This morning I had mandatory training meetings for new faculty associates at ASU. I’m teaching one class for them this fall after a five-year break from teaching. Last night I made the necessary preparations for a smooth morning: I packed the kids’ school lunches and my snacks, set out everybody’s clothes, packed the baby’s bag (complete with extra clothes, diapers, food for lunch, snacks, and a note to remind me to put his blanket and noise machine in), and set my alarm. Not fifteen minutes later, I hear an all-too-familiar wail from the baby’s room. I peek in to see him standing in his crib, sweat plastering the hair to his forehead, his little limbs shaking with fever. After hours of rocking him, holding him, dosing him with medication, I return to my room with his little head on my shoulder, and I turn off my alarm clock. I won’t be going to the mandatory meetings. My husband is out-of-town this weekend, I have no family around, and I cannot take a sick baby to my visiting teacher’s house so I can attend my meetings. I say a quick prayer that the directors of AS U’s writing program are understanding people and that I can figure out this class, the technology, and the system at a new university without going to the meetings.
After I finished my master’s degree and before entering my doctoral program, I taught for two years full-time at BYU as a “visiting instructor.” The position was a new one, and the 5-interview process of being hired seemed grueling to me. My second-to-last interview was with a vice president at BYU, who was wary of past BYU English professors’ liberalism. He noticed on my curriculum vitae that some of my conference presentations incorporated feminist and Marxist theories applied to literature.
“Do you consider yourself a feminist?” he asked me.
“Yes,” I told him. “I enjoy studying feminist theory.”
“How do you balance being a feminist and being a Mormon?” he questioned.
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I responded that there had come a time when I had to decide that I am first and foremost an LDS woman. That my religious identity gets precedence over others. So, I do my best to look at feminist theory from the perspective of my base identity as an LDS woman, rather than focusing on what my religion looks like from my feminist identity.
This morning I was remembering that conversation in light of my shifting roles. Last night, I had prepared for the day as a mother, who was getting ready to step more fully into my professor identity. But this morning, I had to put my professor role aside for the responsibilities of my current base identity as a mother of a sick little boy.
This jostling of identities often doesn’t feel entirely comfortable when the choice about which to step into isn’t as clear as it was for me this morning. There’s guilt associated with identity shifts. And self-doubt. I remember going back to a major conference after my daughter was born and feeling like a big, fat fraud sitting there with people who eat, sleep, and breathe this stuff while I could only devote naptimes to my study. But a few years later, I’m getting more comfortable with my shifting identities and more confident in my choices.
What about you? What identities are you juggling currently (mother, wife, daughter, sister, ward member, friend, employee, etc.) and which has priority right now in your life? How do you personally balance your roles?