Q&A: I’m so incensed I can’t even think of a good title for this

Let's talk about institutional sexism, shall we?

Kay writes:

"I am so angry and upset today by a parenting-work issue that I feel the
need to write to someone. This morning when I got to work, I found that
my department had pretty much decided to shift a significant amount of
teaching (I'm a full-time college professor, based in [location redacted]) to the
5-7pm slot. When I pointed out that I have to pick up my son from
childcare during those hours, a colleague replied that my 'preferences'
would be taken into account but that the time change seemed necessary,
for reasons that I don't agree with but won't get into here. What this
boils down to is that I will effectively be excluded from involvement in
a high-profile course that I designed and ran for several years
pre-baby, which will in itself have a not insignificant impact on my
career. I'm really furious at my female colleague describing my need to
leave work by 5:30 as a 'preference'. I'm already excluded from a lot of
more informal meetings, seminars, social events etc that happen after
hours, and since I returned from maternity leave I feel very much out of
the loop – I work with over 40 colleagues, and only one other is a
woman with children; many of the men have children, but all without
exception have wives or partners who work part-time and do the bulk of
the childcare. My husband does a lot, but he is full-time as well.

I guess my question is: should I just admit to myself that choosing to
have children means that I cannot do my job in the same way? Should I
suck it up? I love my job, and I'm really, really good at it. I find it
very hard to accept the extent to which having children has placed me on
the sidelines. I have the impression that most women with children in
my profession deploy a 'don't rock the boat' policy, and my colleagues
pretty much expect me to do likewise. But as this email suggests, the
result of this for me is that I end up filled with unproductive anger
and bitterness. I would love to know how other Moxie-ites deal with
this. Have other professional women managed to reach a zen-like state of
calm about their career prospects – or lack of – post-children? Or are
they fighting in the trenches? And more prosaically, how do people who
use childcare deal with employer expectations of late working hours?"

This makes me want to scream.

It is 2010.

People have children. Children grow into adults. If we don't want our species to die out, then we *all* need to be invested in helping parents raise their children in the most efficient, humane way possible, *while still using their natural talents to contribute to their fields*.

I am sure that this child-free female colleague doesn't realize that in hurting another woman she's hurting herself. Nor do the men who free-ride on their wives childcare to advance their careers realize that by staying silent and letting the workplace require work that could be scheduled at other times, they are hurting their female children (at the very least) and all of society.

I'm feeling extremely lucky about my work situation now, but I *know* some of you are dealing with this same crap every minute and have some great things to say. And I know some of you are *not* dealing with this and could add some useful comments about how things go where you are. And I'm wondering if those of you who are doing the childcare for partners to be in the workforce could make an effort to make your partner aware that not everyone s/he works with has this backup, and if there's anything that can be done in their workplaces to make things more equitable.

Talk to me.

91 thoughts on “Q&A: I’m so incensed I can’t even think of a good title for this”

  1. I work FT outside the home as an engineer in a heavy industrial manufacturing environment. Old Boys Network, all the way. And it’s OK.I am one of a very few women (in fact I can go days at work without seeing another female face). Generally, I am accomodated because I am the only one who needs accomodations (and I am an engineer, not a punch-the-clock line worker who would have much less flexibility). If there were many of us begging off of 7 am meetings and weekend work, it might be harder to accomodate (and I do take 7 am meetings and weekend work, just not on the same days as my husband who works in the same kind of environment).
    Many people here work shift work (a week of days, a week of afternoons, a week of midnights, repeat) so if childcare is needed, they already have flexible childcare just by design. But honestly, most people have SAHW or wives who work part-time or grandma who takes care of their kids. And the other woman I know with small children has a much older husband who is retired.
    So, I am going to go the route of something practical you can do now to get you through this issue (and possibly future issues as well). If you are comfortable with it (and I wasn’t until recently), get a nanny. It didn’t make financial or practical sense when I had one kid but for two, it’s like heaven. I always had nanny trust issues (how could I know she would treat my children as the super special snowflakes they are?), but then I hired someone away from the day care we had been using and I had known her for years by that time.
    Good luck.

  2. Oh, and I often tell my boss whose kids are 7 and 3 and who works 6 am to 6 pm (not getting home until 7 pm) every day how lucky he is and how much his wife needs a break every now and then. So, now, when he gets home, he does Dad Duty until bed time.

  3. I think the key to solving this problem is getting men more involved in child care. It’s appalling that this is a women’s issue rather than a parenting issue.

  4. Ugh. I would say that the worst part about this is when females do this to each other, but it just sucks all around.Not the same situation, but also frustrating for me is the LACK OF MATERNITY LEAVE policy in my field (government). If you’d like time off, you are required to take vacation/sick leave while you are out, or else it’s unpaid (I had to do a combo of paid/unpaid).
    The problem with this is, as we all know, once you return to work the pediatrician appointments, sick days, checkups, ear tubes, come-pick-up-your-son-because-he-has-a-strange-rash calls from daycare, school closings, etc. end up taking up quite a bit of additional time off after maternity leave (and this doesn’t count taking time off if YOU get sick, family emergencies, vacation, etc.)
    So in my situation, while all the men around here who just had babies are luxuriously taking a few weeks of paid vacation (with their wives who have probably also been running around taking the kids to dr’s appointments and have no time off either), I have to take unpaid time off every time my baby so much as sniffles. Vacation? What’s that. Visit my sick mother? Forget about it. Any other (read: my) needs? Not happening.
    Ultimately, this unfairly ends up punishing the mothers. And, my husband does help out quite a bit – but I’m still in a leave deficit.
    Oddly enough, he has an even more flexible leave policy at his company, and it raises eyebrows even more when he takes off…

  5. I like the idea of a nanny with flexible hours too – that if you’re working through dinner/bedtime, then go in later in the morning and spend more a.m. time with the little one(s). Maybe there’s someone else (in another department) who’s in a similar predicament and up for a nanny share.Also work in engineering where the hours are pretty flexible, but most of the men have SAH wives. If I have extra work to do, then I have a laptop where I can remote in and do the work after my “evening shift” at home. It’s a global environment so there are sometimes con calls scheduled for mid-afternoon Pacific/soccer practice Eastern. I can usually either have someone else in the office cover it or decline it/ask to reschedule.
    That said. 5-7 is an ooky time for a class. I see being flexible for non traditional students, but man, it’s right in the middle of dinner.

  6. Sigh…this is particularly outrageous, I’m not sure what to tell the OP and I could go on a really long rant if I didn’t need to wake my family right now.The piece that drives me crazy in this, and is perhaps least visible and hardest to combat, is how the expectations of high-achieving men haven’t changed since the 50s. It’s just expected that a guy in a “responsible” position will be available for any meeting, any time, anywhere, travel at the company’s pleasure…etc. and that he won’t have to take time off for family responsiblities, period. This both affects women in setting a standard, and affects women with male partners in forcing a higher share of the burden onto us (at least people sort of expect women to go out for these things, sometimes, especially if they theoretically work 30 hours as I theoretically do). And it sucks for them – even when they want to do the right thing it’s a way bigger deal.
    Way too many American jobs are structured so that a solo parent or a parent whose partner works full time can’t do them. I don’t know what to do except keep trying, but I’m in for the rant!

  7. I keep wondering whether the original poster has tenure. As a pre-tenure professor, to me that makes all the difference in how much she can object and how strongly she can stand up to this.I do have to teach an evening course (4 – 7) every year. This is a graduate course that practicing teachers take, so it has to occur after school hours. On that day my husband deals with the kid stuff and they’re in bed by the time I get home. It’s just one day a week, so that works fine for us (it’s actually a nice change of pace for me).
    I agree that this is not just a “preference” and shouldn’t be couched that way — not to mention, why was this change decided without her input to begin with? Something that significant should be discussed in a full faculty meeting with everybody’s input. It sounds like some people are abusing their power here, and this is not okay. But again, whether she has tenure would influence how much ability she has to push back.

  8. Does Kay have tenure? If not, she can be in a very tough situation to say anything. If she does have tenure, she has a little more opportunity to speak up. This is obviously an issue to be addressed with the chair and/or dean, if not HR. My experience with faculty is that they look at available hours as preferences, but obviously with this case it is a need, NOT a preference. I was fortunate to work at a college where this discussion was taking place and many women through the college came together to put together a statement and proposed policy regarding things such as tenure, work hours, and maternity leave to HR. I would recommend that she seek out other faculty and staff members on campus who may be in the same situation and try to find an all campus solution or proposal.Good luck! You would think that working with highly educated people would mean that they are more willing to be accepting and understanding of such things.

