Shared Story: You Can Have It All

The minute I decided to be a music theorist, my priorities changed. I broke off an engagement and became incredibly career focused, driven to the point of strep throat and bronchitis more times than I can count. However, I was one of the lucky ones. During the final year of my doctoral work, I presented at nine conferences. I met people who liked my research and had two job offers.

I took the job at the more “prestigious” school and moved to a city where I knew no one. The teaching load was incredible and I was driven to keep up a research agenda similar to that from my doctoral days. By the 2nd year, I was newly married and had an ulcer. My health was quickly declining and I never saw my husband. One of the upper level faculty had taken a curriculum document I had written and began to present it around the country as his own ideas. I was young and fresh out of school and a woman. No one would listen to me or would even believe me. I was miserable. My husband was an administrator at the university, but agreed to leave so I could find a new faculty position.

I took a job at a smaller school in a very small town and my husband went back to teaching high school. I knew we would only stay a few years as I regained my health. But here’s what happened. In this smaller school, I found a place where women were more valued. The music faculty listened to me…from day one. This was a place where I could be an inspiration to female undergraduates highlighting that you can be an excellent teacher and scholar and friend. Faculty actually took vacations and I was told to “enjoy your winter break.” I was extremely happy and all of a sudden my research and teaching took off.

Five years into the job, I found out I was pregnant. Shocked. Excited. Nervous. I was up for tenure that year. How would this change things? The day before I was to go before my tenure committee, I was 8 months pregnant and exhausted. I fainted in the classroom and was told by my dean to go home and please to not come back until after my maternity leave. The next day, he called me at home to tell me my positive tenure review was unanimous and he would be at my baby shower the next week. My university gives a semester paid maternity leave, so I went home for 8 months and concentrated on being a new mother.

Since that day, I have been incredibly supported by my faculty and administration. I have written several articles and just finished my second book. (All written with my baby in university child care or in a bouncy seat beside me). I’ve only had one faculty member say “How can you be so productive and still be a good wife?” My teaching is better than ever. I have high level administrative duties and feel I have made significant changes. I still attend all my conferences, but maybe I fly home a day sooner or in some cases, my husband and child go with me. I pay someone to clean my house so I can have extra time with my child and husband. (smartest decision!) Sometimes I ignore email for 24 hours to play outside. During the summer months, I find myself at the park or pool during the day and tend to work on my research very early in the morning.

I surround myself with strong women and never give in to the guilt. It is all getting done and I feel better than ever, both personally and professionally. So while there are plenty of horror stories, I was able to find a place where women are valued (with minor exceptions). I distance myself from the men (and women) who think I’m not capable of handling all of this and continue to prove them wrong. I will not compromise my integrity for anything and everyone on the campus knows better than to ask me to do anything “shady” or “off the books.” I can not be “talked” into anything that I do not believe in. I’m stronger than that.

Oh, and my sweet child? She has a sticker up in her room that reads “Girls can do anything.” And she believes it.