Volume 5 Number 3
Complementary Calls: Scholar/Mom
by Jacqueline Lapsley
The most visible sign of the intersection of my role as mother and my role as faculty member appears on the shoulder of my blazer with considerable
regularity. I will look down during a committee meeting or a class and a long, terribly obvious smear of dried whitish liquid will catch my eye… . I look again, and recognize immediately the telltale signs of baby drool.
Both of my kids are under four, and in my relatively short time as a parent, I have found a number of things to be indispensable: a well-developed sense of humor (the drool makes me smile, not wince), a sense of joy in my children and in my work, a reliance on God’s abundant grace, together with the grace of my husband, also very abundant, and talking to other scholar-moms, here and at other schools—oh yes, and allowing the house to be messy without guilt is very important.
Our culture tends to see a woman’s career and her role as mother as at odds with one another. And certainly there is much truth in this, especially given our present cultural understandings of work and motherhood. Yet, recently I have begun to see my work and my children less as opposed to one another and more as intimately connected to one another. I am realizing that when I am able to work well, I become a better parent to my children. My time at work nourishes my spirit and makes it possible for me to find incredible joy in spending time with my children. When I am away from work for too long, my spirit languishes, my parenting suffers, and so my children suffer (my husband will attest to this!). Similarly, the time I spend with my children every day energizes me for my research and teaching.
Church and academy are struggling to adapt to fundamental changes in the meaning of parenting, for both men and women. Higher education, for example, is often on the cutting edge of progressive social issues in principle, but in reality the academy is behind in its efforts to promote parental leave, childcare, and other policies and initiatives that support women and men as scholars and teachers. Fortunately, PTS has been looking at these issues in recent years, and I am delighted to say has so far been very supportive of me as a parent.
One of the realities for women academics is that the pretenure years often coincide with childbearing years. How to thrive—not just survive—with the sometimes-competing demands of work and children is the most important spiritual issue for me at this time in my life. One thing I know for sure: I want to look back over the years and see that I was the parent that my children needed me to be, and if that means a shorter CV, so be it. The issue is not for me career versus children, however, but a theological question of vocation—being faithful to my vocation means being both scholar and mom.
Jacq Lapsley is an assistant professor of Old Testament at PTS, is the mother of Emma and Sam, and is married to Greg Bezilla, a soon-to-be ordained priest in the Episcopal Church.
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