  9. For every woman who will come after you, please rock the boat!I am a junior doctor who was told not to have a baby and have since had to drop out of the mainstream medical career path and try and cobble together my experience with left over jobs as there are no jobs with flexibility which allow good parenting.
    I am hoping to present at a National Conference early next year about “Threatened Career Induced Infertility” highlighting the madness of doctors, who should really know better, recommending that their colleagues delay starting a family.
    This boat is archaic and leaky…and needs rocking and rocking until it breaks.
    Good luck

  10. I work in academia too though not as a professor, and I’ve seen what that kind of culture can do to mothers. (And sometimes to fathers too, though the mothers I’ve known somehow seem to bear the bigger burden, unfairly.) I think most institutions have a culture of inflexibility, especially for newer faculty. And if you don’t have tenure? Psh, forget about it!The mothers I’ve known have ended up bending to pressure and running themselves ragged, just doing enough to get by. Sometimes they end up giving up and leaving because they just can’t make it work. What makes me SO angry is that academic institutions tend to accommodate for professional activities with no problems, like taking sabbaticals, letting faculty leave mid-semester for conferences, etc. I realize those are more work-related (sometimes), but it should show that the university will not come crashing down if faculty are given some flexibility. Is the problem with your department, do you think? Or is it the whole institution? I’m not sure which would be a harder problem to tackle! And unfortunately you usually can’t just go out and find another job–full time teaching jobs are so hard to get nowadays. 🙁
    I’m sorry I don’t have any advice, but I just wanted to offer my sympathy! I hope you’re able to find some way to resolve the conflict. More schools need faculty like you who are so passionate about their courses!

  11. I am in the thick of this right now. An impossible situation. I work from home, with no daycare. You read that right. Now, my husband has switched from nights to days, and I am having a very hard time getting my work done. All day I am trying to steal moments to work or call clients, and it is not working well.Hubs is working 12+ hours a day on his new shift (he starts before 5am)and tries to help. By the time he gets home, I’m spent, he’s spent, and things are just not getting done. I have about 15 hours of work to do to catch up, 15 hours of cleaning (at least), and I feel like I am not as present as I should be with the kids.
    Throw in the 9 mo sleep regression, and it’s a real party over here. Bleh.
    How are we supposed to do it all, and do it well?

  12. We resolved things by having my husband quit his job. I’m totally baffled by families where both parents work full time. I think society has to change. At the moment there seems to be an attitude that having kids is something you can fit into your spare time. Even with kids in full-time daycare, they are still more work than can possibly fit into your spare time. Kids aren’t just a temporary nuisance, they’re the future. Parents put in the most effort and get the most back out of it, but everyone benefits from having a society where kids are raised to be good citizens by emotionally (and physically!) available parents. Unfortunately the people who are really aware of the problem, and have the most interest in rocking the boat, are in the worst position to actually do so.

  13. I have seen more and more daycare centers here in OH offering evening and overnight daycare. This was unheard of when I was a kid.The only problem is that these daycares are few and far between & may be difficult for many to get to before getting to work.

  14. @Kay, I really do feel for you, and am so sorry you are hurt. Unfortunately, workplace discrimination against women, minorities, and parents is rampant in our society. But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless. As I see it, you have several options, including and certainly not limited to the following:1) Document evereything and quietly meet with an employment attorney to make sure your employer is in compliance with all relevant laws,
    2) Change your childcare situation to meet the new time expectations (like @SarcastiCarrie suggested in hiring a nanny),
    3) Start secretly looking for a new job,
    4) Accept that things aren’t going to be the way you want them to be, but commit to giving it another 6 months during which your anger may or may not subside, and you’ll see how you truly feel about it,
    5) Quit in a dramatic way and burn this bridge in a huge firey shitstorm that will go down in the record books (I kid… sort of),
    6) Try a new profession that is more meritocratic and a lot less Old Boys Network-y.
    I have been in your shoes: trying to run with the big dogs and finding out the hard way it just was not compatible with motherhood – or rather, that I simply wasn’t willing to make the hard choices I needed to make and rearrange my life in the way I needed to in order to succeed. Some women can definitely do it, but I learned I was not one of them. So it turned out the last option was the only one that worked for me & mine. We are happier for it.

  15. I can really only share my experience. I work full-time in media and in some ways I have a lot of flexibility (can work from home up to 1 day/week; can finish things off at night) and in others I don’t (deadlines are solid and scary; there are probably 200 people that would like my job). My husband’s job is pretty demanding and frankly is the one that can keep our little boat afloat so although he can pinch-hit sometimes, we need to protect his professional time.My issue is events – a lot of events are at night and some are on weekends. I cover fewer of them than my colleagues (mostly single young women) and I do run into issues.
    My other issue is emotional/mental exhaustion. But that’s more personal.
    I think to some extent you have to come to peace with your own goals and personality. Not that you do not have the right to be infuriated in the process.
    At this stage in your life do you want to fight the good fight, do you want to accommodate your department by finding alternate daycare arrangements, or do you want to accept the mommy track for a while. I don’t know how tight your timeframe is right now, but I might be tempted to work on all three fronts at once – start looking for evening care, make a call to HR, and breath deeply for a bit to think about it.

  16. It seems to me that you (the original poster) need to find out exactly what the tenure requirements are, and how much fuzziness there is in the tenure decision.If the requirements are specific, and you know you can or have already achieved the required standard, and you are unionized, then you can work on re-educating your colleagues about real life (I would try first being courteous and persuasive to individuals in person, before moving on to writing official letters of complaint).
    If the tenure requirements are really steep, and you may only barely qualify, then suck it up and go into debt to hire a nanny.
    If the tenure requirements are fuzzy (people get denied tenure unexpectedly due to unexplained reasons) then again, suck it up and hire the nanny.
    Academia is not kind.

  17. This situation is maddening, but (sadly) not surprising. It seems that in our society, if people take an extended period of time away from work for any reason, then they are often left to accept whatever scraps are left when they return. It is also true that this affects women more than men.”I’ve yet to be on a campus where most women weren’t worrying about combining some aspect of marriage, children, and a career. I’ve yet to find one where many men were worrying about the same thing.”
    Gloria Steinem

  18. Before you start rocking the boat for the sake of your current child care needs, please factor in those without children. It’s easy to turn this into an “us vs. them,” where parents feel that their needs are the only ones that matter.The reality is that the decision has been made and it impacts all employees in the department, not just the childed.
    Rather than running to HR and talking about *your* daycare situation, start by talking to other professors and teaching assistants to see how they feel about the change. A lot of people without children have activities ranging from caring for their aging parents to teaching a yoga class, or even working a second job to make ends meet (e.g. freelance editing, bartending, tutoring, etc.)
    By developing a sense of how this decision impacts others in the department, you might be able to make a stronger case than focusing exclusively on your situation. It’s a fast way to find yourself put out by the very people you will need as allies down the road.

  19. Oh, another practical tip: if a nanny isn’t financially feasible or you are just not comfortable with the idea (as I wasn’t), perhaps you can look at using someone from your childcare situation for that one evening per week to take your child from childcare to your home (or her home), get him dinner, play, do stories, whatever. It might be a fun change of pace for your son. Also, if you have grandparents or any other help in the area this might be the kind of situation to call that in…a standing Wednesday date night for your son with his nanny/grandma/aunt/father, whatever. I’m assuming this is a one night/week kind of occurrence and not a total change to all of your working hours.

  20. Don’t have time to read comments, but I deal with this, too. I’m in a place where almost no one has kids, and those who do have support systems I don’t have. I think it’s ridiculous that people think that we can’t do a sufficient amount of work during normal working hours. Come on! Do we really have to live for our work!

