Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Thirsty on Fertility

I was saving this for Easter, but cannot wait because the angst in my department has grown to Hulk-sized proportions.

It happens every year... someone in our department, usually a woman (but not always), decides to bring home a new baby. While I understand (somewhat) their desire to procreate, since clearly, they were never traumatized by the 'birthing' videos in Health Ed classes, I put together my department's schedule (but I am not the chair). And this event of great joy royally screws up the schedule because the great joy is always accompanied by the great need for a schedule that revolves around new baby… and said 'new parent' becomes someone who:

(1) Needs time off for maternity/paternity leave. I do not begrudge said new parent the time off (if I had something growing inside of me that would potentially scream for the first five years of its life, I'd need more than the six weeks of paid leave our state provides). But I do have to staff their position for a limited time. And while all adjuncts may be clamoring for a job in other areas, our SLAC is in a rural area most people avoid visiting, let alone moving to. This means I now call upon my already-overworked faculty to take on an overload. They are usually less joyful about the impending birth and are no less sleep deprived due to covering said new parent’s classes.
(2) Cannot teach in the mornings (when baby is at her most adorable), cannot teach in the evenings (when baby must be put to bed), and mostly, can only teach between the hours of 12-2 p.m. (when baby is napping and a sitter can be found until new baby is old enough to go to daycare). Or they can teach only on T/Th because this would save them a bazillion dollars in daycare costs if they only had to find a sitter for two days a week. This means having to shift everyone else's schedule to accommodate said new parent so that s/he may have optimal time with new baby (for the next five years!). And those who have chosen to—or for tragic reasons cannot—have a new baby, are seemingly ‘punished’ by having to shift their schedules to accommodate the demands of said new parent.
(3) Has turned into a fatigued human being with a one-track rhetorical mode: baby talk. Renditions of baby’s sleeping, eating, pooing, cooing, crying, screaming, smiling, laughing, throwing, rolling, toddling, bathing activities are cute and new at first. But when students begin to complain that said new parent talks of nothing BUT new baby, it is my job to step in and remind said new parent that s/he really should be less enthusiastic about new baby in a class devoted to discussing the efficacy of a one-world currency (how heartbreakingly sad do you think that conversation always is?). Not only do they have a one-tracked rhetorical mode, but their lack of sleep often renders them less-than-emotionally stable (read ‘snappish’).

The professors whose schedules I am crafting are becoming more and more resentful and “grumbly” now that I have had to ask them to shift their preferred times of teaching to accommodate some form of said new parent more than once in the last few years.

This leads to my thirsty: Is it fair to accommodate a new parent and, therefore, leave others feeling discriminated against for NOT procreating? Is it fair to ask new parent to suck it up because no one asked him or her to procreate? Is it fair to the students to have a new parent who is distracted and on edge because our country does not allow for longer periods of adjustment after such a life-changing event? Is it fair to say that there is no real solution to this problem?


  1. I predict that this post is going to strike a nerve with everybody.

    Me, I am sympathetic to the poster's feelings here. I think that parents spend a great deal of time assuming that their kid's every poop, wail, or clothing choice is a tidbit everyone wants to enjoy.

    I also think that the sleep exhaustion and financial burden that children cause lead parents to (subconsciously) go on a continual campaign to justify their decision to have kids. By praising the most basic accomplishments as sheer genius, the nagging feeling that they have made a huge mistake is somewhat mitigated.

    I am part of the pro-kid department. I LOVE my nieces and the children in my building. I offer free kid care to my friends and family (and one neighbor who looked like she was about to explode if she didn't get an afternoon free) on a regular basis, and I 100% support the maternity/paternity leave policies that my pay and taxes support(they should be longer than 6 wks).

    But the constant stream of demands on others and of justifications makes me conscious of the fact that most parents are not happy with the choice they made. They seem to be cowering under the weight of their stress and begging for someone, anyone, to take over. I have yet to meet a parent who was actually prepared for what awaited them post-partum.

    And it makes me wish that people wouldn't jump into procreation so quickly, just because it's "what next." I feel the same way about marriage and divorce: marriage is not always a good thing, and divorce is not always a bad thing. In fact, marriage can be as sad as a funeral, and divorce as happy as winning the lottery.

    We're just not supposed to say that.

  2. Thanks, Academic Monkey. I'm sure this will hit a nerve!

    Perhaps our situation is conflated because we are a department of 10 with four new parents in the last five years (one every year, practically)... but I'm SURE someone has some advice (other than "don't procreate until you're fully aware of the demands it puts on you and those around you") on how to gracefully negotiate the rift that is slowly developing between those whose children are now older and those whose lives revolve (seemingly solely) around their new bundles of joy.

  3. I have two kids, but I had them as an adjunct. When I was pregnant, I just told my jobs I couldn't teach the following semester. It worked out just fine. Then, I started teaching at night in order to minimize my daycare costs. I just landed my first full-time job, and my kids will be 5 and almost 2 when I start.

    That said, people without children have no idea what it's like being a parent. You can never be fully prepared for the impact of children on your life. I don't think that special accommodations really need to be made after the kid is 2, unless there are extreme circumstances like illness, but those first two years are tough -- especially with the first kid because you just don't know what the hell you're doing. With the second kid, I was good to go after six months -- and probably would have been sooner if my kid hadn't almost died from a chest cold when he was a month old.

    Anyway, I think that a lot of people want to get into teaching for flexibility of schedule. If that's part of the motivation for everyone, you can't really blame a parent for wanting to use that flexibility to the max. Sorry if you feel like non-parents are getting a raw deal. Most parents would be happy to take their turn at the less convenient schedule when the kid is older. Maybe you should make some sort of policy about taking turns with the more inconvenient schedules so that everyone - parents included - gets to share the burden.

  4. There's no answer to your questions. Parents are the biggest snowfalkes evah, as every single one thinks he/she/the is/are better than every childless person on the planet. The pity and condescension I feel from my department's parents is offensive, yet I have nobody to bitch to.

  5. I think a very basic, but often unrecognized, piece of the puzzle is that, in today's 2-income families, two adults are trying to do what used to be 3 full-time jobs (2 involving paid employment outside the home, and one involving homemaking/parenting activities based in the home and surrounding community). While homemaking may have become less demanding in some ways thanks to labor-saving devices, the bar for "good" homemaking and, especially, "good" parenting has gone way, way up, with much higher expectations in terms of providing kids with more than the basics of food, shelter, the degree of supervision necessary to ensure their safety at a particular age, and access to a decent school starting at age 5 or 6. At the same time, the labor expectations of kids have gone way down (they're now being driven to soccer practice rather than doing chores, or amusing themselves in the backyard/neighborhood while a parent -- almost always mom -- is doing chores). This leads to exhaustion among parents, and probably also contributes to other social ills such as the obesity epidemic (soccer practice + fast food grabbed on the way to sibling's t-ball practice adds up to a less healthy lifestyle than running around the neighborhood while someone -- probably mom -- makes dinner at home).

    The solution is *not*, of course, to send all the moms back to homemaking/full-time parenting. But I do think that '70s/'80s feminism made mistake in undervaluing women's traditional, unpaid labor at home. Going forward, I think we're going to have to be more realistic about what can be expected of an individual adult, either at home or in the paid workplace. Longer paid parental (and elder-caretaking) leaves would be a start. So would part-time jobs that are part of a real career, bring prorated salaries and benefits with them, and allow the holder to step back into full-time status when appropriate. That's not going to happen, I'm pretty sure, until men and women step out of full-time employment in nearly equal numbers. Because the current recession has generally hit men harder than women, we may actually have taken an (accidental, unintended, but nevertheless useful) step in that direction.

