Being a Traveling Mama Professor

April 29, 2008 | Blog

I met a very interesting visiting scholar from abroad today, and really enjoyed our conversation. (He shall remain nameless here since who he is isn’t important to my story.) This made me think of travel, and how many cool opportunities my colleagues embrace when they spend a few months, a semester, even a year hanging out at a foreign university.

My male colleagues, that is. Their wives are reportedly oh-so-flexible with their jobs. And I hear some women get to do this– those with grown children. And maybe those with stay-at-home husbands.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for my wonderful life or tremendous opportunities I’m privileged to have … BUT. It is hard to imagine how exactly I would embrace a chance to live abroad. I would have to uproot my husband who works full-time and is (clearly to everyone who reads this blog) very talented. And, we’d bring my son– sans his wonderful nanny. Of course we’d love to bring her along, but wow, would that be expensive! And no, finding good care elsewhere isn’t easy, or cheap.

I think the best solution would be to allow women profs to apply for small grants so they could afford childcare to facilitate this kind of thing. Either to pay a nanny to come along, or hire someone there. The same goes for conference travel.

**Or actually–better yet—allow women to use their existing research grants to pay for childcare so they can do their work! (We can use a grant to pay for an assistant but not for childcare so we actually have time to do research–what sense does that make?)

At my wonderful but cash-strapped university a new fund is unlikely to sprout (unless some wonderful private donor created one!) But, it is happening elsewhere. Princeton University provides stipends for grad student parents to attend conferences and pay for childcare so they can do so–otherwise known as a “dependent care travel fund.” Stanford provides something similar for junior faculty and Harvard does too, for all faculty.

Unfortunately, given my interests, I’m not keen on moving to an elite private school. I guess I’ll keep hoping, and waiting, here in Wisconsin. Nice state, we’ll just stay put and enjoy.

1 Comment

  1. Reply


    April 29, 2008

    I think it's a wonderful idea!! I don't have children yet, but I often wonder how women (or men)keep their careers moving forward while saving time for the joys of a family.

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