Finding a balance between work and family
So many people struggle anymore to balance spending time at their job and with their families. And its not just women. Just a few days ago Darren Rowse from Problogger made the following comment at Plurk:
problogger is wondering how to strike a balance between being an available father to a toddler (who knows where he is in his study) and getting work done
For those in academic science its much worse. Especially for women. There have been a few discussions about this in the blogosphere recently: Does Academe Hinder Parenthood?, A few thoughts on female academics and children and How hard do academics with kids really have it compared to the rest of the working world?
Based on what I saw in graduate school I have to agree that it is very difficult. The department I was in had only one female faculty member, she had no children and it was pretty obvious she wasn’t going to. I only knew of one female graduate student who had a child, she was Chinese and her child lived in China and was being raised by grandparents. She likely only saw her child once a year, if that. I knew a guy in graduate school whose wife got pregnant, he was afraid to let his graduate adviser know.
For women its pretty much impossible to have kids while in graduate school or doing a post-doc, or while trying to get tenure. If everything goes smoothly and you can get tenure at all you will be in your late 30’s and it may be too late to have kids. It tends to be easier for men, they can work the long hours and have a wife that stays at home or has a non-demanding job.
As much as I love science, its pathetic how anti-family and sexist the academic environment is. In the links above some readers even left the following comments:
“When I serve on a hiring committee or select graduate students to work in my lab, I don’t want any with children.”
“Those who choose this profession like it, and should not have babies”
What is the solution? I don’t know. But at some point the academic environment needs to change, move into the 21st century and let people live full lives – both men and women.
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2 Responses to 'Finding a balance between work and family'
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on June 18th, 2008 at 8:15 am
That is truly shocking in this day and age! One would have thought that attitudes were changing more quickly than that. I wonder if the academic tradition makes for a harder uphill battle for women in that world than in the world of business, or if the business world is equally antiquated, still…
Flashback to the early days of the women’s movement (have you seen this paper from 1971 http://www2.cddc.vt.edu/marxists/archive/reed-evelyn/1971/biology-destiny.htm ?) and sometimes one has to wonder what has changed.
On the other hand, I do recall reading somewhere that the US Census Bureau identified stay-at-home fathers a one of the fastest growing employment groups, so perhaps we’re not necessarily sliding backwards here! One would like to think so.
on June 18th, 2008 at 8:02 pm
I had both my kids while attempting to write my PhD dissertation. I remember someone saying to me that you can’t do both jobs well. He was right, and the one who paid for the stress of trying to do both things well (mothering and being an academic) was me; after graduating, getting a teaching job, and trying to do everything for several years I eventually suffered a serious burnout. I feel a little resentful that our generation grew up believing we could do anything and everything. It’s true we can do anything, but we can’t do everything at the same time and keep our sanity, unless we have tons of help and/or don’t mind not being fully present (not just physically but mentally and emotionally) as a parent. Coming to terms with the fact that I couldn’t be a tenure-track, publishing academic while being the mom I wanted to be was the best thing I’ve done for my kids. I don’t think there’s an easy solution.