  21. Ugh. If I had a nickel for the number of times my boss has “reminded” me that I come in at 8 and leave at 5 every day, as if that is something to be ashamed of, I could afford to stay home. I also take my lunch break to go see my son at my parents’ house – for shame!I have worked for the same company for 4 years now, have gotten nothing but positive reviews and glowing comments on my work, and yet I’ve seen a man in a similar position be promoted twice in that time while I have never been promoted. I even asked him if he works a lot of extra hours, and he said only when it is absolutely necessary. But he has no children, so the perception is that he is ABLE to work those extra hours when necessary, and I am not, despite the fact that I have made myself available for extra hours when it has been necessary. But I do not hide the fact that I need to maintain this schedule because of my son. I get far too few waking hours with him as it is, and I refuse to sacrifice even more of them. To make matters worse, my boss is a woman! But…she has no kids. And for all her “I understand…” comments, she doesn’t.
    We have mid-year reviews coming up, and I plan to bring up the promotion issue. I know that her first response will be “Well, he works later hours, yadda yadda yadda” to which I can say “Actually, I asked him about that, and he also works an 8-5 schedule.” If I can get the same amount of quality work done in 8 hours that takes others 10 or 12, shouldn’t I be rewarded for that and not punished?

  22. Academia has a reputation (outside of academia!) of being a good place to have kids, and I don’t really know why. My friends in academia all seem to have to work harder to make their lives work. It seems to be caught in some sort of 1950s time warp.I think @PP has a good suggestion- IF you decide to try to fight this, see if you can find some other people who have other reasons to dislike the change. (Including students- they’re the paying customers, right? I always hated late classes when I was in school, and actively tried to avoid them.) Unfortunately, our society is all goofy about working mothers, so when you try to point out how something creates a problem for working parents, you get a ridiculous backlash because a lot of people secretly (and not so secretly) think that the mom should just stay home. So try to find a way to avoid that stupidity, and you might make progress. Bonus points if you can find a man who is willing to speak up. (Sad, but true.)
    @SarcastiCarrie has some good practical suggestions. I have a day care friend who has used babysitting from the day care teachers to cover this sort of thing. Personally, if I went that route, I’d go in late the day I had to stay late, so that I still got a similar amount of time with my kids. If you can swing that, it might turn into something kind of fun- instead of the dinner/bath/bedtime struggle, you could get play time in the morning.
    With all that said… yes, I agree that institutional sexism against mothers is alive and well. It sucks. And the people who are most vested in any fight against it (i.e., us working mothers) don’t really have the time and energy to fight a real fight. I don’t know the answer. I sometimes joke that I’m going to write my older self a letter to remind her to go out and raise hell for working moms.
    I’ve been very, very lucky in my own work life, and even so, I have issues. I recently had to tell the founder of our company, whom I’ve been working with on project management lately, that I couldn’t handle the meeting schedule he was proposing because I needed to have a pumping break. I haven’t seen any repercussions from that yet. Unless you count the really uncomfortable look on his face when I said it…. And I know some of my colleagues raise their eyebrows at my work schedule (in between 8 and 8:30, no lunch, leave at 4:30). Luckily, so far my bosses have been happy to judge me based on actual productivity, and not face time.

  23. Women in power can be the worst at perpetuating some of this power dynamic, where workers with families are at automatic disadvantage.In my department, the Chair (relatively young woman, with school age kids), brings them to work occasionally. One of the senior profs on the same floor scoffs at this, as when she was a young (widowed) mom, she would have never brought her kid to work for any reason. It’s not an ISSUE per se, but just illustrates how jealousy can pervade this situation.
    For the OP, I’m sorry to say that if you’re on the tenure track and are committed to staying at your university, the best plan might be to suck it up and change your childcare arrangements. This might even be a good opportunity to spend more daytime time with your kid, while you arrange for care in the early evenings so you can cover your course.
    It’s fine if you want to gather information on the impact on others (as suggested above), but for many faculty– working in the evenings would be great because their spouse might be home to take over. I had a good friend that did this (got through her six years and obtained tenure). She taught only in the late afternoons/evenings after spending daytime with her kids, and stayed late at the office to finish up her work and hold office hours, etc. She did occasionally work during the day on certain days, but it was very proscribed. They had only occasional sitters. Bottom line is that she made it work with this schedule, and in the long run her flexibility has really paid off. This coming year she is on sabbatical and spending time abroad with her spouse and school age kids.
    I understand if you have a 9-5 daycare situation that you really love and feel comfortable with, that you would not want to change it. But, you really might get some benefits you were not aware of.
    Another thing that I’ve spearheaded in my group of researchers/faculty/clinicians, is having a PICK-UP sitter a couple of nights a week to take the kid home, get dinner started and etc. I’ve had this two nights a week for a couple of semesters, and it’s great. This coming year, we need to get a pickup sitter every day b/c preschool ends at 1, we’re sharing with another family and she will work every day until 6:30. One parent per family can take turns staying late at work as needed. Sitter will get some of dinner started, and do some very light housekeeping (empty the dishwasher, etc.). This is not something I ever would have imagined a couple of years ago when my kid was small. It’s costing us a fortune, but it’s one year of PreK (and exorbitant costs) and then public school will start and we can recover.
    Depending on where they work, profs can make very very little. If they have a lot of student loans, and a new mortgage, etc. I can imagine a pretty harrowing financial situation for the OP. So it may be that getting a nanny, pickup sitter, having Dad kick in more childcare hours, or etc. are not possible solutions. Just to mediate my strongly worded suggestion 😉

  24. Cloud reminds me of the time I wanted to take Drivers School instead of getting a ticket on my record. I asked when I went to sign up if there would be breaks so I could pump the milk for my baby. The look on the face of that little old lady at the registration desk was priceless.As it turns out, there was a 5 minute smoke break every two hours and a longer lunch break in the middle but if I wasn’t back after the short breaks, my 8 hour class wouldn’t count. I took the ticket to court because I couldn’t make that class work.
    I got my ticket thrown out (with only paying court costs) and ended up exposing some kind of legal loophole about illegal driving school in the towns and counties. It was quite the racket charging $300 for school to keep the ticket off your record instead of the $100 ticket fee. I ended up reading about it in the paper a few months later.

  25. As a SAHM, I do continually remind my husband how much he benefits from having to take NO time off work to deal with our son, AND being able to work late hours whenever he wants/needs to, and I make sure he’s aware that parents who both work full-time don’t have that luxury. Hopefully this carries over to the workplace, and when he’s eventually in a position to make staffing decisions (I hope he’ll be in that kind of position!) he’ll take that into account and remember to be fair.

  26. Several people have covered the basics of the situation in academia generally, but I wanted to mention that most universities have some kind of group for parents or mothers or even just a women-faculty group that by default serves as an institutional memory and/or agitation group. In many cases the Provost or Dean’s Office has a special liasion to deal with “diversity” which in the case of my former school specifically included parenthood! This issue has probably come up before in the institution if not in your department, and there is almost certainly someone who can advise you on institutional precedent. If you don;t know who that might be on your campus, try asking at the women’s center, women’s studies department, or anthropology department, as potential hotbeds of activism.I work at a university, but as staff. I work until 10pm one night a week while classes are in session, and it can be hard even though my kids are now 4 and 7. It would have been extremely hard with a child under 1 (I started with 2 and 5 year olds). On the plus side, during the school year I have FIVE HOURS alone in my house once a week! Which I usually spend cleaning, but whatever.

  27. Well, I am very lucky to be firmly in the camp of not dealing with institutional sexism at work (well at least not on an immediate day-to-day basis) for a few reasons:1- My boss (woman, no children, a few years older than I) is awesome. I can work from home. I can have fairly flexible hours. I can take the time off I need without feeling guilty or pressured. As long as I get the job done, no problem.
    2- My company (entertainment industry) was formed by a band of misfits who never fit the mold, and consequently almost always do things differently and are open to alternate ways to achieve the same goal. Though the company is quite large now, and most definitely more corporate than when I started here 10 years ago, for the most part I think management still focuses on results rather than face time.
    3- I was fortunate enough to ‘prove myself’ at this company before I had a kid. Which means, I had the time and inclination to spend many years working long / late hours and therefore helped make huge progress for the company. I’ve found it much less stressful now to arrange the schedule I need, knowing that I’ve proven my work ethic. I think people are much less skeptical if I keep weird hours now, as they know that I deliver. (Not that this is right, I think it’s just something that makes my life easier).
    In addition to all of that, DH is blessed with a boss (woman, youngish kids) who views time off to manage family issues – i.e. illness just par for the course for working parents. So, DH took Monday off this week to care for DS who was ill. He didn’t have to worry about flack from his boss. I could go in to work. Win-win all around.
    So yes, we are very lucky. Which is good since we don’t have any grandparents in the city nor back up other than us if DS is sick.
    My big issue is that I need to make a job change, but I’m kind of afraid of what’s out there – all of the issues everyone talks about above. I know I’m on a ticking time bomb regarding job/life satisfaction (way less challenge for me at work, department is going through a restructuring so lots of chaos, a lot of good people have left…I’m SO unmotivated…), but it is so hard to give up all the flexibility I have with my current situation, because I know it’s the exception.
    There’s a potential job in my company that I could do and I would find extremely motivating. But the hours are long and can be intense. Part of me still wonders though if I could arrange it around my schedule / family life needs. And of course, part of me wonders if I really want to work that much.
    Reading all of your comments above does give me motivation to try to push it forward, or at least explore it further, in the name of creating more flexible work environments for parents everywhere (not to mention the added bonus of making a good & fun career move).

