The academic women bloggers have been having an interesting conversation about whether or not the childless should have to accommodate the schedules of faculty members with kids. Should meetings be scheduled around their kids' soccer classes? Do the childless always have to teach the evening classes? Do they have to put up with the kids in the conference rooms?
I have enjoyed reading this discussion, because everyone is completely sane and makes fair points. I walked away from the conversation feeling like everyone made valid arguments and there wasn't a clear winner.
Dr. Crazy jumped started the conversation. She writes,
Now, look. I get it. Parenting is hard. There are lots of
responsibilities. I don't want to be an asshole to parents, and I
understand that kids (especially young kids) require a lot of time and
attention. I'm not anti-kid, anti-parent, or anti-family. But I think
my issue is not with parents as a monolithic group. I think my issue is
rather with the fact that a pattern has emerged where I'm expected to
be a "team player" – in ways that actually do harm to my ability to be
a good teacher and a good colleague, as well as do harm to my
individual courses and to my students, ultimately – when I never see a
return on the "team player" investment that I make. Also, I do not
think that it's all parents who do this. Actually, people who are
inclined to take advantage anyway and who are entitled assholes anyway use
the parenting card as just one more weapon in their arsenal of
assholery. And it's a pretty effective weapon: if you say no when
you're asked to accommodate one of these people (and typically it's not
the people themselves who ask you – it's somebody at one or two removes
who's got to deal with the fallout caused by the entitled person), then
it makes you look like a shitty anti-kid person. I'm not a shitty anti-kid person. But I am a person who feels… affronted… when I feel like I'm being taken advantage of.
Wendy responded by saying that everybody needs help at some time. Maybe they have a family member who is sick or they themselves get sick. If there is a culture of care where the sacrificers are honored and understand that they might need support in the future, then nobody feels put out.
Laura at GeekyMom is less sympathetic, because she held a staff position in the past. She said that academics should consider their jobs as a 9-5 responsibility and secure full-time childcare.
I have friends in other occupations who have complained about taking up the burden for parents, who can't work late hours and insist on taking off time for Halloween. They would be horrified that parents in academia refuse to attend meetings after 3:00.
Parents do need flexibility, especially if we want to increase the number of women in academia. Full-time daycare isn't a solution, because in some areas of the country, academic pay does not cover full time childcare. While parenting is supposed to be a joint responsibility, women do do the lion share of it. If they are forced to take those evening teaching slots and attend last minute meetings at 4:00, then women aren't going to make it.
These tensions are growing out of the growing pressure by administrations and state legislatures to do more with less. They aren't hiring adjuncts and they are increasing teaching responsibilities. I don't think that the childless should have to suck it up and take the worst teaching slots. There are other solutions. On-site childcare would certainly help out parents quite a bit. Hiring extra faculty to teach those evening classes would help. Nearby faculty housing would also help.
Let's not blame each other; let's demand more from the top.