    I'm not sure how to translate all of that into course scheduling, except to note that it might help if more experienced parents sat new ones down and reminded them of facts most of us know, but sometimes forget: (1) academic employment may be flexible, but it's not part time; doing the job well takes more than 40 hours a week and (2) children, especially young children, require lots of attention. Expecting to do any kind of serious work and also, at the same time, provide even the minimal required level of supervision mentioned above, let alone the kind of engagement typical of modern parenting, is unrealistic. Or, in other words, a parent of an infant or preschooler who intends to work full time needs to budget for a sufficient amount of child care. If there is another parent who is willing to take complete charge of the child on some of his/her own nonworking days, that might not have to be a full 40 hours a week, but we're still probably talking a minimum of 25-30 hours. And taking responsibility for arranging enough care to allow sufficient time for work (not just teaching, but prep and grading and everything else) would also put the parent in the position of being a better departmental citizen when it comes to scheduling.

    Oddly, this sounds very like the advice I give students who claim they absolutely must take my class because it's the only one that will fit their schedules.

  6. And I should also say that it describes the behavior of the vast majority of parents in my department.

  7. I'm a guy, so when we started our family I didn't even *think* about asking for time off. Although I do notice that you are only allowed 2.2 children per faculty. If you exceed that, you get strange looks.

    My complaint is at a higher level. University support for families at my school sucks big time. For the Univ daycare, the admission order is students, staff then faculty. I don't mean to sound elitist, but what the fuck? Incoming faculty who wish to start a family should double think their desire to come to my school.

  8. I'm a golfer. I mean a serious golfer. My free time is dedicated to the pursuit of golf ecstasy. I plan every not-in-class, not-on-committee, not-in-office hours around getting to the course.

    I am amazed that my colleagues don't go in for golf like I do. They seem like quaint and naive creatures only really getting about half the fun out of life.

    Now, if they want me to cover for them because some snot-maker at home has terrorized the last of the decent sitters, well, I've got a tee time, and they have my sympathy.

  9. Is it fair to say you need to take a first year gender studies course and then think through how attitudes like yours contribute to issues like wage gaps and fewer tenured positions for women?

  10. Honest Prof, I'm afraid you reveal a whole shitstorm of male privilege in that post. How awful that you didn't even consider that your parenting duties should have equaled or exceeded those of your wife, whose essential role ended after she gave birth. once she recovered, you could have taken up the caretaking duties but you "didn't even *think* about asking for time off."

    And this is what I mean. I bet your wife/partner was having a shitstorm leaning on the backs of other, childfree people, while you mozied along your way.

    I think what we need, to return to the Thirsty, is to come up with a vocabulary for talking to these new parent snowflakes about what is and is not their responsibility, and that if they intend to lean on other people, they need to consult those other people before mixing their parts to come up with a brand new whole.

  11. Is it fair to accommodate a new parent and, therefore, leave others feeling discriminated against for NOT procreating?


    Is it fair to ask new parent to suck it up because no one asked him or her to procreate?


    Is it fair to the students to have a new parent who is distracted and on edge because our country does not allow for longer periods of adjustment after such a life-changing event?


    Is it fair to say that there is no real solution to this problem?

    No, but unfortunately the real solution would involve nationwide policy changes considered "radical" in the U.S.--like the substantive paid maternity leave offered in some European nations.

    Is it fair to say you need to take a first year gender studies course and then think through how attitudes like yours contribute to issues like wage gaps and fewer tenured positions for women?


  12. I am a parent and I never assumed, as do many of my younger colleagues, that anyone had to change their schedule to accommodate my child care schedule. When recently asked to change my schedule for a new parent, I flat out refused and pointed out to my chair, that we hired Fertile Fanny not her kid. I am sure she will never talk to me again, but ask me if I care.

  13. Note: I'm bemused by Cynic's presentation of the facts as an either/or situation. EITHER a new parent is accommodated OR s/he sucks it up.

    How about making accommodations within limits, like "I can accommodate you with either a morning schedule or an afternoon schedule, but there is no way I can only schedule you to teach from 12-2. I wish there were something more I could do about it, but as you know, our location is somewhat limiting to our ability to get coverage... " blah blah blah.

    And as to whether it's "fair" to the students to study with a new parent who is distracted and on edge? Fuck, yeah. It's fair to have them take classes with people who are "distracted" and "on edge" for lots of other good reasons (like, say, the assininity of their own students, or chairs, or *ahem* colleagues in charge of scheduling). Why would you dare suggest sleep-deprived new parents are some SPECIAL breed of crazy? Do you think your students will be entering into careers in which they never, ever have a co-worker, client, or boss who is a new parent? Do you think they will never, ever be in that position themselves?

  14. I cannot believe I have to say this, but children are a public good. My screaming, pooing, etc. child will be paying your social security benefits when she grows up. In the meantime, I am doing the labor of producing this public good for no fucking pay at all, in fact, at my own expense. The reward I get is the realization that academic work is infinitely easier to do -- I was childless for the first 10 years of my career.

    I don't feel like a better or more noble person, but I do feel rage at smug childless people who don't understand that raising children in the maw of raw capitalism is well-nigh impossible and are perfectly happy to collect from the next generation but not change the conditions of its existence. Why did I do have a kid? Because I didn't know how ridiculously anti-child this culture was, structurally, till I was well into my child's second year. The sentimental pap thrown at mothers and children by the media is a cover for the fact that this country has a huge child poverty problem, and that motherhood exacts an enormous price on women's health, careers, and life trajectories (see Ann Crittenden, *The Price of Motherhood*). We live in a culture with no material investment in parents or children.

    Better University (and government) support for caretakers, or better socialization of caretaking as they have in Scandinavian cultures, would produce happier parents, happier childless people (who will not then have to do the jobs of parents), and happier children. Whether you have children or not, you should be fighting for it, because as these mean-spirited posts show, we're all suffering from the system we have now.

  15. I'm with Reg on this one. I have one kid, but I never let him get in the way of being a normal person. Most parents I know go right around the bend, imagining their unique experience (hardly...shit, there have been parents for years, I tell you, years!) puts them above the cretinous and barren.

    One of my favorite compliments came from a colleague who had seen my son's picture as the valedictorian in the city paper. "I didn't even know you HAD a kid," she said. "Yeah, he's a humdinger."

    The kid had never gotten in my or my wife's way. We never got accomodated by anyone at work.

    You'd think parenthood was some kind of debilitating disease.

    Doesn't have to be.

  16. I would trade the amount of times drunks and layabout have asked me to cover classes for them in exchange for the number of times I've asked any of THEM to sit for my kids. This is a ridiculous argument. If this page is going to say that parenting is bad,then I'm out.

  17. You certainly have touched a nerve for me. I have chosen not to have children. Others choose to have children. What I have not chosen is to take all the shit schedules at work to accommodate not only new parents but *all* parents in my department. It seems that, when they choose to have children, it is assumed that I have chosen to help them out with that. This most often translates into my getting very early morning classes because Suzie and Sammy Parent simply must get their children to school (seemingly no matter how old that child is) and so cannot teach early in the morning. I end up going to bed very early (forsaking the carefree single life I've supposedly chosen) and being sleep-deprived... for the sake of someone else's children.

    Then again, if it weren't for all those women going on maternity leave, I might not have been given as many courses to teach when I was an adjunct. It's a tricky issue on all fronts with no easy solution.

    Hell yes, I resent it, but I sure don't feel free to say so.

  18. I don't mind helping out colleagues who need it or request it once in awhile -- for whatever reason. Conference? Sick? Sick kid? Sick dog? Just don't want to work today? No problem. I'll do what I can to help.

    Just don't EXPECT me to help all the time. Don't EXPECT me to rearrange my life because of your decisions -- whatever they are.

    It appears that (for some) yesterday's student flakes haven't outgrown their sense of entitlement; it has just been redirected.

  19. Part of the problem with the original post is that it makes it seem as if parents are a minority, and child-rearing is some twee activity embraced by a precious few, like raising hothouse orchids. The vast majority of people have at least one child. This is not some "special interest" group angling for favors. These are the majority of humans, asking that their role as parents be recognized and accomodated. People with children are the majority.

    The US already displays a serious lag behind other countries with regard to parental leave, child care, heath care, and other stuff. Attitudes like this don't help.

    Think about substituting the disabled for new parents in the OP and you'll see the dispiriting are the assumptions behind the questions themselves.

