Category Archives: work and family

productivity, sexism, or a less sexy explanation.

I apparently attended the same session at the ASA conference as Scott Jaschik yesterday, one on Gender and Work in the Academy. He must have been the guy with press badge who couldn’t wait to fact-check his notes during the Q&A.

The first presenter, Kate Weisshaar from Stanford University, started the session off with a bang with her presentation looking at the glass ceiling in academia, asking whether it was productivity that explained women’s under-representation among the ranks of the tenured (or attrition to lower-ranked programs or out of academia all together). A summary of her findings – and a bit of detail about the session and the session organizer’s response to her presentation – appeared in Inside Higher Ed today. Continue reading

your dissertation is as important as your dog.

I just wrapped up a two week course for graduate students on effective and engaging teaching in the social sciences and humanities. The first day of class, as we talked about issues we’d like to cover over the session, one student asked how to ensure that teaching doesn’t take up all her time so that she can actually finish her dissertation.

I outlined my core belief when it comes to teaching (don’t reinvent the wheel) and a handful of strategies I had discovered worked well for work-life balance in general: have a strict schedule and clearly outlined goals, and be sure to block out time for your non-student self.* I made an off-hand remark about how, in my research on graduate students, I found that students with children were much better at all three of those things than students without, but particularly the last one, because they felt they had a good excuse for “turning off” their grad student role.

The student who originally asked the question piped up, “Oh, I get that. I’m great at calling it a day to go take care of my dog.” I asked her to pretend, for just a moment, that her dissertation was as important as her dog. If she could stop herself from writing too many comments on her students’ papers or tweaking the reading list again or over-preparing for the next day’s lectures because she knew she had to go home to take her dog out, surely she stop herself from doing all those things because she had to take care of her own research.

Bottom line: Setting aside time for your research while you’re teaching isn’t neglecting your students, it’s taking care of you and your career (and ensuring you can still afford dog food when you finish your PhD).

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*It can be tough, because of all the immediate reinforcement that teaching and the classroom provides, but as Jeremy illustrates, anything (including research or ones dissertation) can be turned in to a game that offers similar psychological incentives.

 

intensive mothering and movie star moms.

Oh, Gwyneth. What a week is has been. While I am not planning to teach an entire course on her, or on any other celebrities in the news, I do want to briefly say that her recent gaffe illustrates an important shift in the mothering of the rich and famous and shows how few mothers are immune to the demands of intensive mothering.

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feeling like a fraud? you’re not alone.

There’s nothing quite like having someone else write about my research in a public forum to rouse my generally dormant sense of impostorism. So, why not use that publicity–about fraudulence, no less–to have a discussion about the negative effects of a fear of fraudulence for academics (and the academy).

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families and the academy.

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a week now, ever since I saw a presentation by the ASA’s Director of Research – the venerable Roberta Spalter-Roth – at the Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN) Conference in New York City.*

But, I just wasn’t sure where to start. Until today, when a colleague sent along a piece from The Atlantic Magazine today, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.”

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every rose has its thorn

I know yesterday was Valentine’s Day, so this post might seem a bit late. But it’s Susan B. Anthony Day, which is as good a day as any to turn to the thorny relationship between women, love, and education.

This past weekend, Stephanie Coontz wrote an encouraging opinion piece in the NY Times that asserts that “for a woman seeking a satisfying relationship as well as a secure economic future, there has never been a better time to be or become highly educated.” She cites the decline in the “success” penalty for educated women, asserting that men are more interested in women who are intelligent and educated than in the past.* Marriage rates are similar, and divorce rates lower for educated women. In fact, “by age 30, and especially at ages 35 and 40, college-educated women are significantly more likely to be married than any other group.” As if this wasn’t enough, Coontz cites other benefits for educated women: better physical and mental health, satisfying relationships, less housework, and steamier sex. Like usual, she makes a great (and entertaining) argument and her sources – including a number of sociologists – are sound. However, I’d like to suggest that things aren’t as rosy as they seem, particularly for women with (or pursuing) a Ph.D. Continue reading

navigating graduate school as a (single) parent.

I’m a tremendously disorganized electronic file-keeper. While this has proven disastrous at times, it makes it fun when I stumble across gems as I’m searching for particular items. Today, while on the hunt for teaching tips I might have written, I  rediscovered an unrelated presentation I made at last year’s ASA meetings.  I thought it might be helpful to some scatterplot readers (even those without children).

I had been enlisted to talk about navigating graduate school as a single parent… Continue reading

not mom of the year

A couple of friends sent me this awesome video for Mother’s Day: “Tina Fetner Announced as 2009 Mother of the Year.” Don’t I have the sweetest friends? And for the last couple of weeks, I have been feeling like mother of the year. I even drafted a couple of blog posts about it, but then it all came crashing down with about three motherFAILs in a row, and I realized that I was just faking it, living far above my mothering means. I will never be mother of the year, at least not as the position is currently defined in the social world around me.

