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Op/ed: I Slept on Legos. Where Does That Go on My CV?

Education Researcher Ponders the Invisible Work of Academic Moms

By Christine M. Neumerski

broken-apart Lego lady

Pulled in many directions is one of the many ways to describe how academics who are mothers have felt in recent years.

Photo by Jackson Simmer/Unsplash

The onset of the pandemic registers as “a vacuum, a missing spot, a glaring set of omitted lines” on her CV, writes Christine M. Neumerski, senior research fellow in the Center for Educational Innovation and Improvement in a new essay in Inside Higher Ed.

What looks like a period of articles unwritten, data left unanalyzed and grant proposals gathering dust were, in fact, years filled with juggling academic duties with domestic work and round-the-clock care for her autistic son. Meanwhile, many colleagues, and particularly male ones, experienced productivity boosts amid lockdown and extended work-from-home conditions. While Neumerski writes that she’s since clawed her way back to productivity and graduated from “bone-deep exhaustion … to mere tiredness,” the inequities for women academics at home and at work persist.

That night, I had awoken to the sound of my son crying. I crept down the stairs, stood outside of his room until he quieted down and turned to head back to bed. But the bone-deep exhaustion of the past few months of 24-7 care stopped me. It was as if I was standing in cement and no longer had the energy to climb the stairs to my bedroom. I lay down on the bare wooden floor—no pillow, no blanket—and fell back to sleep. I could feel Legos under my arms, their pointy spindles poking my leg and torso, but I was out of fuel. I simply could not move.

But you know what? I did keep going, as did mothers everywhere. That includes mothers whose children have special needs, or mental health challenges, or just day-to-day run-of-the-mill “life can be hard” problems. It includes mothers who are caregivers of elderly parents, mothers of children who have complex health needs or those who struggled with long COVID while raising their kids.

Three years later, I’ve discovered that the lesson was not that I couldn’t keep going. The lesson was something entirely different, yet entirely familiar: that working moms would once again be penalized for our invisible work.

Read the rest in Inside Higher Ed.



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