    I do understand the resentment of the parentless. But what if one of those resentful, parentless people got sick? Needed a semester off? Wouldn't it seem petty if the other faculty members grumped about having to pick up the slack? And what if a disabled person needed special scheduling, or a special room?

    Faculty resent overlaods? Pay them more. Most of the time faculty resent overloads because the pay is so shitty. It's 2k at my institution. So, pony up and they won't resent it as much. Pay them what they're worth. Adjuncts, too.

  20. @Monkey: I agree that honest_prof's first paragraph reflects a great deal of unexamined (though accurately described) male privilege.

    But his second paragraph is still worth a look: what assumptions would a policy that seems to assume that proffies are less in need of convenient, relatively affordable daycare than students or staff reflect? Might there, perhaps, be some echo of the idea that proffies are only working when they're in the classroom? I suspect that such a policy shows that the "she [yes, it's almost always she] can watch the baby *and* grade, write, etc." or "she can write/grade while the baby sleeps" assumptions are still alive and well, and reflect an unrealistic conception of the demands of both academic work *and* parenting.

  21. Why yes, there IS a solution. Try the Canadian solution, which works as follows:

    The parents get, between them, a total of one year maternity + parental leave. Usually the mother takes at least 8 months of it; sometimes she takes the full year. This means that instead of trying to find someone to teach a few extra classes for six weeks - and why would anyone move anywhere for 6 weeks' work? - the department can advertise full-time work for a sessional (= adjunct) for at least four months, and usually eight. (The last 4 months will be in the summer, when there was no teaching anyway.) Adjuncts are a lot happier to move for guaranteed full-time work for a year.

    By the time both parents are back at work the baby is a year old, day care is a reasonable option, and even if you're still nursing, the child has outgrown the need for night feedings, so everyone is getting at least a possible amount of sleep to still function. And by that time, the parents are pretty happy to have some adult conversation again.

    As for schedule adjustments post-baby, half the classes on the schedule were, at one time, set for the convenience of someone or other. Some silverback who didn't want to teach more than 2 (or 3) days a week; some guy with a commuting marriage who needs Fridays off to get home for the weekend. Once they've been set in a particular time slot they tend to get stuck there, and any change is read as "asking for a big favour". But the parents - and let's just admit we're talking about mothers 99% of the time - who are asking for a change are only one of the large number of lecturers who have asked for adjustments at one time or another, and got them; but they're the only ones that anyone hates. Why is that? Possibly because they are younger females who should bloody well know their place and not ask for anything, when the department has been good enough to let them reproduce (gasp!) already?

    Of course it's insane to expect mothers to be back in the classroom in 6 weeks. It's ridiculous. It is insane to treat childbirth like a selfish personal choice instead of recognizing it as the enormous gift to the community that it is, and assisting those who choose to make that contribution.

    Only 50% of academic women have children at all. That's 1/3 the average fertility rate in Canada and 1/4 the average fertility rate in the U.S. Academic women know they will be punished for having children - the attitudes expressed by some here, and by the initial question, are an example. So we tend not to do it, unlike academic men, who are not punished for reproducing.

    Complaining about the inconvenience some selfish bitch is causing by popping out a baby (how dare she! Honestly!) instead of recognizing that all of the problems you mention are caused by having only 6 weeks of maternity leave, is putting the blame very much on the wrong party.

  22. Oh, and I have an interesting statistic for you: male academics take, on average, more time off over the course of their careers for sick leave than the total amount of maternity + child care + sick leave women take off over the course of their careers. But men are (apparently) felt to be entitled to sick leave in ways that women are not (apparently) felt to be entitled to maternity leave, so nobody resents male sick leaves or complains about the significant inconvenience they cause.

  23. I'm with Reg on this one. I have one kid, but I never let him get in the way of being a normal person.

    Parenting is a natural part of life--the norm. But parents are not "normal" people?

    Most parents I know go right around the bend, imagining their unique experience (hardly...shit, there have been parents for years, I tell you, years!) puts them above the cretinous and barren.

    Nice overgeneralization there. That doesn't describe the parents in my circles. How, exactly, is it that you know what their perspective is? Do you read minds, or do they actually say "I'm so much better than childless people" to one another?

    Do tell!

    The kid had never gotten in my or my wife's way.

    I'm agape that you think kids get in people's way as a matter of course. What an appalling perspective.

    We never got accomodated by anyone at work.

    I'm happy for you that you had nearby family / a support system / the financial means to compensate fully for your child's care without being an undue burden on you and your wife.

    The vast majority of academics of childbearing years are young, untenured, and underpaid. I would not begrudge a young parent's wish to be "accommodated" with a certain type of schedule--especially considering that in many institutions, people are given the opportunities to request all kinds of schedules for all kinds of reasons.

    You'd think parenthood was some kind of debilitating disease.

    Doesn't have to be.

    You'd think your arrogance towards other parents, and your view of yourself and your partner as somehow superior to them, was some kind of unavoidable state.

    Doesn't have to be.

  24. And to think that just yesterday we were all having such a good time together.

  25. I think Prissy Prof has it right here: don't EXPECT that everyone is as excited as you are.

    Dr Snarky is also brilliant in pointing out that children are a public good. And not just for social security. They will, in a matter of years, be making your food, building your cars, policing your streets, medicating your ageing body. This is the next generation of us and we will want them well-cared-for, balanced, and logical.

    Which makes me believe that we really REALLY need a formal network of care to ensure the kids have a series of places to go rather than an informal series of favors performed by one group of (frequently childfree but also empty nested) employees. If we had free, quality childcare and free, quality schools, then I wouldn't mind so much all the adorable poop stories.

    Again, written with love for all the children in my life, the parents in my life, and the families around me who contribute to my well-being.

  26. A secular network of care will eliminate the need for the "Parents as persecuted" versus "Childfree as persecuted" wars.

  27. Timeout, how did my comment become a model of male privilege? I did the night feeding and changing. I stayed home when they were sick. I searched and obtained childcare when they were old enough. I stayed home on even days when they were too young for childcare.

    Difference is, I do not get the "privilege" of time off for my tenure clock, nor special class schedules. Pardon me if I feel a little misunderstood here.

  28. And Cass is right on target, asking for equal rights in the 70's just made women do twice the work. But that now goes both ways in the 21st century.

  29. Being a teacher made me a better parent. I don't know if being a parent made me better at anything.

  30. And I'm also with Frog and Toad, raising decent children is a public good. Our kids (when they become doctors) will be taking care of you childless people when you are old, or their incomes will be paying your medicare. You march to end global warming, how about a little effort to help your colleagues and their families?

  31. If I'm given the choice of whether or not to be accommodating to a new parent/colleague who's having trouble balancing it all (male, female, whatever), that's fine. However, the very instant I HAVE to rearrange MY schedule because someone ELSE decided (without me) to have a kid, well, to put it succinctly - fuck that. Someone else's decision to procreate does not constitute a crisis on my part. I'm certainly willing to concede that in voting for legislators who favor paid maternity leave I have, by proxy, agreed to allow my child-rearing colleagues some measure of control over my life, and I'm fine with that. If anything, we need more paid maternity leave and stronger legislative support for parents. However, THAT is the limit and measure of my willingness to BE accommodating on this issue. Anything else, and, well, good luck with your screaming, biting, stinking, sticky rugrat, you poor slob.

  32. @Honest_Prof

    It didn't even occur to you to ask for time off, which means you weren't doing anywhere near the work it takes to raise an infant properly, which means you either left it to your partner to be the primary caretaker or you woefully neglected your new baby.

    I'm assuming the former, and you just didn't see all of the work.

    Re: Maternal leave and time off the tenure clock. Studies how that women who take paternal leave (when it is offered) use that time to recover from pregnancy and raise their infant, while men (when it is offered) use that time to research and publish a new book.

    The fact that you didn't even see it! that's privilege.

