About Mothers in Rhetoric and Composition

Mothers in Rhetoric and Composition is a Special Interest Group (SIG) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). We are a group of faculty and graduate students at institutions around the country who are mothers, interested in becoming mothers, and/or interested in motherhood and infertility as research topics.

The stories surrounding academic motherhood and infertility have been mostly individualized and rendered invisible as illustrated by the void of scholarship about mothers’ work and struggles in the field and the lack of support groups that address the embodied negotiations of motherhood in the academy.

In addition to exploring and making visible the interactions between women’s mothering experiences and their working lives within and beyond the academy, this SIG serves as a starting point to:

  • Advocate for more equitable university policies when it comes to parenting and push institutions to take ownership of and to co-create solutions to the struggles associated with mothering and/or seeking to become mothers through pregnancy and other options.
  • Mentor mothers through graduate school, the job market, publication, and tenure and promotion in ways that align with a healthy work/life balance.
  • Address critical issues that underrepresented mothers and caregivers face on the basis of race, class, gender, ability, and sexuality.
  • Support women from diverse family formations, including single parents, LGBTQ families, families with adoptees and/or step children, those living with extended families, and those living transnationally.
  • Improve the Conference on College Composition and Communication’s (CCCC) and NCTE convention experiences for attendees who are mothers.

How We Define Motherhood

We take a broad approach to defining motherhood. Some of our members have shared at our meetings that they have been told that they are not “real” mothers because they have step children or because their children are grown. Others have mentioned that they were not sure whether they were welcome at our group because they are only considering motherhood. We have also heard from women who are struggling through infertility and wonder whether this group welcomes them and seeks to address their concerns. We want everyone who identifies with motherhood as an experience or research topic to feel that they can be a part of Mothers in Rhetoric and Composition and to attend our meetings, join our listserv, and let us know how the group can serve them.

History

Research findings have shown that women who opt to be academic mothers pay a “baby penalty” over the course of their academic careers—from graduate-school to the tenure track, through the post-tenure years, and finally to retirement (Mason, Wolfinger & Goulden, 2013). The penalties associated with academic mothering include, but are certainly not limited to, being granted short or no maternity leaves, receiving little or not enough support for meeting their child-caring needs from their institutions, being less likely than men to obtain a tenure-track job, being less likely to be awarded tenure, and taking much longer to be promoted to full professor (Mason, 2013).

The Mothers in Rhetoric and Composition SIG formation was inspired by a number of sessions at CCCC 2015 that focused on the risks and rewards of academic motherhood and caregiving responsibilities. Panelists and attendees at those sessions expressed a need for these issues to be further explored and addressed by the formal NCTE infrastructure. We have been meeting yearly at CCCC since 2016 and our listserv has over 190 members. If you would like to join the listserv, contact Alexandra Hidalgo at hidalgo5@msu.edu.

Leadership

Co-Chairs
Alexandra Hidalgo, Assistant Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University
Courtney Patrick-Weber, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at Bay Path University

Website Team

Content Production
Alexandra Hidalgo, Assistant Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University
Courtney Patrick-Weber, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at Bay Path Universit
Jean Rose, Associate Professor of English at Penn State University

Logo, Web Design and Architecture  
Hannah Countryman, Senior in Professional Writing at Michigan State University
Alexandra Hidalgo, Assistant Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University

Copy-Editing
Jennifer Bay, Associate Professor of English at Purdue University

Former Leaders and Staff Members

April Baker-Bell, Co-Founder and Co-Chair (2015 – 2017)

Page Content Composed by

April Baker-Bell and Alexandra Hidalgo with input from Jennifer Bay, Bryna Siegel Finer, Tania de Sostoa-McCue, Jean Rose, and Catherine Vieira.

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