Juggling a professional career and a family comes with many struggles, according to three ISU professors.
Alexis Campbell Hoffman, Kristen Constant and Jennifer Roback Morse spoke to a crowd of about 50 in Heady Hall about life after leaving academia on Feb. 18.
“We really don’t do a very good job at Iowa State of trying to discuss what life is actually like after leaving school, so we have been trying to have some of these sessions that have proved to be very successful in the past,” said Peter Orazem, economics professor and mediator for the panel.
Monday’s lecture targeted women pursuing professional careers and how to succeed in managing the different roles that they possess.
“I have come to understand that I could be a better researcher, I could be a better department chair, I could be a better mom, I could be a better pet owner, but I can’t be the best at all of them all the time,” said Constant, professor of interdisciplinary studies and chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
Constant was able to accept this fact because of the support she received from others, which was true in the success of the other two panelists as well.
“My family and my friends were the ones who helped me get through any hard times that I may have had,” said Hoffman, a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology.
Hoffman married and had her daughter while in graduate school at Iowa State. She faced many challenges when her marriage ended in divorce, and she became a single parent trying to succeed in her career.
“My daughter is the one that keeps me going everyday and gets me excited to actually be able to do research and help out society,” Hoffman said.
For all three women, having children not only proved to be a huge challenge while managing a career, but also proved to be the most important accomplishment in their lives.
For Morse, senior research fellow in economics at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty and founder of the Ruth Institute a project of the National Organization for Marriage, the road to having children was not as perfect as she would have hoped for it to be.
“My husband and I got a call from a social worker saying ‘We have a little boy for you and he will be 2 1/2 years old when you get him. We know his name, his birthday, and he is described as being in good health. What do you say,’ and we said why not. When you have been infertile for four years you don’t believe that any baby will actually come,” Morse said.
When their son arrived, he had more psychological issues than was let on, which caused a lot of changes in family plans. Morse decided that she would leave work and take care of her children because they were the most important thing to her.
“As the kids got older, I realized that my primary job was being a wife and mother, even though it was not my original plan,” Morse said.
One of the most important things that she realized was that you have to allow your career path to be flexible.
“The rigidity of the career path freaks people out because you think if you take one step off of that path you’re dead, you might as well slit your throat if you’re not right on time, and that’s just not true and it’s not necessary," Morse said. "There’s a path for you. I don’t know what it looks like and neither does anybody else, but you can find that path, and let me just say be not afraid.”