Rocket scientist, mom, wife…

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    Apparently the NYT has been getting a lot of flack for describing a top-notch rocket scientist as a wife and mom first in her obit. What do you think? How would you want your obit to read?

    Original article here.

    The Finkbeiner Test, for those who are interested.


    I really liked this line: “But perhaps the question here isn’t why a woman’s did, but why a man’s does not. Must our treatment of men continue to be a woman’s gold standard?”

    I entirely agree that diminishing our roles in our families isn’t as appealing as having men increasingly value their roles as husbands and fathers.

    I think that at the end of the day if I could be an amazing scientist or a good mother, I would be a good mother. I think this is the common sentiment, and I like to think I would want to prioritize that in my obituary. Doesn’t the family write at least the first major draft of the obituary? Perhaps that is how they wrote hers, knowing that she would want it that way.


    I agree with you on all points, Mel. To be honest, I am certain my husband would want his family accomplishments listed first as well. I can’t imagine accomplishing anything in my career that would eclipse my identity as an individual, wife and parent. Maybe this is more a question of how we see ourselves vs how the rest of the world might remember us.

    The Finkbeiner Test was eye-opening for me. I find it quite irritating that almost invariably, every time I meet a new male attending, as soon as he finds out I’m a mom, the first question is “where do your kids go all day?”. It shouldn’t be so irritating, but it is, and this helped me kind of see why.


    I had to look up the Finkbeiner Test. Wow.

    Reminds me of the Bechdel test. It has fewer criteria: At least 2 named women who talk to each other about something other than a man. It is shocking how hard it is for films to pass even that criteria.

    How many layers of this stuff do we have to get through?


    I think the context of the obituary matters. It’s all well and good to say being a great mom is the most important thing to you – but that doesn’t get you into the nytimes when you die. The NYtimes writes about you because you did something big and high profile that most people don’t… and that’s what they generally lead with. I agreed with the concerns that it made it seem like she was getting the write up not purely because of what she accomplished but because she did it while also being a “good mom”. The sort of “she did really good things… for a mom!” caveat.


    So while I don’t have kids yet, hubby and I are in the “just about ready to start” stage and I can’t count how many times I’ve apologized that my career will make a “normal” family life difficult (just wrapping up a PhD and starting MD). Then I read The Feminine Mistake (Bennetts) and while there are some parts that are questionable, what I DID like was the discussion/reasons why pursuing a career you were passionate about is good and the positive impact that can have on a relationship and even children. Plus it reassured me that my kids wouldn’t all become serial killers (an unrealistic but real fear I have!). Pretty much since I read this book, I’ve changed my mindset from guilt to more like, “heck, my husband and my future offspring are lucky to have me!” 😉


    Just be prepared for the possibility of wanting to cut back once you have kids especially when the little one is a babe.


    Well, she got the write-up because she was a rocket scientist, not because she was a mom and wife.
    It would have made more sense to lead with the reason why she was highlighted, no?

    Slightly off-topic – it makes me cringe when people say “woman doctor” or “female scientist” ugh.

    Also, does anyone else here get called “nurse” on a regular basis or is it just me? :-/


    Thanks for sharing article.

    Moms are always moms first,then doctor or scientist 🙂

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