  33. I concede that yes, as Dr. Snarky has said, there are crazies in all walks of life, and perhaps more in academia than elsewhere, and students need to get used to that, but when 4 out of 10 people in a department have had complaints (not just single complaints, but complaints en masse) about the 'child talk' in their classes, I then am required to spend time in meetings with the chair and the dean to discuss how to best address this complaint.

    Surprisingly, to me, the most resentment is not coming from the childless/childfree people in the department (whom, I assume, are used to being asked to overload themselves), but from those whose children are now old enough to not need constant supervision and who were NOT afforded the accommodations that the new crop of parents is seeking. THEY are the ones who are saying, "Wait, I did this 10, 15, 20 years ago with no concessions and even less maternity/paternity leave so why do I now have to sacrifice twice?"

    I agree that perhaps I need a refresher course in gender studies because clearly, by even addressing this, I am a misogynist who hates all parents (parentalist?). I am reminded of students in my race and gender courses (yes, *gasp*, I teach courses in race and GENDER) who claim that by even addressing the issue of race, one must be a racist. By even raising this as a problem in our department, I must therefore hate women???

    And for the record, I am childless, but not childfree. My partner's child has lived with us for 15 years. While this beautiful child did not spring from my loins, I am a parent. But some people (fewer in an academic setting) still look at me as a child hater for choosing not to have my 'own' children. A colleague even snarkily commented, when I asked whether she could rotate days she dropped off her little ones at day care with her spouse so she could teach a MWF 9 a.m. class, "Well, you wouldn't understand since you don't have kids." Perhaps she has missed the multitude of pictures in my office with me and 'said kid.' But the smug attitudes seem to reside on both sides of the coin (smug marrieds, smug parentals, smug singles, smug, smug, smug). And I'm tired of this shit!

    I just want to be able to make a decent schedule with classes from 9-5 p.m. (with a few seminars in the afternoons and evenings) that the professors can teach without glaring at each other in the hallways.

    Is it too much to ask that the parents not act like children?

  34. Stella, your comparison of those with children to those with disabilities is a false analogy. Those with illnesses and disabilities do not choose to be ill or disabled. Those with children do choose to have children. Additionally, just because a particular demographic makes up a majority does not make the demographic automatically right or entitled to more than those in a minority.

    Wylo, I agree with you. It's about choice. Someone chooses to have children and others should have the choice of how to respond to that.

  35. "which means you either left it to your partner to be the primary caretaker or you woefully neglected your new baby."

    Nope, we traded days, I got the even ones (and stayed home), she got the odd ones. My teaching load is such that I could get away with that. Please don't assume.

    And try and imagine the reaction of the males in my Dept if I asked for time off to raise my kids. I did my duty, I simply did not tell my Dept.

  36. "... children are a public good. My screaming, pooing, etc. child will be paying your social security benefits when she grows up."

    Perhaps. But while that is the future you envision for your child, not every parent is a good one and not every child will grow up to be gainfully employed.

    The other side of the "they'll pay for your SS" coin is this:

    In addition to helping fund the public schools, my tax dollars also help fund Child Protective Services and the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Juvenile Justice and the foster care system, all of which serve tens of thousands of neglected and abused children every year.

    Some of those children will *never* be employed. Some of them will succeed, if they're very fortunate, but many will be in and out of the juvenile justice system until they age out, and then they will be in and out of the adult criminal system. Some of them will be supported by the taxpayers their entire lives, just as many of their parents have been.

    And even the best parents often have children with special needs - physical, mental, emotional - that cannot be met on the parents' income alone. I have helped support all of those children since I first entered the workforce.

    Oh, and those SS benefits? I've been paying into that system since I started working, too. So just keep in mind if your kid will be paying my SS in the future ... that means I'm paying your parents' SS now.

    You're welcome.

  37. Given the audience of this blog, I confess I am somewhat surprised by the "I only want to commit resources to things that directly benefit me" type of attitude. I was unaware the Tea Party had so many members in academics.

    I suppose the process to obtain a Ph.D. makes us very self-focused, independent individuals as a group.

  38. Not wanting to take shit schedules to accomodate those with children is not the same thing as being "self-focussed." There are many ways to offer one's resources to the world. Caring for children or helping others do so is only one of those ways. Choosing not to have more children in an overpopulated world is another way. Teaching is another. Doing volunteer work is yet another. Need I go on? One is not a Tea Partier just because one doesn't want to take an 8:30 a.m. class when Suzy Parent has a baby.

  39. @honest prof: I commend you for being able to work out a schedule of every-other-day without asking someone else to take on an overload or switch 8 a.m. courses with you so that you could be there to get your child ready for school. Do you think that if you HAD done so (asked for a lighter schedule or one that accommodated your schedule), you'd have had some sense of obligation to those colleagues who made it possible, or would you have just shrugged and said, "My kid will someday be YOUR doctor, so you should be thanking ME for having her."

    In our dept., I think much of the resentment seems to stem from people believing that it does NOT take a village, and indeed, if it did, the tangible reward (say of not having to teach an overload) should be reciprocated at some point in the near future, not based on the possibility that some day, children will become contributing members of society (because many will not, given the current crop of students we all like to kvetch about on this blog). Whether this makes us selfish Tea Party members, I'm not sure, but it doesn't make my job easier, I can tell you that!

  40. Would you take the 8:30am class if Susan Parent was going to work in a homeless project? It just seems that many people's generosity stops with children. I did not know this.

  41. Cynic, oh hell no, if I had taken a lighter load I would expect to double up the next year. Or cover some other parent in the future. My kids will probably end up in jail, so I can't play the future doctor card.

  42. @honest prof, Actually I've taken many 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. classes (often on the same day) because of parents who want to be there to get the kid ready for school and put to bed, (making for a very long day, indeed). And while I am exhausted on those days, I don't begrudge the parents that bit of family ritual. However, when that seeming-sacrifice takes place for years, then it begins to irk.

    Perhaps if we only had ONE parent with a baby in our department, it wouldn't have become such an angst-filled topic this week because an end would be in sight, but with four (out of 10), the others feel like the accommodations are never ending (because someone has had a baby almost every year for four years now, which means someone new is always asking for accommodations on top of the ones being made for those already getting accommodations). At some point, something is going to snap as the people with older children keep pointing out to me that they've been doing overloads for 4 years now with no end in sight (coupled with budget cuts, the people are unhappy).

    I'm not sure your question is actually an answer to mine, though it is a nice bit of deflection there.

  43. @honest prof: sorry, I didn't see your answer there before I posted that you hadn't really answered mine. Ignore the last bit of my posting.

    I wish you were in my dept. It would make my life so much easier.

  44. @issyvoo

    I no longer believe we can call procreation a "choice." In today's political climate, terminating a pregnancy is very difficult indeed, and the pressures to have sex even when you aren't expecting children grow ever more intense. It's too complex to put in the same category as selecting cereal.

    You seem to be overlooking that the great majority of people here support family network programs and don't mind that we pay into public schools and maternity leave etc etc. We recognize, at large, that each child grows into a future citizen, neighbor, employee, or colleague.

    @ All
    It seems to me that the intensity of parenthood is even more overwhelming when we consider the comments of strangers about the effectiveness of another's parenting. The pressure for parents to do more, be more involved, and to "win" in the parenting extreme sports detracts from their two main jobs: being a parent, and being an academic.

    Which leaves the rest of us picking up parental extreme sport slack.

    So again, we need a social network of support. When will "family politics" begin to include free childcare, free health care, free prenatal care? It benefits us all and prevents harassed parents from continuing to rely on their already-parented or not parented colleagues.

  45. @isyvoo: Lots of people don't actually choose to be parents. Some do. For some the birth control fails. Most of the people I know were accidents, including myself. I would guess most pregnancies are UNplanned. The incidents of planned pregnancy in academia my be higher, but I can count a bunch of cases where colleagues turned up pregnant.

    "Well, they could get an abortion" isn't an answer either, is it?

    In sum anyone that ever has or ever will inconvenience anyone at all because of their current or possible future disability, bereavement, mental or physical illness, or age, ought to keep their mouth shut about parents.

