Did we have it all and lose it?

Linnea Ista lkista at unm.edu
Mon Aug 31 16:42:49 EST 1998

On 29 Aug 1998 mtbrown at geocities.com wrote:

> In article <Pine.WNT.3.96.980824104809.-406915I-100000 at Guinevere.unm.edu>,
>   Linnea Ista <lkista at unm.edu> wrote:
> > We will continue to struggle with these questions as long as the notion
> > prevails that the greatest tragedy that can happen to a woman is that she
> > didn't have the opportunity to be a mother.
> Unlike many of the posters in this thread, I didn't really feel this pressure
> to have kids because I knew all along that that's what I wanted to do.
Exactly. I am glad you feel that way. But there is an assumption out there
that deep down inside, *all* of us feel that way and that somehow if we
don't we are missing out on something.

> Instead, I felt the flip side of that pressure--that I was being a poor
> scientist and a career failure because I chose to have a family. From many
> who had "made it" in academia, I received both subtle and overt commentary on
> my failure or couched in less negative terms, their "disappointment" in me.
> The censure most frequently came either from older men who had wives that had
> taken on the bulk of the responsibilities for raising their kids or from
> career-only women who had chosen not to have families or even spouses for the
> sakes of their "high- powered" science careers. 
This is exactly the sort of thing I am talking about. I do not consider
myself a "career -only" woman who has chosed not to have a family for the
sake of science. I have chosen not to have children because I do not want
ot have children. I would probably feel the same way if I were a ballet
dancer or a minister (other early "career" considerations).

And I am the one who will watch people's experiments (since the lab is
mostly men, it is for them) while they go fetch kids from daycare or take
them to the doctor. I do that gladly because I respect other people's

However, I DO NOT take it well when parents of either gender sit and
complain about how HARD it is to do both and how I have it so EASY
comparatively. At that point I WILL remind them that I have made a
conscious choice not to have children.

> Like the situation with the super-moms clamoring that all women should be
> like them and have kids and devote every minute to them, the
> "super-scientists" need to be tuned out if one is to have any satisfaction
> with one's chosen path. Who are those people to say what is best for me?

I am very sorry if you have chosen to put me into the "superscientist"
category. That is not me at all. I actually have quite an active life
outside the lab. 

Unlike you, though get the vast majority of the calmoring for people to
make decisions about my life not from at work, but in those other
activities. Several of us have noticed that at our church that people of
our age are not treated as adults until we reproduce (and this is a UU
church where we are supposed to be so liberal) and it is worse for women. 

I guess the two of us face opposite problems. I am doing what "science"
expects me to do out of my personal inclinations rather than pressure and
am not facing pressure on that front. You are doing what outside society
expects from women and are not facing the social pressure on that front.
Neither of us have experienced what it feels like on the other side.

However, if we work together and say that a woman's (or couple's)
reproductive choices are really no ones business but her (or their) own
and support one another, rather than arguing about who is the more
"oppressed" we may actually accomplish something!


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