  28. There are probably many professors in your department who are fathers and who are just as unhappy about the situation as you are. The “sexism” extends to them as well. They are probably reluctant to say anything about it because in our society, men are not expextced to have family obligations.

  29. If not being able to teach a high-profile course that you designed will negatively impact your career, then I would not just be angry, but worried. Not only is it institutional sexism at its finest, but if the original poster is not tenured, then effectively, her colleagues are trying to sabotage her career, especially if teaching is valued for tenure and promotion at her institution. And frankly, even if she is tenured, this can still impact future promotion. There is a reason that there are many more female Associate Professors than Full Professors in academia. More women may be achieving tenure, but they are still not moving up the ranks. Along with all of the other suggestions here, I think you might consider going to your university’s EEOC office and asking about your situation, especially if it seems as if you are being singled out.

  30. I’m thinking there are two lines of advice needed here. One is about institutional change, and I agree with other posters that in many academic departments, a non-tenured faculty member is in a precarious position. Possibly the best thing to do is find ways to cope/survive until tenure, and then stand up for change. Or, if you’ve got good credentials and don’t mind the prospect of moving, scout the academic job postings. Some departments are much more young-parent-friendly than others, and it might be worth looking at departments that already have faculty who are also primary caregivers for young children.Another option, if it seems feasible, is to build a coalition of colleagues who might appreciate that flexibility, even though their spouse takes care of the kids. Fathers might want to be more involved at home, but feel shy about speaking up about it.
    The other side of the advice needed is surviving in a practical sense, here and now. Negotiations with the husband, hiring a nanny or babysitter, finding a daycare that can do non-traditional hours, or if all else fails, do whatever is needed to accept what you cannot change at this point. Yoga, martinis, chocolate, whatever gets you through it!

  31. I’m sorry. I am completing my PhD studies and my mentor – for a long time – completely wrote me off as a lost cause once he learned I was pregnant. It was like he was convinced I could not balance the two and why would I become pregnant when I had previously said that I was eager to devote myself to my studies? Well, I am, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want a family, too.I have one toddler and another baby on the way. My husband and I have managed to build a workable plan, but it took a while to work out the kinks.
    For us, it involved me being the primary earner and my husband working part-time. So I work 5 days a week and my husband works 2 and a half. He was always open to that idea, so it was an easy transition. My work hours vary based on the needs of that day or week. To avoid commuting headaches, I work off-peak hours. So I schedule my quality time in the morning with my son and then get to work between 10:30 and 11:00am. I then stay later. This means I don’t get as much evening time with my son, but I do have the 3-ish hours in the morning before work. I had tried going in really early and coming home early, but that made me grumpy.
    I’ve accepted that I am not going to have a traditional academic career. I don’t know that I wanted one anyways and so that was a price I was willing to pay for my job flexibility and for the work/life balance I have created for myself.

  32. As a graduate student I worked on a project interview women in science/academia. We worked with women professors who were scientists, and this came up so often. Often it was the other women colleagues who were harshest.What I often struggle with is that the idea that “feminist/feminism” means doing work like men have done if for years. Long work days and work weeks are not family friendly. Just because the standard is not family friendly, does not mean that these are just “a woman’s preference”.
    I interviewed so many professors (women) that were on both sides of this coin. I was always struck by the women who chose not to have children, and blamed the women who did have children for not conforming to the “norm”. HELLO- the norm is not ok! that is what Feminism is trying to say!

  33. The biggest issue here is with this all coming as a surprise. That’s unacceptable and gives no one the opportunity to plan for contingency. As someone without kids who is also in education, I have felt some resentment that the only “acceptable” excuse at my place of employment for not being present for some meetings and events is child-having. I agree with the commenter who says that the change the OP describes is inconveniencing to all sorts of folk and it’s not just a child care/woman’s issue.

  34. One other piece of possible ammunition: If this course is being offered for “non-traditional” students, or if your institution places any sort of emphasis on supporting non-traditional students, it might be worth it to point out that having this important course from 5-7 would make it less enticing to the non-traditional students which could make your department look like it’s not as supportive of these non-traditional students as everybody else.Also, do you have any (tenured, maybe full-professor) friends/acquaintances in another department that you can talk to about this? Preferably ones that are female and have/had children? They may be able to help with the back-door/political discussions that you need to have done.
    Good luck!

  35. Moxie, thanks for posting my comment and to everyone for commenting. I haven’t had the best week at work and it’s really helpful and interesting to read everyone’s responses. I don’t have time right this minute to reply to everyone but I’m thinking about what you’ve said and feeling much more supported than I was!To those wondering about tenure, I work in the UK so I am a permanent staff member. I have so much sympathy for my colleagues in North America in tenure situations – I’ve seen 30-something female colleagues deliberately postpone their wishes to have children in the hope that they could be tenured first. And I have a lot to be thankful for in the great maternity leave provision that I’m entitled to by law.
    Several people make the point that this is an issue that does perhaps affect women more, but applies to both parents. I totally agree. I emailed round the parents I know in the university and it turns out that one guy fought on this issue for years before giving up. Here’s what he said:
    ‘I became aware that, ultimately and if pushed, the response would be that they did what they could … but that, as a father, there was probably always a mother who could pick up the child and that I had voluntarily decided to have children, which had career consequences that I could have foreseen.’
    So pretty frustrating for fathers too, to put it mildly. Interestingly, if it could be proved that asking staff to teach after hours had a particular effect on women, then a case could be made under employment law that it constituted indirect discrimination. But there’s nothing protecting *parents* against discrimination at work. Yet I think Moxie’s point is really important – everyone has a stake in how children are brought up in our society. I also think that in my profession especially, we are role models to a lot of young people. Should we be sending them the message that becoming a professional means giving up on work-life balance? Because that’s not the message I want to convey, to young women in particular.
    On childcare, I’m not sure we could afford a nanny on our salaries, but if/when we have another child it may be worth looking into. The women I know with nannies do often have jobs – lawyer, banker – where it’s just part of their job to work late and they are paid correspondingly. What I find difficult here is that this is not part of my job: I’m not being paid extra for the inconvenience. And I work in the liberal arts – if we don’t get it with regard to parents in the workplace, who will?
    Since emailing Moxie I’ve set up meetings with everyone important I can think of and I’m working on getting together a parents’ group. I’ve also made it clear to my colleagues that I am not working after 5:30pm: if they write me out of the course(s) for the next few years, so be it, but I’m not going without a fight. And I told my female colleagues I was upset by their attitude. So far the result is that I’ve been told I’m behaving in a hostile and uncollegial way, refusing to work ‘as a team’, and that having children is ‘a lifestyle choice’. Great.
    so many more things I want to say in response to comments, but this is already an essay! No doubt I’ll be posting again later.