    We're all in this together folks. It's not every man (or woman) for himself. As has been said, raising healthy children is a social good.

  46. Monkey and Stella, there is indeed effective birth control out there, if one chooses to use it correctly. (And not all sexually active people are heterosexually active.)

  47. Look, the only time I have ever, ever been asked to take on an unwanted schedule to accommodate a colleague was when she had a book tour. I was fine with it, happy to help. I did take one quarter of maternity leave, and much later, one quarter of family leave to take care of my dying mom (both of which caretaking duties were de facto mine because I am female). I am lucky that those leaves were available, and unendingly grateful to the women before me who taught tooth and nail to get them. During those leaves, yes, people had to cover for me...just as I covered for a colleague with a disability on two separate semesters in my first job (on very late notice), took on unwanted class times as a junior person, hauled ass on search committees because we had not yet hired people with expertise in certain fields and I was close enough, and took on heavy service loads when there weren't enough sane people in the department to get anything done. These activities weren't about scheduling, but they did exhaust me and slow me down.

    Yes, I think some of the requests you describe are outlandish, and I would never expect them. At the same time, being the parent of a young child is a *temporary* position. I put so much damned money into the collegial bank before I had a kid, knowing I might have to withdraw from it at some point. Then I did. And now that my kid is going to kindergarten, I'll put back in again when my junior colleagues have kids, or some silverback has a heart attack, or whatever. That flaky mom you heap contempt upon was probably a great colleague before she had a kid under 5, and will become one again -- though perhaps not for you personally, if your attitude is as misogynist and me-first as many of these posts are.

  48. Hmm… I’m posting because I feel a little bad for Honest_Prof.

    Tell me truthfully: do you guys all work in such refreshingly gender-equal departments that a young man asking for accommodations due to a recent birth is treated in the same way a women is? I’m certainly not. My chair is a nice enough guy, but he’s in his sixties and decidedly “old school.” I think he would laugh his ass off at a man asking for a particular teaching schedule to work around a young child.

    Frankly, if I was a pre-tenure male with a young infant (which I am not), I would do exactly what Honest_Prof did-- work it out to the best of my abilities... under the radar.

  49. My (untenured) husband's dept. bent over backwards to give him the schedule he needed the semester following our son's birth.

    And I (a visiting prof) was grading finals during my "maternity leave" when my baby was 2 weeks old. Trust me, women don't get all the breaks.

  50. Your husband got maternity leave, what a pussy!

    That was a joke!

    I work in a hard physical science Dept, I was not going to take the risk.

  51. My husband took six weeks off for paternity leave and the dean looked at him like he had a second head. FMLA is law, fucker. Deal with it. Same boss thought my husband was going to be at a faculty meeting the day after our child was born. No again, buttmunch.

    All the other male academics I know didn't take off even one day, unless it was actually the day their child was born.

    If guys don't think about taking off, it's because academia is obviously (as is evident in this thread) not a friendly place when it comes to parental leave. In a way it's less friendly to fathers, because though women may suffer from discrimination in that they are punished for becoming mothers, colleagues at least understand that the woman wants a minimum of six weeks off. That a man would want that is seriously unfathomable to most people, and academics are no different. So the father, for the most part, doesn't consider himself to even have the option of dealing with the fallout of paternity leave.

    That's some fucked-up shit right there.

    Yup. I had a maternity leave and because of that my chair had to find a workaround for my courses, and subs had to be found for committees, etc. Anyone that doesn't like it can suck it, just like I had to suck it when I had to fill in for half a semester for the colleague with the sick mom, or have to pick up the slack for the tenured Dr. Doofus that can't be trusted to do anything, or the several colleagues that have worked out administrative deals that apparently exempt them from teaching composition.

    And if I'd had another baby I'd have taken off another semester. A third baby? Yet another. Anyone that didn't like it could...yes...suck it. And yes, I'd like my employer to be mindful of the fact that motherhood is a fact of life for most working women, and it makes sense to accomodate parents in order to keep their loyalty.

    How many out there have had sabbaticals that "inconvenienced" their colleagues? Do you feel you deserved it? Do you feel you had the right to inconvenience your colleagues for your time off? Do you think any of the people that had to fill in for you give a fuck about your scholarship? They don't. But they want their sabbatical as well.

    Pull your weight, and then some, and then let it go when you have to and others will have to step up. If we don't do that, especially when it comes to something as key as parenting, we're all a bunch of sorry fucks.

  52. @Prof Glabella: some of the proffies asking for time off ARE and HAVE BEEN male. I don't distinguish between a parent needing time to be a parent.

    As Froad has so wisely put it, this is a TEMPORARY situation, although going on four years now, it feels anything BUT temporary. I will remind my faculty that because we hired gumdrop unicorns who started to procreate immediately upon hire, the situation seems dire right now, but that these children of the gumdrops will grow and we'll eventually see a return to people teaching a schedule that works for them (just as they're getting ready to retire). Part of the situation that is complicated is that, unlike Froad, these new hires did NOT put in time, but simply started to procreate and make demands, leading to the old timers saying, "Hey, we didn't get none of that thar treatment when we had our babies."

    I don't feel it any MORE right to privilege the time that parents spend with children over the time that those who have no children spend doing whatever it is they do to without children (I can't even remember what I did before having a child in the home). THAT, to me, would be more unfair than trying to come up with an equitable schedule.

    I'm trying to work out a schedule that keeps everyone happy. And in the meantime, am called a misogynist because I don't give the parents free rein to set their schedules. OUCH. The accusation that I am a misogynist because I do not give in to outlandish demands from parents is, to me, unreasonable. The flaky mom who wants a schedule isn't one I treat with disrespect. In fact, I've spent two weeks meeting with her and others to try to get this resolved, but they simply will not budge (on either side). If I were, indeed, as contemptuous as perhaps I come across, I wouldn't even bother to listen, nor to ask for help in how to deal with the problems that have arisen. I'd have simply made the schedule and told them to work out their own shit.

    Clearly, there are a lot of resentful people (on both sides). It reminds me that on certain issues, people simply cannot see both sides. I was hoping for some actual suggestions on how to help my department with the scheduling, rather than to be attacked...

    I've seen some really good SUGGESTIONS in other posts. This, however, doesn't seem to be one that will result in that.

    For now, I will make the schedule, putting "Staff" in the times I hope to fill, and maybe the economy will blow some adjuncts our way by the time Fall rolls around... or by then, who knows, I might be on maternity leave, forgetting this whole incident.

  53. I am always amazed when I see the hostility on both sides of the child divide. I just don't believe it is all that prevalent amongst the 'real life masses'----I certainly don't know any child free people with such smug hostility towards parents, or any parents with the same towards the child free. But it does come out in forums like these, where people are free to express themselves anonymously!! So maybe we are all just pretending to have the ability to put ourselves in other people's shoes!

    Whatever. I do have a suggestion for The Contemplative Cynic, and TCC, I applaud you for wanting to find a fair solution to this. In my department, we always had an even divide between people who wanted early morning classes and people who wanted evening classes. So everyone was happy for a while. Then things changed. I had always been the person who got the 8am classes, which worked for me as a parent because of my husband's work schedule. When another proffie wanted the 8am slots (which were not too numerous) I was MAAAD. But of course I could see the fairness of having to share the slots. And I had to really scramble to make accommodations, which of course I ended up doing.

    Can you make scheduling rules that accommodate everyone fairly? Like everyone has to teach half night and half morning classes (which one of my school's departments does) or popular time slots must be shared equally among all faculty---or given on an every other semester basis (like my department does)? Just make the rules and have them apply to everyone and let the chips fall where they may. Isn't this what we do with our students on our syllabi?

  54. I'm in the "there is no good way" camp. Part of this may be that the idea of "family planning" was pretty alien to the faculty of the Catholic institution I spent some time at (you know you're jaded when you don't even blink when you hear that one of your profs has seven kids—though hearing that another has twelve does give you a bit of pause), so the idea of "choosing" to procreate is a bit odd as well. Of course, I'm (sadly) reminded of the joke about how we as a society no longer expect women to give up their careers—now it's whichever partner gives birth first. Even in my first years of grad school I knew people with wives who quit their jobs to take care of the kids (I can't imagine supporting a family of five in a major metropolitan area on a TA's salary!) without attracting any comment; it was just "how things work." A professor has another child? He'd cancel class the Monday after, but nothing got disrupted—his grad student wife was taking up the slack.

