishers Weekly, Sept. 2011)

“Bowdoin faculty members Connelly and Ghodsee are mothers who’ve struggled with the challenges of research, teaching, publishing, and caring for children in defiance of the conventional wisdom that women in academia have to choose between family and career. They devote an entire chapter to debunking the myths that discourage many women from pursuing tenure during their most fertile reproductive years. Drawing on their experiences and on surveys of and interviews with a variety of women in academia, they first review the decision to have an academic career and the decision to have children, including how many and when to have them. They proceed with a detailed chronology of the tenure track, a comprehensive guide, and unwavering encouragement. They are frank about sacrifices and challenges encountered during graduate study and the PhD dissertation, and they detail the hurdles presented by low salaries, undesirable work locations, and long working hours. But they also note the rewards of both academic life and motherhood. Women interested in careers in academia should appreciate this helpful, encouraging resource.”— Booklist

“Rachel Connelly and Kristen Ghodsee have written a book that is not just a must-read for anyone contemplating the intricate and as-yet imperfect balance of academic life and family life, but for anyone at all interested in promoting equity in the workplace and more importantly, in the world of ideas. Professor Mommy lays out in stark detail the dismal record and very real statistics of the maternal wall, glass ceiling and the steep personal costs that women academics often face. But rather than stop there, they offer detailed, practical and user-friendly guidance on how to set your own priorities, draw boundaries and forge a path through this thorny obstacle course. They show it is not easy, but it is indeed possible to be both a successful academic and a loving parent with a rich family life. More, Professor Mommy is a call to action: that lasting change and that longed-for balance will come only when men become aware of the stacked deck against women and when women academics make the hard decision not to opt out, but to opt in, writing, publishing, thinking, promoting their ideas, and by their very presence, change the calcified system from within.”— Brigid Schulte, Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize co-winner

“Do read this ‘can do book for mothers who want to pursue an academic career! Yes, you can succeed and this book guides you through every step and pitfall–from choosing the type of institution that is for you to coming up for full professor. It doesn’t shy away from the very real obstacles, like exhaustion during the early child-raising years, but offers alternative strategies for climbing the ladder. The sound advice is aimed at mothers—but it could be the handbook for any Ph.D. who is deciding on an academic career. I will recommend it to all my graduate students.”— Mary Ann Mason, professor and co-director of the Center, Economics & Family Security at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law; author, Mothers on the Fast Track

“Don’t believe the myths—you can conquer the academy while raising children. It isn’t easy, but few worthwhile things in life are. Connelly and Ghodsee show, step by step, how smart women win at work and win at home by protecting their time and focusing on what matters most (hint: it’s not grading papers or ironing shirts!).”— Laura Vanderkam, author, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think


Rachel Connelly and Kristen Ghodsee, Professor Mom: Finding Work-Family Balance Despite the Odds in The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 24, 2011

When Enough Is (Good) Enough: A Review of ‘Professor Mommy’ Prof. Hacker, Chronicle of Higher Education,  May 11, 2012

Motherhood After Tenure: "Professor Mommy," Inside Higher Ed, May 3, 2012

Wanted: The Academic Equivalent of the “Pretty Girl Rock, Guest Blog Post, October 7, 2011

Time of Day Flexibility: Our Blessing and Our Curse, Guest Blog Post by Rachel Connelly, September 5, 2011

Tenure Tracks and Ticking Clocks, Guest Blog Post, August 22, 2011

A Research Career at a Liberal Arts College, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 25, 2008

Read a Sample

Chapter 3: Know Thyself - Part I: On Deciding to Become an Academic (pdf)

Working mom