18 March 2008

The Two Body Problem...Plus One

I guess that makes it the three body problem.

But really, folks. Only in Academe could it be considered a "problem" to be settled and committed to an equally intelligent and driven partner. I vote for new nomenclature- how about the "two-body bonus"? Two bright individuals who will contribute and provide stability to a worthy institution.

Ok, so the Ivory Tower is a bit behind the times. They're trying to catch up, I suppose. In the 1970s, there where nepotism clauses that prevented institutions from hiring spouses. At least now we have a shot. (whoop. eee.)

But seriously, the two body problem is an issue. It's a bigger issue, though, if you have a three body problem. Or a four or five body problem. Maybe not if you're a male; somehow, having a family and kids makes you more attractive and seem more stable. If your a woman, you find yourself carefully expunging your professional website of any trace of baby--just in case that keeps your foot out of the door. Hubby, however, puts Little Man front and center: "My favorite budding economist," the caption reads beneath the picture of my two favorite guys somewhere in the middle of Central Park.

It's the three body problem that is even more difficult, because you don't have the option of living in different states for a little while (i.e., until you grow so far apart you file for divorce), because even long commutes between places aren't feasibly with a child in daycare somewhere.

This is something the second wave didn't deal with and something that today's young women are blissfully oblivious of....for now. There's a reason Hillary's campaign doesn't resonate with young women voters--they/we don't understand how monumental it is. As a woman, every avenue is open to you. The sky's the limit. There aren't "boy" jobs and "girl" jobs, there are smart people jobs and not-so-smart people jobs.

Until you have a baby, and then suddenly working like a man doesn't work anymore. And suddenly a "bump"* can hurt you in an interview. And suddenly you're on the "mommy track," even if you're not. You. Are. A. Liability. Your employer doesn't even have to offer you maternity leave if you haven't worked for them for more than 12 months.

Why is it a problem to be stable? To be committed? To be passionate about being more than one little box for people to fit you into?

I love watching the little undergrad chick-a-dees walking around without a care in the world. All doors are open to them. Nothing stands in their way. I was them once, never suspecting that the glass ceiling is a lot lower when you're wearing a baby bjorn.

*Really, people, who came up with this??

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