    Before anyone asks, this "dump it on the woman" norm wasn't/isn't something I at all endorse(d). It's just what happened/happens.

    Does it need to change? Yes. How can it be done? Beats me. Fairness, justice, and equality are great concepts, but we'll freely own up to being no good at applying them.

  55. CC, I had one more thought about my own situation and the way it was handled. My department chair was older, and long ago had served in the military. He knew me well, and I liked him. But he was not afraid to set a schedule in the interest of fairness to everyone that he well knew would greatly inconvenience me. Nor should he have been. He did exactly what was fair, and as I said, it all worked out. I did not give him any lip because he was not the type to give lip to, if you know what I mean, and also (espcially after the initial reaction wore off) because I knew he was right about needing to be fair to everyone. Now we have a new chair, and I really am not sure she would feel comfortable doing the same thing. I hope she does continue the policy though, as it is a good one.

  56. CC, I will admit I did not like the tone of your post one bit: it was contemptuous and sexist. However, my dept. has done just what Bella said: there are no special teaching times for anyone. Everyone has to do one MWF quarter, everyone has to do one morning or one evening class per year. Period. The only time I went ballistic was when I found out that a new hire was getting a 2-day-a-week schedule because of a long-distance relationship with no kids. I commute, I have kids, I was doing eldercare AND I have a disabled partner, and I've been playing by the rules for over a decade, to the detriment of my physical health and career.

    We also have a generous leave policy that equally accommodates mothers and fathers, birth parents and parents of adoptees, and those taking care of sick partners and other relatives (not, sadly, friends). The younger men are using it for paternity leave and, I must say, struggling just as I've seen women struggle due to their desire to be genuinely 50% parents. They are not the department research hotshots, and a handful of them have had tough tenure cases. I am not happy about their difficulties, but I do think we've leveled the playing field quite a bit.

    So that would be my suggestion: offer as neutral policies as you can, to accommodate a wide variety of needs.

    And Stella - "In sum anyone that ever has or ever will inconvenience anyone at all because of their current or possible future disability, bereavement, mental or physical illness, or age, ought to keep their mouth shut about parents" -- as usual you hit the nail on the head.

  57. A lot of my own ideas and opinions have been changed with deeper understanding during this thread, but one thing remains constant:

    Both camps would be well-served if everyone paid into a common pot that provided quality childcare and schools and emergency services from an early age.

    In a secondary category, parents would be well-served if they stopped EXPECTing accommodation, and childfree or empty nesting folks would be well-served if the kids their colleagues are struggling with got a good, rounded, secure upbringing that turned them into functional adults.

  58. This does remind me of a grad school story:

    When TAing for another dept, one of my fellow TAs turned up late for our weekly meeting. She was a mess and looked like she'd been crying. It was a safe group, so the professor asked her what was wrong. It all poured out of her like soup.

    Her husband left her when she got pregnant unexpectedly. She was trying to continue her education while raising a very sick, colicky baby. She was from Turkey and had no network. She and the kid had been sick for 5 weeks now and if she didn't get a good night's sleep soon she wasn't sure how she'd manage.

    So, the other TAs offered to babysit for a few hours on successive Saturdays to give Mira some time to nap, to shop, to recover. It wasn't our job, there should be existing places for this financed by common taxes, but it was good for us because Mira survived the Semester and it was good for her for the same reason.

  59. @Monkey: jesus, i could cry now. i remember being in a situation like that. "it was a safe group." my current situation is neither hell nor bliss. my intention is to stay here until i die, so i keep doing my part to make it a safe group, but inertia and external forces are powerful. so i drink bourbon. you and the other TAs did a good thing.

  60. Thank you to those of you who have taken a stab at offering some suggestions instead of a stab at me. This is obviously a problem we need to discuss as a campus (academe, in general) and to come up with more humane ways of providing release time for people who are not ONLY parents, but caretakers, as well. Setting up a system on our campus that overrides the clearly inadequate one the government has provided is likely a first step that will take lots of time, but we can set the wheels in motion to at least open dialogue. I hope my campus is not as openly hostile as this group is, but, as someone has pointed out here, this open hostility often comes about because of the nature of anonymity.

    If my new parents were ONLY women, or ONLY men, I could see how this was being sexist, but since we have a mix of men and women wanting time off beyond their six-week allotted amount covered by the state, I didn't view this as an issue of 'gender' and more as a function of 'parenting.' If I were only allowing women or only men the release time, or if women were the only ones doing the baby talk in class, then I could see how this is, again, about gender. But it's not. It's about parents. The fact that everyone assumed that the parents seeking accommodations were ONLY women may point to people's own misperceptions of who parents are, in this case.

    I'm a parent taking time to do my T-T job without asking for accommodations. I judge based on people needing to do their jobs. I judge students who don't take their jobs as students seriously (that's why we have this blog), and I judge faculty and staff who don't do their jobs well (in this case, they happened to be newby parents). For those of you for whom this hit too closely, I apologize. I did not intend to deride the struggles that all parents (and all child free faculty/staff have); they are MY struggles as well. And perhaps because I have had to struggle without making demands of others to give up their time in favor of mine, I judge more harshly than I should. But I still stand by my belief that if you have this very difficult job we do, you've not only got to do it, but you've got to do it well.

  61. I'm late to the party.

    1. My mum took a year off when she had my brother and I (a year per). She was an elementary school teacher and they got half-pay maternity leave. She scheduled her conceptions (no, really) so that both of her children were born in the summer holidays so that she could finish the school year and maximize her time with each of us. We are five years apart so that while I was in 1/2 day kindergarten, she would be at home in the afternoon.

    2. Mandatory paternity leave. You helped make it, you best be home to help take care of it. I suspect this practice would go a long way towards evening out the tenure problems, too.

    3. The Canadians, per usual, seem to have some good ideas.

    4. Some of my colleagues have babies and then confess to me "I'm not sure how we're going to afford it hah hah hah but isn't it CUTE!?!" As a person educated out the wazoo, how do you have a kid you can't afford? I understand if you lose your job, your parent has to go into a nursing home, etc. But these are people who LITERALLY haven't financially planned for a baby.

    My mom probably fucked my brother and I up for life with her clockwork German childbirthing. However, I really respect her attempts, together with those of my dad, to have children in a fiscally responsible way that did not impose undue burdens on their work colleagues. (My dad did not take paternity leave -- it was the early 70s after all.)

  62. Maybe we should all take a deep breath and ask ourselves "What would Yaro do?"

    WWYD might just become my new motto!

  63. So, I guess my question to you, CC, is why academics in this case should default to "the state"? Why default to the "minimum" standard allowable by law?

    This is the same attitude that keeps adjuncts making shit, and the same attitude employers take when they hire. "The state" says they have to pay minimum wage, whether or not it is a living wage. And some try to avoid doing even that.

    We'll give workers the absolute minimum they're entitled to, and no more, and they'd better not ask for more, or complain if they don't get more.

    If, especially in academia, we can exceed "the minimum," why shouldn't we? I do understand that you did your job without asking for extra accomodations, but that doesn't mean your standard should be the standard for all parents. Lots of people can care for a sick parent, or a child, and do their job at the same time. Lots of people can't. If you can, great, but setting yourself up as the paradigm is off-putting.

    When the paradigm you've set up also matches with the minimum standard of minimum parental leave in the country that has demonstrated minimum concern for parents and children, that's a problem.

    Especially if you are in a position to influence things, shouldn't you be trying to exceed the "minimum"?

    Look, if you have very conservative values, that's fine and I see why you might believe and think as you do. But if you support all sorts of worker rights and increasing the minimum wage and the rights of people to bargain collectively, etc., and are not appalled in general by the US attitudes towards parental leave, and in fact you agree with them or at least don't attempt to circumvent them, I'd say you have some soul-searching to do.

