So, you can bet your bippy that I am thrilled for this contribution from my former Dean of Law, Jennifer Rosato Perea. As I’ve previously alluded, I had a tremendous support system in place when I began my third year of school, five weeks after having my son. Dean Rosato Perea was instrumental in helping me navigate the path. While her support and encouragement was invaluable, it was the fact that she provided a space for me to talk about the challenges I was facing, without fear of being seen as using my child as an excuse, that meant the most to me. I can only imagine that at least some of this was as a result of her being a pioneer in her field in a number of ways, and is all too familiar with having to face the biases we have about working mothers. My guess is that her article might help you see what I mean.
A Mom Miles Away is Still a Mom
Since I was young, I knew I wanted to be a successful working woman and a good mom. I did not know how I was going to “do it all,” so along the way I read every book I could about working moms, child development, quality child care, and the mommy wars. I married someone who was fully committed to sharing child care responsibilities and supporting my career in law and higher education. Even with all this research and planning, my role as a working mother evolved out of love and instinct.
Nurturing a close relationship between mother and child long-distance was not a chapter in any of these books, and the handful of my women colleagues who I knew were in similar situations rarely talked about their experiences.
For the first 12 years of my daughter’s life, I shuttled between two cities 100 miles apart, building my career and giving as much time as possible to her. We did all the things that mothers and daughters do and created many beautiful memories and a strong bond – we just built our special relationship in smaller time increments than many moms and daughters have to share, and so we cherished every moment. I had the support of her dad, my mom, devoted sitters, and caring teachers, so I always
knew she was well cared for when I could not be there. Most people understood my choices, although there were sometimes whispers about my strong commitment to work, my absence at events, and concerns about my daughter’s well-being and attachment to me.
When my daughter was 12 years old, those whispers became a much louder chorus of concerned voices. At that time I made the choice to move halfway across the country for my dream job as a law school dean, a job I had been working towards for many years. Her dad (my ex-husband) and I decided it would be best that she stay with him, and I visit her as much as possible. We were comfortable with the decision, and our daughter thrived in middle school and high school. And yet, when I talked about my girl, the chorus of voices invariably asked, “Is she ok?” Yes. “Don’t you miss her?” (Of course we miss each other!) And “What happened to make you leave her?” (a really great job, nothing more). These questions made me doubt my choices for the first time, and I became quieter and quieter about them.
I am not guilty about my parenting choices, but I wish I had spoken up sooner to share those choices without shame. Women need to know that they can make a career and motherhood work in all different ways. My daughter always knew that I was there for her, whether it was calling me when she needed advice, getting an opinion on a prom dress, or texting me a photograph of a beautiful sunrise that we could share together.
Now that my daughter is 18 and graduating from high school in a few weeks, I am proud to say that she is an amazing young woman – thoughtful, smart, sensitive, and courageous. I see much of myself in her. We are still very close, and thankfully can rely on text, phone, Instagram, and quick flights to keep in touch. And when I watch her pick up her diploma in a few weeks, I will be crying just like the other moms, knowing that even though she was far away in distance she was always close to me in my heart.
I first saw this article posted on Dean Rosato’s Linkedin profile, and she generously agreed to allow me to post it here. My second year in law school (at 8 months pregnant), I was lucky enough to hear her guest lecture on matters of Family Law, a topic increasingly complicated by the remarkable ways in which families can now be created (think In Vitro where you have the biological donors via egg and sperm, a surrogate, and then the intended parents, all of whom have potential claim to the resulting child). Dean Rosato Perea is an expert in both family law, and bioethics, an area that will just about melt your face, so I’m obviously into it. Check it out!
Impressive as she is, you don’t have to have all of Dean Rosato Perea’s credentials write a piece for us! Fill out a “write like a mother” form, and I’ll get in touch.
Love. Balance. Health. Happiness. Jj