  36. Kay says her question is whether she has to accept that choosing to have children means she cannot do her job in the same way. To which I suggest that maybe the answer is yes. Having children means you cannot do pretty much ANYTHING in the same way. If there are things that really really matter to you (like a job that you’re great at), you can put in a great deal more effort than you used to and make it work in some way, but very possibly not in the same way.I’m not trying to be flip or buried in semantics, but I think that’s the truth. Not that I don’t have sympathy and empathy for Kay, because I do. It sucks and the ‘preference’ colleague sounds like a PITA, but I think the college has a right to schedule courses when it thinks they will be most useful to its students.
    Maybe Kay needs to speak to the department head and make these points:
    “I will effectively be excluded from involvement in a high-profile course that I designed and ran for several years … which will in itself have a not insignificant impact on my career.”
    and
    “I love my job, and I’m really, really good at it. I find it very hard to accept the extent to which having children has placed me on the sidelines.”
    These are great points which may not have occurred to her (presumably male) department head. I’m not staying “blame the victim” AT ALL, but I think women do have less of a tendency to fight for opportunities and at the very least an official conversation about it seems in order.
    I agree with what somebody said upthread: it’s a shame to lump this into sexism/women’s issues, because to me this is a parenting issue and a human issue. Parents have more concrete demands on their time, but everyone values their time off and schedules their lives based on when they are led to believe that time off will happen. A significant change will affect everyone, including the parents whose SAH spouses or partners do the bulk of the childcare. Perhaps those people, too, appreciate being able to spend the evening watching their offspring perform death-defying feats on the backyard trampoline?
    I really don’t get why academia is so hard-ass in this area, but holy cow, they are are. My SIL, who teaches Women’s Studies courses, had to move all the way across the country to get a tenure-track position because she had the audacity to wait a year after getting her PhD before looking for work (not quit a job, mind you, simply wait a year to get one) because she had a newborn and a husband in a crazy-busy job.
    A total aside: it’s interesting to me that (college-level) academia is male-dominated and that seems to result in less flexibility for moms/primary parents, but my industry (software engineering) is at least as male-dominated, yet I think because of that fact, I am afforded much more flexible options (as are male co-workers who are more hands-on as parents). Perhaps it’s that my industry seems to be committed to encouraging and valuing diversity and for some reason colleges … aren’t? It’s a mystery to me.
    Anyway, Kay, I’m so sorry that this is playing out in such a frustrating way for you. I hope you and your department can come up with a solution that doesn’t leave you feeling angry and bitter, because THAT certainly benefits no-one, least of all you.

  37. I’m a tenure-track prof (up for tenure this year) with an 11 month old. I agree with all posters about forming alliances with others, talking to your chair, and perhaps finding alternate childcare arrangements. One thing no one has mentioned, and perhaps intentionally as we don’t know the details of your institution (though you say the exclusion from teaching this course will impact your career) is how much teaching will really be counted in the long run. Even in teaching-intensive institutions, unless you teach in a community college, the onus (like the Boys Club–irreversible, it seems) is still on scholars to produce research. Is there a way you might re-orient your time and energy into a research program that does not depend so heavily on this teaching slot? I know when our tenure and promotion committee looks at my file, they’ll say, yeah, yeah, good teacher. But what did she publish?

  38. I feel your pain. I am the only parent in my work group. The only mother in my entire division and the only parent of young children, who does not have a stay-at-home-partner. It is insane.

  39. I don’t have time to read the comments but…Maybe this isn’t about sexism at all. Maybe the department is trying to cater to 9-5 working professionals who want to take classes at night.
    Maybe what we as a society need is better, more flexible child care. The whole country does not work M-F, 9-5 although many in the middle to upper classes do.
    What I have come to realize for myself is, I cannot have it all. I cannot raise my child as I’d like while doing meaningful FT professional work, having a fulfilling relationship with my partner, exercising, eating homemade food from local, organic ingredients, spending time with friends, volunteering for causes I believe in… I try to realize this and focus on some goals, some of the time, realizing I will not be able to have it all at once.

  40. No real data points or advice here. Big hugs to all those trying to balance work and family. It must be so freaking hard!

  41. Academia is weird: ahead of the norm in thinking about work/life issues (in my experience, we are forever forming committees to examine work/life, though these rarely get acted upon), but with a work-load requirement that makes it difficult to balance family and work. On one of these committees on which I sat, I remember hearing the stat that female academics have fewer children than female lawyers or doctors.Still, I think it can be a good career for parents. (I had my child in grad school and am now full-time faculty.) Schedules are often flexible, and benefits tend to be good. The parents who seem to me to be the most successful at navigating the politics are those who simply take the benefits they deserve (many parents forgo guaranteed benefits) without making a fuss, as if everyone in the institution already was up to speed with the ideals. I realize this could backfire, but I do think many of our fears about “looking bad” are unfounded; if you get the work done, what does it matter in the end that some people might have whispered “s/he’s taking *another* leave” around the water cooler?
    That said, I am lucky to work at a univ where we are asked about our scheduling constraints before classes are scheduled. There should be an attempt to balance faculty and student needs, it seems her weren’t considered in this case.

  42. Many have pointed out that this is not just a woman/mother problem – that it extends to fathers as well. I’d like to push on that more and say that work-life balance is an everybody problem. I have noticed that I get further at work when approaching things from the perspective (and voicing) that I don’t want special treatment because I have kids, but I do want to help create an environment where evening and weekend commitments are feasible for everyone.That said, I can’t speak for Kay, but for me, choosing to have children DOES mean that I cannot do my job in the same way. I did not choose a child-friendly industry (advertising) or even think about that when I began my career 15 years ago. Personally, I have made peace with this – work just isn’t as important to me as it used to be. But that doesn’t mean it’s fair or even smart business.
    Good luck, Kay! I hope you can find a balance that works for you, and maybe shake some things up for future parents/people in the process.

  43. If I was this person, I would totally follow the stay late, come in late schedule. Throughout my years as a student (BS, MS, and PhD) I would take babysitting jobs to supplement my income. Hopefully you could find someone to watch your LO in the evenings if you don’t have evening daycare.Good luck! I am glad I am not in academia. 🙂

  44. I have 2 small children, and work in a department with all women. Only my boss has a child, and her child is grown.Our company moved from a town 20 minutes from my house to a city 90 minutes from my house. Our new CEO doesn’t approve of teleworking beyond 1 day a week.
    When the company announced it was moving and the attitude was “like it or lump it”, I went to my supervisor and said I had to quit. She didn’t want that and we compromised on an unusual schedule. I come in at 10am, leave at 4pm, and then work in the evening after the kiddos are asleep. I’m grateful that she’s been flexible with me, although the CEO’s attitude about teleworking is ridiculous. I’m a web designer…all of my work could be done remotely.
    My company is always nattering on about family/life balance, but I see very little practical evidence that they actually give a hoot about it.

  45. @anon today- I was essentially in your shoes about 2.5 years ago. I had a job whose flexibility I loved but which wasn’t challenging me and was looking increasingly insecure. I decided to take the leap and took a job in an industry (biotech) noted for its crazy work hours, but which would be a better fit for my interests.It has worked out well for me- for the most part, I work reasonable hours. I just never started working the long hours, and when someone tried to schedule a late meeting, I’d push back and try to get them to find a better time. I haven’t really suffered from this- but I think that is partly due to luck in who my bosses have been. I have also grown a backbone I never knew I had, and have been surprised about how much people respect that.
    Anyway, I decided that I wanted to really like what I did. I am definitely not cut out to be a SAHM, but I also don’t like the idea of being away from my kids working at a job that doesn’t make me happy. My job is essentially my only non-kid related activity, so I figure I should like it! (I know not everyone gets this luxury, but I do, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t take it.)
    I work in science and IT, two fields not known for their family-friendliness. I tell friends who are looking ahead at having kids and wondering how they’ll do it that it isn’t as bad in practice as it was in theory. Looking ahead, a lot of things freaked me out. In practice, we just work through the issues as they come up.
    I also say that having kids really shows you what is important in your life, because those are things you find that you continue to do. It turns out that a meaningful career is important to me. Keeping up with some of my hobbies… not so much. No, you can’t have it all. But I’m not trying to have it all. I’m really just trying to have kids and a career. You should be able to have more than one thing.

  46. Someone wrote: “Academia has a reputation (outside of academia!) of being a good place to have kids, and I don’t really know why.”Well, I think it’s true, mostly for guys though. I’m in a Ph.D. program (part time, son is at daycare 3 days a week so I can work on my research) and my husband is an academic, and he KNOWS he gets to see his son waaaay more than if he were in a traditional job. We live on campus, so he comes home for lunch on the days my son is home. He leaves the house at 8:45am (in time for 9am start) and leaves at 5:45 (in time for 6:15pm dinner). On the days I’m studying or doing research, he leaves work at 5:30 to pick our son up from daycare. So, it’s GREAT for him.
    BUT I think it’s different for women. I’m in the social sciences and I don’t think I know any women social scientists with more than 1 or 2 kids. (We want 3 or 4.) I’m pretty good at what I do, at least good enough to get into a Ph.D. program, but I don’t know if I have it in me to just give up the kids for a job. I have to admit that the prospect of having more kids _and_ finishing up _and_ looking for a tenured track job is REALLY daunting. I’m thankful to hear of all of the experiences that everyone has had. I’m sure it will vary depending on where you are, who you are with, etc. so I’ll just have to try it out for size and see if it works for us.

