I’m biased in my answer, but I’ve given the question quite a deal of thought. When I was a little girl, all I wanted to be was a mom and to have seven kids like in Sound of Music or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. My concurrent dream was to be a writer, and this desire was just as strong. Before I fell asleep naming all my many children, I would read for hours, followed by scribbling in my journal, and right before my parents climbed the stairs, perhaps jotting down a few poems. I cannot remember ever being without these two viscerally strong desires of my soul—to write and to mommy.
What I was unaware of growing up was the competition between these two worlds. I remember reading biographies of great women writers and being disheartened that so many whom I admired were single, such as Jane Austen and Flannery O’Connor. Did I have to remain barren in the flesh for my writing to be fruitful? It was a scary thought. The other side was equally worrisome, to surrender my love of literature for motherhood. When I finished my doctorate still untethered, I wondered whether the conflict would even arise in my life. Perhaps God had decided I was to teach and write the great stories rather than raise my fantasy brood.
But then I got married. And then I had a daughter. And now I have a son too. So, how to be both a mom and a professor?
Here are the ways that I have begun managing the craziest juggling act of my life (and I am open to suggestions, for I am always scouring the Internet for more help).
One: Love your kids more than your students. I got this advice from Dr. Preston Jones. I know that I am doing just as much, if not more, service unto the Lord by changing diapers and singing “I’m a little teapot” forty times a day as I do when I cheer on the basketball players for my students at their game. When the two desires are in competition, my kids come first.
Two: To everything, there is a season. Thank you, Holly Allen, Carla Swearingen and Trisha Posey. The aforementioned women have all reminded me on several occasions that everything has a season. While I may attend fewer conferences one semester because of a tiny little inconvenience like the miraculous birth of my first son, there will always be conferences to attend, and my son will only be born once. My kids will only learn to walk and talk and feed themselves once, so that conference in Russia or that article on Solzhenitsyn may have to take a backseat to the milestones of this season.
Three: Work at JBU. This third lesson is huge. John Brown University is the best university to work at as a professor who wants a family life. Never before have I seen Christian academics walk the talk as much as I have in this environment. My bosses in administration support my decisions to have children, my colleagues understand when I miss a meeting because I could not find childcare, and my wonderful students do not complain when they have to listen to my daughter cry the whole way to Tulsa on our class field trip. If there was ever a way for a mom to be a professor, it has been provided by this university.
I believe Paul when he writes in 1 Timothy 2:15 that women will be saved by childbearing, for my kids are determined to make me as selfless as possible. But, I also believe the apostle when he writes to the Corinthians (12:28) that each person has a different role in the church, and some are called to be teachers. In both ways, I work for God’s Kingdom.
Wilson is a professor of creative writing at JBU. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.