    You want an answer? Look at Canada, or Sweden. But until that day comes, what YOU can do is try to model your own actions as if we were in a more progressive country, not put your default setting on "minimum" which also corresponds to "the way I did it".

    Because whether or not you got it, CC, you deserved better.

  64. I have been astonished and appalled by the smug hostility towards parents, and let's admit it, to mothers, that I've seen in this thread and the next one. I would not have imagined that people would actually think - let alone say - such things anymore, and without a trace of shame.

    I thought you were my colleagues. I had no idea.

  65. I really wish people wouldn't be so divisive on this. I do believe parenting is a good thing, a difficult thing, in some cases (but not all) a beneficial thing for society. But those of us who don't engage in it are not lesser beings who while those who do are engaging in some "highest good" from which the unchilded benefit with no contributions whatsoever.

    I get so tired of hearing from smug parents, who are in the minority of parents overall, about how they are doing "the most important job in the world" and how their child is paying for my Social Security and will be wiping my butt in the nursing home. If it's not that, it's that their kid will cure cancer or bring about world peace while my not procreating is creating a drain on society. How about some acknowledgment that I gladly pay extremely high school taxes because I want children to be educated for the common good, that I have the time to volunteer to serve on my house of worship's religious school board so someone's child gets the type of spiritual education the parents want, that my not having children gives me the means to rescue abandoned animals with special needs and care for them, that my not having children creates less need for resources that someone else's children will then be able to use? It all balances out if we do it right.

    When my brother died, all the people who covered for me were colleagues with kids. I have returned the favors by providing transportation to one who's a neighbor and had car trouble that ran over a week, advocating for another in an administrative matter that could have cost her a great deal of time and stress, and covering a series of meetings for the third whose child has been home sick with the flu for the past several days. We help each other out because that's what colleagues do, but there's no sense of automatic entitlement because one person's circumstances are judged to be more worthy than another. My department has worked to help people who've been out with extended cancer treatment, spouses or parents who passed away, emergency surgery, and even homes that caught fire.

    Just be fair to each other and don't expect that parenting is the most legitimate activity someone can do that trumps everything else. The rest should be common decency.

  66. I think Contemplative Cynic's most recent post was a good way to end the conversation.

    You guys might think that this has been a hostile thread, but if you go over to Feministing or Feministe or Pandagon, and post about parenting, prepare to have your lungs ripped out. (they have nice things to say ther too, but this issue is thorny)

    This has been the first conversation I've been a part of that has helped me see both sides clearly as the complex, multi-faceted problems they are. I think we've all shared some good ideas, seen the pain current policies (both in academia and from the state) can cause, and probably doubled our efforts to understand the situations of new parents, empty nest parents, and childfree colleagues alike.

    Or maybe it's just nice out and I'm thinking along the optimistic lines of "What Would Yaro Do?"

  67. I certainly didn't mean to imply that parenting was more worthwhile than other activities, and apologize if that's how I came across. I was responding to the attitude that being a parent is selfish or a lifestyle choice. It is not. I said my kid would be paying your social security to make the point that children are a public good, and that non-parents ought to have some investment in making sure that kids are well taken care of. Ideally, this would be in the depersonalized form of taxes to pay for *both* socialized caretaking leave *and* an infrastructure to take care of the vulnerable (by which I mean daycares, preschools, eldercare programs, generous hospitalization times, and so on), not in the form of personal favors leveraged out of already overworked colleagues. The Europeans have done this right. The United States is a bloody scandal.

    But then, too, I am with Merely in thinking: I thought many of you were my colleagues, and I had no idea. While we can all sing Kumbaya and hold hands, I personally have been enlightened (yet again) by this blog as to how far academia has to go in considering women as actual people.

  68. I'm still gobsmacked myself, F&T. These two threads have been eye-opening to me.

  69. The real problem is often, sadly, that a lot of times women don't think of women as actual people. Because motherhood is such an issue of conflict within feminism itself (and the issue of working mothers especially), many senior women are harder to deal with than men when it comes to parenting issues.

    Why? Because there is no conflict in a man's mind when a woman has a baby and sees the baby as their main priority, yet many mothers in academia have trouble admitting that to themselves.

    Once again, a thread that proves that in a thousand different ways, we academics eat our young. And specifically because we're supposed to be educated and aware, we don't have nearly as much of an excuse.

  70. Another Canadian here, baffled by how anyone could manage to deal with a new baby with only six weeks of leave. Cripes.

  71. @ Stella: perhaps you missed where I posted that this has been going on for four years. All four parents in the dept have had their schedules and other requirements of the job changed and accommodated for four years. 

    And the parents want me to continue providing schedules that fit their individual needs, not just for the semester or for the year, but until baby goes to college (it seems). Their taking off maternity/paternity leave was just the beginning, and no one balked at covering for the semester. No one balked when babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers showed up to staff meeting (which was rescheduled according to the parents' availability). People are balking now that students are complaining and other faculty are not getting their time off that they feel they've earned. 

     Since then, the parents have randomly requested additional time off, reduced responsibilities, a semester off  here and there, a reduction in course load,  classes for only 2 hours a day, asked that caps be lowered on their courses so their grading load is less than others, requested to not attend ANY meetings that take place before 10 am or after 2 pm, requested not to do any extra curricular events, such as alumni events, student creative writing or poetry slams that occur at night, anything to do with professional development, or even to write letters of recommendation for students because they don't have time. 

     In my attempt to make things easier for the new parents, & because we were all a cohesive, supportive group, I and my chair allowed it to go on for four years. But four years later,  resentment has reached its zenith, and I don't know how to stop
    it. A single parent per year is manageable, but when almost half the faculty are still accommodated (the one for four years now), people are asking when the end is in sight.

    We gladly supported the parents. But it has gotten out of control... So I've tried what I can to do more than the required state/govt requirements provide because I was sympathetic & did wish we could change our paradigm.

  72. OK, I see. Except for protesting the requirement to show up at night for student events (a demand I think is insane of any institution to make on anyone, parents or not), your parents sound like big babies. You're either on leave or you're not. If you're not, do your damned job, even if you're performing at a mediocre level for a few years.

    We may be talking about two different institutional cultures here. I'm at a big R1 where the rules are the same for everyone, but they're really not bad, and the leave policy far exceeds what the state/gov't makes mandatory. In return, people seem civil about individual decisions to parent or not to parent; I just don't see the contempt I see here. At a small SLAC where everyone's all "but we're family, so do me a favor" I could see resentments building into the kind of nastiness that showed up in these threads. If people got reduced course loads or lower enrollments or brought the little darlings to faculty meetings, there would be blood in the hallways of my department.

    So, yeah: equitable policies, neutral enough to help people who are caretaking in other ways besides parenting, and generous enough that people can return from their caretaking leaves ready to be contributing citizens at some minimal level.

  73. F&T said, "But then, too, I am with Merely in thinking: I thought many of you were my colleagues, and I had no idea. While we can all sing Kumbaya and hold hands, I personally have been enlightened (yet again) by this blog as to how far academia has to go in considering women as actual people."

    And Stella said, "And specifically because we're supposed to be educated and aware, we don't have nearly as much of an excuse."

    These and other comments remind me of a favorite speech Andrea Dworkin gave (at the University of Michigan Law School), which she started by saying,
    I also feel an awful lot of conflict about being here, because it is very hard to think about talking about prostitution in an academic setting. It's really difficult.

    Relevant, I think.

  74. This comment has been removed by the author.

  75. @Froad, yes, the SLAC is a different beast from the R1, and I miss the R1 right this minute when my 'family at work' is dysfunctional. Thank you fory our insights and comments here.

  76. ... aaand blogger ate my reply ....