  47. I just defended my dissertation in the humanities in May and had already decided that academia wasn’t for me. I decided not to go on the academic job market in large because of how unfriendly I had noticed the academy to be to women and even more so to mothers. This impression was formed over my almost 10 years in graduate school. The reason it took me so long was because I had decided to have my children while still a student. I did this because I didn’t want to have children while on the tenure clock or wait and potentially have to worry about infertility in my late thirties. Of course it turned out to be a moot point, since I have no desire to be a professor anymore. I just realized that I could not juggle parenting, research, teaching and administrative duties.Now that I am done, I am so relieved that I no longer have to feel guilty about not working all the time. To me that’s the hardest part about being an academic – always feeling like there’s more you should be doing. That’s the bad side of having a flexible schedule with no real boundaries on your work. Unlike my husband’s job, which starts and ends each day, there’s really no end to what you can read or research.
    One person mentioned resistance to telecommuting. We have the same problem at my husband’s company, only in his case he was allowed to telecommute for three days for about a year. Then someone high up nixed the plan for no apparent reason. I think he’s convinced people are less productive at home, even though research has proven the opposite. This was a real blow to our family, especially since my husband has to commute 45 minutes each way to work. Now that we have an infant and a toddler, oh how I wish he could work from home regularly! I can’t wait for the day when his company might reevaluate the program and allow it again.

  48. It’s funny. I just saw an add for a segment they are doing tomorrow (August 12) morning on the Today Show. It is about the motherhood penalty in the workplace. It will probably be treated superficially, but at least someone is talking about it on a national televised platform.

  49. Right after I had my first, I went to an MCLE program on balancing “family and the law”. (I was a lawyer, now I’m a SAHM). The upshot was that a lot of younger women complained, and the older women told them how THEIR children had been raised by nannies because THEY were busy breaking the glass ceiling, and it was hard, but their kids are now uber-successful, so we should all just suck it up and stop whining. And guess who the hiring partners are? The young women who want more maternity leave or the older women whose (successful) children are now grown?It’s brutal. My husband is an academic in the science field. This week, I’ve been too sick to watch the kids (and I’m pregnant so I can’t just abuse my body as I usually would). Because of our financial situation on his one crappy academic income, we can’t afford sitters and we have no other support people. So he had to stay home a lot this week to help out.
    I know his boss is asking WTF is wrong with me that I need to pull him out of his academic job to stay home with the kids when that’s my job, and I wish he had more flexibility to do this kind of stuff.
    Anyway, @sarcasticarrie, it’s really great you got to do with with your childcare. I know that here, where we had University childcare, there’s a v. strict policy that they can do no babysitting. And they get fantastic benefits through the uni, so there’s no way to lure them away. Even our local Y doesn’t allow the people who watch the kids at the Y to babysit clients, so it’s not an answer for everyone.
    To Kay, I’m sorry you’re in such a frustrating situation. I found that my career and motherhood have been completely incompatible. I worked on a floor of maybe 30some attorneys, and only one other woman had kids, and her kids were grown before she went to law school. I really admire the women who can tough it out and make it better for everyone else, but I couldn’t do it. And I’m happy-ish at home, even though our finances are a disaster and we’ve made an incredible amount of sacrifices.
    It’s hard and unfair, and I’m so sorry that the university doesn’t respect your commitment to parenting.

  50. @cloud,Thanks for relaying your perspective & experience. I’ve amazed myself even now about how much I push back regarding meeting times that are outside of my schedule & availability. I wouldn’t have done that pre-kid. But it’s definitely a good thing as I think having kids and standing up about it really puts the whole work/life balance in the forefront. Which I think is much healthier anyhow.
    I think part of my issue now is not wanting to let go of the idea of having it all – kid, career, hobbies. I’m having a hard time choosing between career & hobbies. And my personality isn’t so much the kind that likes to go middle of the road on either front. Also, I’m probably still struggling a bit to define who exactly I am in regards to my career/family balance. And I imagine that the dynamic will change as DS gets older.
    Anyhow, thanks again for the food for thought. I do agree in my case that the anticipation is probably much worse than actually living with a more intense career choice.

  51. As a WOHM mom/primary breadwinner, I experience everyday the fine tightrope line between needing to nuture my career (both for personal satisfaction, but more importantly, to support the growing needs of my family) and the need to juggle childcare. So I’m outraged on the poster’s behalf. And I don’t by any means have it all. I feel that I’m not doing a good job at anything, I have no time or money for any kind of personal life or hobby, I’m exhausted all the time.However….I was a nontraditional student – I worked all day and depended on those post 5pm classes, and often felt that I was getting the “second best” or fill in professor, rather than the top notch classes offered during “normal” hours. Those evening classes were filled with working people and also parents. If the poster is a truly exceptional teacher (as I have no doubt she is! :)) it would be a real service to students like me to have the opportunity to learn from professors like her.

  52. Haven’t read the comments yet, so apologies if this has already been mentioned. I’m a full time science prof (pre-tenure) with young kids. I think there are two separate issues here. One is the being cut off from informal after-hours networking events. The other is the specifics of being asked to teach from 5-7. The informal problem is really frustrating and I’ve experienced exactly the same thing post kids. Spending time outside normal work hours to ‘hang out’ with colleagues is just very low on my list of priorities, but it has had a noticeable impact on my career. But there’s not much ‘boat rocking’ you can do about that in an organized fashion, at least that I can think of. But this is a big problem and it’s hard to quantify the impact of the loss of these informal connections.Regarding the class, I think that’s a tough one. If part of your job responsibility is now to teach in that time slot, because it’s better for the students (presumably), then I kind of think you need to work with that. If it’s for a totally trivial reason, then yes, I would try to push for it to be moved to a better time. I guess I feel like we do have a lot of flexibility in academia to work when we want and even from home. There’s no rule that all academic work must occur between 9am-5pm. I find this aspect really helpful for being a mother and being able to maximize the time I spend with my boys. So while I definitely see where you’re coming from, and in particular would hate to be told my need to pick up from childcare was a ‘preference’, I don’t think this specific issue is something you should push on, unless the reasons for moving the class are really trivial.

  53. just wanted to add, if I were in this situation, I would make up the missed hours from 5-7 with my kids by spending time with them in the morning and coming in to work later on those days. I have a nanny and an academic husband, so the childcare pickup wouldn’t be an issue.

  54. I’m sympathetic to the larger issue and the frustration of the OP.But.
    I’m a former academic (tenure-track social science faculty) who left my faculty job because I wanted to live in the same place as my husband. I don’t envision myself ever rejoining the faculty track, as I’m not willing to relocate to anywhere-in-the-US, which is pretty much what it would take for me to have a faculty career again. And I’m now a mom, and working in academia, but in a staff role.
    Honestly either as faculty or staff I entirely expect to have one night a week during the school year when I need to be at work (this is my current setup, and my hubby handles childcare on those evenings. But then again, he also handles pickup 2 other days during the week, and dropoff a couple of others).
    Honestly I absolutely cannot imagine expecting to succeed in a faculty role (there’s a lot more variation for staff; my position involves hosting visitors and coordinating talks and conferences, often including stuff outside 8-5) without being willing to do this. The faculty I work with (both genders) will typically tell me they either are available for a dinner with a visiting speaker (e.g.) or aren’t because they’ve already given up “their night” to work that week. And the flip side, is that especially as faculty one doesn’t, in my observation, need to be in the office 8-5 either.
    In short, would it really be that difficult in this particular case to spend some time in the day at home with the kids, and have childcare in the evenings on the days it’s required? I have no idea the availability of institutional childcare in the UK, so maybe that’s out (for the evening hours), but if so perhaps a college kid would like to make some extra money picking the kids up, taking them home, and fixing them dinner? Our semesters run 14 weeks, so if we’re talking a twice-a-week class, that means this needs to be set up for only 28 days over ~4 months. I can imagine occasional glitches, but it seems to me this should be manageable.
    Gosh, I sound unsympathetic, don’t I? But honestly, in this instance this seems to me a fairly small problem. Aggravating, sure. But at least in the US system, hardly unusual and not, on balance, an undue burden (given the otherwise vast flexibility in faculty hours), it seems to me.

  55. @anon this time- I’m glad it helped.How old is your DS? I think it took me about 10 months to a year to feel comfortable with the “new me”- i.e., my new identity that included mother. And it is still definitely a work in progress. It will come, though. If you look back in the archives on my blog, there are some whiny posts about how I miss one hobby or the other. Eventually, I found the balance I needed.

