No one wants to be the poster who posts after a wildly successful (or controversial) blog entry because nothing seems like it could possibly compare to what came before it. But, eventually someone’s going to have to post again. Plus, I want to say something related to all of this, and I’d like to hear what other people think as well.
Of all the hype and comments about olderwoman’s post and related (or unrelated) matters, the one that struck the deepest chord in me was this one, on metafilter:
On my end, as an academic *not* on the mommy track I grow more and more frustrated by my colleagues who are. When deadlines come, or work piles up, it’s my responsibility to stay late and do the work. They’ve got to leave and pick up the kids or go to a play or what have you. And it frustrates me because I can’t say, “Look, I need to go home and read a book on something non-academic, hang out with my boyfriend and play with my cats.” That’s not a valid excuse, while having children is. AND, my male colleagues with children are right there with me. Working late and travelling as needed. They don’t have to worry about the kids.
I don’t want to pick on the poster because she said some things that I completely agree with and am grateful she articulated. What I want is to know if this is really true. Are women with children in academia really not pulling their weight? I can see it in other professions, with required work groups and specific hours of business, but in academia? Granted I’m new at this, but I’ve never seen it.
While I’m only an n of 1, I don’t think that I have ever, in the last eight years, begged off of something because I was a mom. Quite the contrary, I was sure not to, so as not to perpetuate this stereotype.
The first year of graduate school we had to give this wildly important presentation as part of our method’s project. It was the same day that my son was having serious surgery. I admitted my son to the hospital and went to give the presentation before I came back to join his father in the waiting room. I have missed my son’s first day of school the last two years because of work-related issues, but left him in good hands to see that I could make those retreats and conferences. I’ve hired nurses to tend to him while he’s sick so I can go to work, and I’ve stayed up long after he’s gone to bed to ensure that I get everything done for the next day. My son has sat through college classes because his school was closed or he wasn’t cleared to return to school yet. I find babysitters so that I can attend evening talks and recruitment dinners and bring him with me to advising night, letting him do his “work” as I do mine.
The one place that I can think of begging off work is to leave a faculty meeting to go pick up my son from after-school care before it closed. I would have gladly met earlier in the day (or not have had it drag on so long).
I think that if there are women out there in academia who play this card, there are just as many who go out of their way, above-and-beyond the call of duty, to hide this hand. It’s not that they’re bad mothers. I know, for a fact, that I’m a great mother of a fabulous kid, who benefits from me and my career. I might not get tenure because I’m juggling these two things, but my colleagues certainly aren’t negatively affected by my double-duty.
In addition to wondering if this is really the way that women with children act in academia, I also question if it’s true that men don’t. Or do men who beg off work for parenting just get rewarded because they’re “involved” fathers and not “detached” academics? Are kids only an “excuse” for women, but something else for men?