    But I'll boil it down. CC, I am as you know entirely sympathetic to the project and work of child-rearing, and to reasonable accommodations being made for it, and some of what your colleagues want is unreasonable.

    a) reduced course caps so they don't have to mark as much? Seriously? I have never heard of such a thing, and it's ridiculous. If you're getting paid to do the job, do the fracking job.

    b) no meetings except between 10 and 2 - schedule meetings to suit the preferences and availabilities of the majority of the department. If everyone likes between 10 and 2, you're golden. If not, schedule the occasional meeting between 10 and 2 to suit these people, if you can. It is reasonable however to expect anyone working full-time to come to any meeting scheduled in normal working hours (9-5, 8-4, 8-5, whatever they are in your area).

    c) course scheduling - everyone, not just parents, has preferences. Give everyone something they want. Anyone who got nothing they wanted in one term should get something they want in the next term. Nobody should ever have to teach before 9 or after 5 unless they have specifically volunteered to do so.

    d) evening and weekend events - these should not be mandatory ever, for anyone. I work all day and then I come home and work some more, but the university does not own my evenings and cannot command my attendance outside my home at night. If the occasional evening event can't be avoided, cut your care-givers some slack on this one.

    e) professional development - this also should be mandatory for no one, unless it's actually in the contract. If it is, again, cut the care-givers some slack when their care-giving responsibilities are most acute (small children, sick family members). This, like the evening events (and unlike course scheduling), does not cause anyone else any inconvenience if they can't show up.

    f) semesters off and going part-time - provided they aren't getting paid for the work they're not doing, why not? You can hire someone to cover the courses they're not teaching, you'll save money (since you're not paying them their regular salary), they'll be happy, and the department will function better without them than it will with a stressed, exhausted colleague on deck. You might want to set a time limit though (say five years at part-time), after which they have to either agree that it's permanent, come back to full-time, or quit. At least that's the deal in these parts. Because you do, eventually, want a full-time colleague in that full-time slot. But if they need a couple of years of part-time, it won't hurt you to give it to them, provided they are only paid part-time as well. (Otherwise there will be resentment.)

  77. CC: I'm going to start by saying "I sympathize" when colleagues don't pull their fair share. And no, I didn't miss that the situation with your colleagues has been going on for years. But I also didn't miss it when you discussed colleagues "wanting time off beyond their six-week allotted amount covered by the state" as if that's a bad thing, or you stating "I'm a parent taking time to do my T-T job without asking for accommodations" as if that's a good one.

    The underlying assumptions that framed your initial thirsty are what first grated on me. You ask: Is it fair to accommodate a new parent and, therefore, leave others feeling discriminated against for NOT procreating?

    That question authenticates the "others" that don't have kids feeling "discriminated against". They're not being "discriminated against". Other people having kids does not "discriminate" against those that don't. Their "feeling" is as misplaced as the feelings of a white guy that thinks his place in the universe is being disturbed by affirmative action. Diversity is a social good. So is child-rearing. Societies that do either or both badly are poorer for it. And a society that devotes such meager attention and funds to mothers and fathers of young children needs the workplace to pick up the slack.

    Your follow-up, Is it fair to ask new parent to suck it up because no one asked him or her to procreate? is more of the same. No one demands that a childless person nurse a sick parent, either. They don't have to. But who would we be to begrudge them that?

    Your comment later that the people bitching most about "sacrificing twice" are older parents that didn't have the same benefits extended to them doesn't surprise me at all. Saying the equivalent of "I did it the hard way so they have to do it the hard way too!" is just such utter, petty bullshit, and it's why things don't change.

    Why do you have to sacrifice twice? BECAUSE IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU, ASSHOLE. It's about building a better workplace and a better society.

    I do understand that there's a line. Perhaps there are carrots that could be offered those that work harder, take on extra, etc. But these "accomodations" for parenting are in the wide scheme of things more short-lived than the accomodations that plenty of colleagues demand because they choose to live 70 miles away, or have a long-distance relationship, or "can't" come to campus more than two days a week because that interferes with their scholarly production. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    I know this is long but I actually feel like this is a productive discussion, if a troubling one, and you deserve a long, thought-out response.

  78. @ Southern Bubba - I had never read that Dworkin piece. It's brilliant. Thank you.

    @Stella - re: the problems with senior women, or other women - yes, that is a serious issue.

  79. Also @ Stella - yes to everything you just posted, too.

  80. Yes. Everything that Stella just said. Thank you for calling CC out on all the backpeddling.

    CC, you made a highly incendiary post slamming parents in the academy as being in "one-tracked rhetorical mode" whose "lack of sleep often renders them less-than-emotionally stable (read ‘snappish’)," resulting in "discrimination" against non-parent colleagues and somehow shortchanging students.

    All the backpeddling in the world is not going to make us forget that.

    And for chrissakes, don't post a thirsty about "fertility" and question about whether accommodations beyond six weeks' leave are discriminating against non-parents, when your real beef is with parents of FOUR YEAR OLD CHILDREN to whom YOU, as scheduler-in-chief, never had the gumption to say, "Well, Cindy has a baby coming next year, so we have to prioritize her scheduling requests--just like you did when you had your little guy. I'll see what I can do with the requests you've made, but I can't make any promises."

    The upshot: You've created some monsters in your department, but you seem to want them to shoulder all the blame, instead of recognizing your complicity in the situation. Your lack of self-awareness and finger-pointing are bad enough... but to then generalize from their behavior to That Of Parents Everywhere In The Academy? Well, that's truly appalling.

  81. Hey: COOL IT.

    The hyperbole here is getting ridiculous.

    No one is saying all parents are bad, or that all procreation is the Worst Thing Ever, or that all childfree people are Selfish Beings.

    Why can't we approach this as we would our teaching, where we can share our experiences and our points of view to help others understand without completely alienating everyone with our vile language?

  82. @Academic Monkey: thanks! I appreciate your cool-headed, calming presence.

  83. I big heart Stella.

    CC, no problem, and thanks for starting this debate, in however flawed a way. I left a SLAC in part because treating people like part of one big dysfunctional family is no way to run an institution. Transparency, consistency, and fairness make for good morale.

  84. @Thanks, Froad. Very different machines: the SLAC and the R1! I love my SLAC, which is why I stay committed to my department and my faculty.
    We will work out our difficulties. My faculty will pull through, and we won't be glaring at each other for too long because our SLAC will get additional from more snowflake students to make up our budget and we'll soon go back to hating the students instead of each other (yes, I'm joking, for those of you who think all I do is hate on everyone).

    My faculty are nowhere near as openly hateful as some of the posters on here have been, so... if anything, this posting has made me realize that I COULD have some of the people on this blog in my dept. and then, I'd really want to quit my job.

    I've been intrigued (over the last month or so) by those who insist on making this personal (by attacking individual members; not just me) rather than by having an open discussion or a supportive one. I wonder if they're that confrontational in person or if this forum brings out the worst in people sometimes. It's something I'll have to ponder as I rework this schedule and decide whether to continue following this blog.

  85. Oh, follow the blog. It gets heated around here, because it's not face-to-face, but there are Things to Be Learned. What you get here is an inside look at the mind of colleagues you might actually have, but never know think a particular way because you're so unlike them that they'd never tell you in person. Even when I hate what I see, that's useful. And everyone here has been slammed at one point or another, even Yaro.

  86. Well said, Froad! If you look at my first post, I was all guns-ablazing, but over the course of this thread I have seriously had an epiphany about this entire issue, which I *think* has been conveyed by each of my posts.

    (although one never knows)

    I've loved this discussion for the most part!

  87. @Thanks, Frog and Toad and Academic Monkey:
    It's not so much that I can't take the hits, but sometimes it's more effort than it's worth to get advice or useful info when people DON'T know the particulars of the institution or the whys of the situation completely and end up judging based on the limited amount of information portrayed on here... and having to explain it all gets exhausting.

    It seems that we, as a society and academia, are in 'attack' mode, and we've learned very well how to criticize something, but not necessarily how to build up an alternative to criticism.

    Sometimes I'm in the mood for venting, and sometimes I have work to do that takes precedence over seeing what OTHER snowflakes are doing when I have my own taking up so much of my time.


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