So, I’m pregnant for the first time. My husband’s family is on
the whole really great and loving people. They rarely leave
their “red state world”, however. My husband’s immediate family
Gets It, they understand that neither I (nor my husband for that
matter, who is also a scientist, same flavor as me) will be
quitting science when we become parents. The extended clan,
however, I am less confident about.
The clan wants to throw me a baby shower, for which I have to
travel across the country and be there by myself. Don’t get me
wrong, they want to do this as a nice, loving gesture. And they
really are all great people, as long as we don’t talk about
politics. But I’ll have to face the group without the buffering
influence of my husband.
I greatly fear that the “redder” of the red state relatives will
ask me point blank, or worse, just assume, that I will now be
giving up this silly science stuff, we’ll be moving “back
home” (my husband’s from there, I’m not), I’ll be finally taking
my husband’s last name, and getting down to the serious real
life calling of making babies.
To be honest, I am already stressed enough about how I really
will, in practice, be both a scientist and a mom.
Fortunately, I am surrounded by great role models, in a great
job. I know I’ll find a way to make it work.
But back to the party. I fear, if asked a leading question, I
will burst into tears and run from the room. Or, worse, I will
do something that creates a family rift, such as standing up in
front of these ~25 stay-at-home moms, screaming “I am more than
my uterus”, bursting into tears, and running from the room.
So I need something pithy. Polite but firm. A sound bite, if
you will. Something respectful of their life choices, and of
mine. Something to convey that I will not be stopping “this
silly scientist stuff” anytime soon. And that I will be both a
good scientist and a good mother.
Asking a pregnant you to fly cross-country so that they can throw you a shower seems pretty demanding. Asking you to make the trip without the support of your husband (their family member) seems down right unreasonable. If you do decide to accept their offer for a shower, I would insist that it be a couples shower so that you can have your husband present. That should take some of the pressure off you.
As for a pithy response to the question of whether you’ll be “giving up this silly science stuff,” I don’t have a particularly good one. When I visit my red-state in-laws I have to work very hard to resist the impulse to explain to them that I make twice as much as their son and that really I’ve supported him for the past five years. Of course, financially, that may not be true. You might try to explain that there are lots of women who are successful mothers and scientists and that you work with some of them. You can also say that for now you’ve decided to keep working but that you’re open to other possibilities later if you change your mind. Of course, that could just allow them to ask you the question every time you see them for the next twenty years. None of these responses are particularly empowered, but hopefully they shouldn’t cause a family rift. If you really want to make a statement, I’d channel Zuska and puke on their shoes.
Readers, do you have any suggestions?