It all started when a friend of Kid moved into the house just around the corner. Continue reading

adventures

Included among our adventures in the last week:

  • scarlet fever
  • hockey tournament
  • bum bruise
  • broken leg
  • panic attack

So, I am behind in all correspondence other than Twitter. That is all.

more evidence that people giving advice on managing work and family don’t understand how busy i am

From a NY Times piece that claims a shared workspace will keep family members on the same page:

Take a large, old frame from a flea market or your attic, cut a corkboard to size, cover it with fabric and place it in the frame. Tack pieces of ribbon on the corkboard to create separate areas for each family member, or do individual frames for each person.

Personalize a dry-erase board the same way — put it in an old frame or place pieces of wood molding around it. Carendi also recommends painting a section of wall, or even an entire wall, with chalkboard paint to create a huge space for messages and schedules.

balance is the wrong metaphor

We all hear a lot about people having trouble balancing their work and family life. We especially worry about this in terms of gender, since the greater familial responsibilities that women, on average, have over men has been identified as an important factor in the gender wage gap. Further, the self-help industry produces buckets of advice to women who are stressed out to find a better balance. We have heard this before in the Supermom Myth: you can work, you can be a mom, you can do it all! Stressed out? Then take that on as yet another project you’re in charge of! Continue reading

vacation post: from san bruno

Whew! After my great trip in Denver, I spent half a day hanging out in the Denver airport, half a day flying to California, and half a day hanging out with my family. Does that add up to a day and a half? That’s what it feels like, anyway. Husband and Kid are flying in from O Canada, too, but their flight delay involved a firetruck and a change of planes. How exciting! Only two and a half more hours until they arrive. By then, I will somehow have managed to squish two full days into one.

Mom and Dad are doing okay. Continue reading

getting there

We put the tree up on Sunday, like a real family: holiday music, fireplace on, lights and ornaments everywhere, dog meandering through everything constantly. It was great. Kid put all his ornaments in one section of the tree, which is even merrier than the rest of the tree. Awesome cupcakes baked for the bakesale, for our dinner party, and some saved for Husband, who had just arrived home from a business trip. Lovely.

Yesterday was my shopping day. I hit the toy stores during the day, when they were crowded, but not insanely so. I had a list, but I was still overwhelmed by all the products. It’s weird how they can simultaneously have so many choices, but then still not have the things I am looking for, like a giant bucket of regular-old Legos, as opposed to a specific Star Wars Starfighter Jet ™ or a Lego City Helicopter(tm), each of which runs for over $50. Ebay was no help, so I ordered online. No big whoop. And I had an epiphany about teacher gifts: a charity donation in their name will be just the thing. Done. Husband and I are going to shop for a dining table together in lieu of gifts–that may sound lame, but from my perspective, it is perfect.

So, no holiday cards out (but maybe in the new year), classes in fairly good shape. Books ordered for next semester. Still to do: wrapping, one more bit of writing to get that paper out today, one letter of recommendation, finish the syllabus for next semester’s class, read grad student papers and provide feedback, and packing for my pre-holiday trip that starts tomorrow. I have a meeting this afternoon and a great party tonight with the frisbee team.

Hmmm, I was feeling ahead of the game until I wrote that down. Gotta run.

the busy times

December is the season of failure for academic women. Writing deadlines succumb to deadlines to order next semester’s books, write the final exams, and alas, grade. Students whom you have encouraged to meet with you all semester suddenly take you up on it. Coffee dates “before the semester ends” emerge out of nowhere. And holiday get-togethers pepper the month when babysitters are so scarce they become just an abstraction. Continue reading

if not thankful, glad

It’s not Thanksgiving up here, and perhaps that’s for the best. I was so sick with a stomach virus that I had to cancel my undergrad class on Thursday, although my grad class could carry on without me. I have been various degrees of horizontal since Wednesday, and every time I feel better, I eat a little something and then I feel a little worse. I guess that’s how stomach viruses go.

Still, I’m glad that Husband was around to take good care of me, and that the 4 or so other people whose help I needed to keep my work obligations together also stepped up. And although I feared the worst when Kid hurled up his oatmeal this morning, a short nap and a day of cartoons on the couch seems to have him feeling much better. I am glad for that.

So, I am missing my hockey game right now, and I really hate to cancel class, but the timing could have been much worse: Monday is our semester review, and after that, awesome travel. I guess I’m glad I am coming up out of it rather than heading into it.

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