  56. I was at a top-tier Ph.D. program in the social sciences when I married a fellow student. All of sudden, I got a lot of unsolicited advice from male and female faculty members (not even people on my committee – just people I would pass in the halls!) about when to have children (and if I should at all) and what to do about finding jobs together (“just give up”). Funding for us was competitive, and even though I successfully attracted external grants, my reputation within the department seemed to suffer – when money got tight, there was the perception they could just fund one of us, nevermind how that would look to hiring committees!I ended up leaving academia. I now work as staff at school where spouse will hopefully get a tenure-track position in the next year or two. We have two kids.
    I guess I’m happy. I wish I could have finished my degree and I HATE myself for not being able to stick with it – even when it made no sense for me, given my relationship, my desire to have kids, and the bitter job market for “lesser” social sciences. Part of me feels like a failure every single day. And it’s hard to work with people who treat you as less than they are, especially knowing that I could have had a degree from a more prestigious school than some of them (not that prestige matters to me, but to people who INSIST you address them as “Doctor” in all verbal communications, I gather it sort of matters to them).

  57. It sounds like they are targeting you in particular. Take it up with your boss. Not to mention that when I was in college and didn’t have kids, I would have avoided that time slot because I couldn’t have had dinner with my friends in the dorm. I can’t really imagine who would benefit from having class over dinner. It sounds fishy to me and that’s why I bet they are trying to make things hard on you. Fight it.

  58. Sending all my sympathy and no good ideas other than what all these other savvy commenters said.This is so unfair. We need a big loud movement.
    Am entering a tenure track position on, um, Monday, with the hopes that my institution will not be one of the horror stories I’ve heard of.
    Sharing Kay’s outrage, FWIW.

  59. @ Kay : good for you for taking all those steps. You write “So far the result is that I’ve been told I’m behaving in a hostile and uncollegial way, refusing to work ‘as a team’, and that having children is ‘a lifestyle choice’. Great.” What’s that saying about academia? Something like “The battles are so big because the stakes are so small?”Totally true.
    You have my sympathy.

  60. I worked in the finance industry for 15 years. I put in long hours and worked hard, got recognition, got promoted and was somewhat bored but happy. Then I became a parent. I adopted as a single/widowed person. I could no longer work long hours. I could only take a couple of business trips each year instead of 6-8. The trips I did take meant I had to have a babysitter stay overnight with my infant, which sucked. My boss appeared to be understanding and accommodating, and let me work from home one day/week and skip a lot of travel. I knew spending less face time in the office and in our other locations had a negative impact. I got a lower performance rating for the first time in my career, and my lack of “visibility” was one reason. When the layoffs began in 2008, guess who got laid off? Not the other people in my department who all had young kids and spouses. Me. The single working parent. I hope you keep fighting, Kay. We need more women like you in this fight.

  61. I’ve been forced out of the workplace by the combination of being laid off, moving cities with a double move (once to a rental, now to a more permanent situation), 2 kids, and a house remodel. All those scraps you’re complaining about, ie, mothers get the scraps of a career? I would happily take those scraps in the form of a 2-3 day/week administrative job. No one will hire me for that. I’m overqualified.

  62. Having a child DOES change what you can do with your life. It just does. You are indeed kidding yourself if you think that things will be exactly the same. We can’t do everything we want in life. Sometimes you have to decide if raising the child you chose to have is more important that your job.

  63. I am still at home precisely because I don’t want a job to tell me when I can be with my kid. But I feel your pain. I miss working and I’m making a go at working from home. I think it sucks that a country who supposedly has such “family values” still doesn’t give taking care of children a higher priority.Preach on sister!

  64. I’m an Assistant Prof (read “pre-tenure” for all you non-academic types) in the U.S. and I have two children, ages 1 and 3. I am going to join Moxie in wanting to SCREAM for you. Your colleagues, department, and, apparently, university are behaving in a manner that is just appalling. Women have children. Men have children. And in the society that most of us live in (or want to live in) both women and men must take care of those children. It’s not just for our own utility either; children are a societal good! I also firmly believe that you will do better teaching and research if you are allowed some flexibility in balancing them with your family’s needs. So it’s good for the university too!I don’t know much about academics on the other side of the pond, but over here most colleges and universities have some sort of organizational structure devoted to work-family balance. I’m sure that it’s just lip-service at some, but many take it very seriously. For comparison (not to make you feel bad, but to point out that your desires are reasonable and that your university should consider addressing these issues), my colleagues (17 men and 2 other women in my department) work flexible hours, and I see them– men and women– stepping out all the time to take an aging parent to the doctor or to chaperone a kid’s field trip or whatever. They have never said a thing about my own comings and goings. My department also recently decided to move department meetings and talks from 4:30 pm to lunch time every Tuesday so that those of us who have to pick up children and/or spend time with them can do so. (And, by the way, working flexible hours does not mean that we’re a bunch of slackers. We do great teaching and are very strong in research. We just happen to end up doing a lot of that research after the kids go to bed.) My college as a whole has a great parental leave program (and stops the tenure clock for a semester while you’re gone), has established a child care center, and has a work-life balance committee composed of three faculty members, three staff members, a high-up Dean, and the Provost. We meet monthly and spend time and money on initiatives aimed at helping people with stuff like elder-care and child-care. (For instance, we’re working now to set up a space on campus that student babysitters can use when watching the children of faculty and staff for an hour or two.)
    So. You have every right to be upset and to expect more. Fight the good fight– it’s possible for universities (and work places in general) to change their culture and norms to reflect how modern parents have to work.

  65. @Libby- to the extent that what you say is true (and I think you are right that we do have to make choices about what we can do in our life)- it is equally true for most dads. So why is it just us moms getting told that we can’t “have it all”.I really don’t think it is unreasonable to want to have kids and a career. I also don’t think it is unreasonable to decide to choose only one of those things to have in your life- but I suspect that if you choose between kids and career, you will have something else in your life, too (awesome hobbies? frequent travel?)- I don’t know ANYONE who has chosen to have one and only one thing be important in her life.

  66. @Cloud,DS is 26 months. I’ve been back at work since he was 11 months. I’d say that for the most part I’m fairly comfortable with who I am now that I’ve added being a mother to the mix.
    BUT, I think, in my particular case, the whole work issue is confounded because I’ve been dealing with this whole no-motivation-it’s-time-to-make-a-move phase for close to 5 years now. Much of it brought on by factors out of my control – new boss prior to current one who was a nightmare, shift in culture in our dept, etc. My dept was/is changing and increasingly becoming not a fit for me. And because motherhood occurred right in the middle of all this, things are intertwined. I didn’t have a baby to escape work. But it did end up being a nice way to gain some perspective about work.
    Anyhow, for the first time in my life, I find it’s hard to figure out what I really want the most. Or rather, it’s hard to figure out what I want the most considering the time and energy I have (2 years of being sleep deprived, and DS’ current tantrum-y phase is certainly not helping the situation).

  67. I am not in academia, nor is my husband, but we both work full time. There seem to be two separate issues here: 1) changing the course without your input and 2) whether it’s ever reasonable to have evening hours. Academia has always seemed to me to be a field where evening courses were a distinct possibility. It does not seem unreasonable to me, depending on whatever the background of the course and student body is to move it to an evening time slot. However, the process by which it was done seems suspect. Truthfully, I agree with Sarcasticarrie – it may require changing your childcare arrangement or working out a deal with your husband where you shift schedules that day or getting an evening babysitter to cover. It seems to me the question you are really asking is not whether having children changes the way you do your job but how your job changes your parenting. Everything we all do is a tradeoff whether it be SAHM/WAHM/WOHM. There are only so many hours per day and at some point you are going to have to prioritize how they are spent. It may not be reasonable to expect that your professional life only be conducted within the bounds of an 8-5 timeframe M-F given this professional path.

  68. I know this is slightly off-topic, but has anyone else noticed how children have become a luxury item? Like there is this belief (not stated, but demonstrated) that children serve no purpose in the greater culture so if someone chooses to have a child then they should not expect any support from other people who clearly receive no benefit from this kid?

  69. I find this talk of parenthood being a “lifestyle choice” to be, shall we say condescending.Parenthood is the default mode of society and biology. It’s the reason infertility was so very hard and isolating. Certainly, in this day and age, one can choose not to have children. And there are people for whom it’s just not going to work out for whatever reasons. But, throughout history, people grew up and had kids. It’s the survival of the species thing.
    People are still animals with the same basic animal urges to reproduce. We do have the luxury to control (somewhat) whether and when we have children. But fooling ourselves into thinking we have control is not going to help.

  70. I don’t see this as institutional sexism but as a workplace that is, perhaps, indifferent to work-life balance. I once had a summer job at a place that, a few months earlier, had had a mandatory working Saturday. A lot of people saw this as the new director making everyone snap to. But my reaction, a decade before I had kids, was, “WTF? Can she do that? Did people understand this was a risk when they took the job? What about people who have personal or professional commitments outside of office hours?”I do think there are jobs, or at least positions within most job categories, that don’t allow the employee to work regular and limited hours. I know a lot of couples in which one person (often but not always the mother) has a job and the other one has a career.
    I left academia (before I finished my dissertation) partly because of the crummy job market and partly because of the hours I’d have needed to work (see above, someone else’s point about always feeling like there’s work to do). I am very, very glad to have a 40-hour week and management that understands that I am usually the one who takes the hit when parenting demands come calling, and to have a spouse who steps up as much as his more-demanding job permits.

  71. @Anon today- or situations are so similar I’m beginning to think that you are my past self teleporting to participate in this thread. Just kidding. But really, yeah- I was in a low motivation point, too, and had been for a couple of years. I even did some career counseling to try to figure out what I wanted (it helped). Hubby and I took advantage of the fact that we both didn’t like our jobs to take a 4 month “circle pacific” trip- and were shocked that both jobs waited for us to come back. He moved on. I stayed. And then we had Pumpkin. I left for the job I have now when she was about 10 months old. I can tell you that my motivation came back, but I didn’t suddenly gain a desire to work super long hours. I haven’t found it any harder emotionally to balance things in the new job, but I do miss some of the flexibility I had from a practical standpoint.Good luck figuring out what is right for you!
    @Beth, @SarcastiCarrie- the “children are a lifestyle choice” people baffle me and drive me crazy. I always wonder who they think will be their doctors, etc. when they are old? Who will pay the taxes to provide their social security benefits? But I don’t usually go there, because so many of that crowd are so vehement in their opinions, and feel so strongly that society is unfair to them that the discussion just turns ugly and hurtful. And I don’t really have time for that.

  72. “the “children are a lifestyle choice” people baffle me and drive me crazy. I always wonder who they think will be their doctors, etc. when they are old?”Look, even if they’re planning on setting themselves on an ice floe when the time comes, can we not agree that most people, in the here and now, have some needs that are going to require a little flexibility from employers? I don’t begrudge the childfree their decisions to take several weeks of vacation at one time, even though I have to take mine in dribs and drabs to cover my parenting responsibilities. Is it so unreasonable to ask someone to take over when a parent has to leave to pick up a sick child or an adult has to go meet with an eldercare counselor because Dad’s living situation has become untenable or a homeowner has to meet with a contractor? Can we all not cut each other a little slack?

  73. Crummy internet connection= can’t read all the comments but did want to mention: many universities have ombudsmen for faculty & staff; the best don’t make you lodge a formal complaint or attach your name to it but they do keep track of these things and keep track of departments that have these problems. Oy oy oy and good luck to you.

  74. My husband & I have to work hard, at times, to ensure that we are taking equivalent shares of the work-parent hit. Thus, we set up our childcare arrangement on the premise that two days per week, he is totally in charge of pick up and drop off, and I have three days. And sometimes we have to be flexible (early meeting here, late meeting there, business trips that went from once monthly to every other week, overnight). On the days he takes her, she gets to daycare earlier so that he is at his desk earlier to compensate for leaving promptly at 5.He was surprised that people didn’t give him as much flak as he expected when he says – gotta go, time to pick up the kidlet. And we have had to adjust, as well, to more nights spent working at home after she went to bed because he had to leave the office at 5 pm in order to get her picked up before daycare closes.
    Because I am self-employed, he has become the default person who stays home in emergencies if reasonable (the snow-storm that shut our city last year actually worked the other way — my clients couldn’t make it to my office either, but he could take the bus to work, so I stayed home). But if I don’t see clients, there is less income that week.
    I have meetings at night 1-3 times per month. Sometimes those coincide with his business trips, so we have to get babysitters for those times. Yes, I’m sad that I’m not there for dinner/bedtime. Is it damaging? No, not to me or to my daughter.
    I know it’s frustrating to the OP to feel she is being shunted aside. But by focusing on only making the department change its ways, you might be overlooking other solutions for a semester. Perhaps by investing in other solutions, you can build the coalitions that other posters encouraged. You might also find that you ENJOY that 5-7 pm class!

  75. You know, I think many women and quite a few men are getting stuck in the middle of a major transition in workplace expectations. This is simply my personal reading of overall trends, so it may well be skewed:On the one hand, many of us are expected to be available at all hours to all people. It’s 10 PM? You’d better have your phone on and next to you in case there’s an office crisis three hours away. It’s 6 AM? I sent you that email at 11 PM last night, why haven’t you responded to it yet? Everything from the news to employer expectations has shifted to a 24-hour cycle.
    On the other hand, there’s extreme resistance to implementing the benefits of such a world into the normal life of a working professional. You’re still expected to be in the office during “normal” hours – but your work never stops there! Telecommuting? No, that’s for slackers who just want to lounge around in their pajamas all day. Flexible hours for employees? Well, if you aren’t dedicated enough to work whenever we need you (and we ALWAYS need you) and ignore basic needs like starting a family, caring for family members, taking time off when you’re ill, etc., then we can have 300 people desperate for your job in here tomorrow. You’ll either have to forgo all that sort of thing by pushing it onto a spouse/nanny or settle for inferior positions and blighted chances for advancement.
    Eventually, I think the new possibilities created by an always-connected, 24-hour world will go a long way towards easing (or at least compensating for) the demands of such a world. However, until employers in business, government, and academia accept those possibilities (and my guess is they’ll have to be forced to many of them by economic issues or legal means), we’ll all be stretched tighter and tighter, required to cover both old and new expectations. Unfortunately, an entire generation of families stands to suffer while employers play Paradigm’s Progress.
    Good luck, Kay. I wish I could offer you reassurance or useful advice for the present.

  76. “Way too many American jobs are structured so that a solo parent or a parent whose partner works full time can’t do them.”Now try being a parent with a chronically ill partner. No backup, extra needs. Whee.

  77. How much of this issue is about hazing?Nobody talks about it, but we all know it’s done. The newest/youngest prof must prove themselves, not just fo tenure, but because the old bastards who run the department (or, more frequently, the older childless women) want them to suffer as much as *they* have.
    One of the reasons I LEFT academia was getting fed up with all the childless old guard who thought I was spoiled for wanting to be married and have children some day, as well as a career.

  78. Kay,When I first read your comment I thought “If only she was in the UK! Over here, it’s the law that employers *have* to consider requests for flexible working hours for parents of children under 6!” And then I saw from your follow-up comment that you *are* in the UK. So is it possible to make that law work in your favour? I know they don’t have to go along with your requests, but they do have to at least consider them.
    It was good to have the follow-up, anyway, and I really hope you post more about how this works out for you.

  79. I am a tenured professor in the US, one of the 4 women tenured in a faculty of almost 100 in the business school.I completely understand your frustration, but I also think you are very much deluded if you think teaching in the evening is not a part of you job. Once a semester, I had evening classes, for students who work during the day. It’s about the students’ needs, not yours. I hired a nanny, but mostly my husband tried to make sure that he did not work late on those evenings. I doubt we are talking M-F here, you are probably talking about 2 nights a week. Bankers and lawyers works weekends, nights, early mornings, and they do not receive special salary for the inconvenience. I don’t know where on earth you got that idea. I worked as an investment advisor for years before grad school and we worked all the time and received the regular annual salary. Almost no one, with serious “career” goals works 9-5 in this day and age. Is it unfair? Yes. Is it our preference? No. But I think unless you have a valid reason that these colleagues are singling you out, I think you would make life harder for yourself by complaining about it. Plus, I am research faculty, no one, no one I know, who is a research faculty, works 9-5. That’s when you may be in the office on certain days, but you work on your research on the weekend, at nights after the kids go to sleep. Yes, children and precious and important and we should make an effort to accommodate mother, fathers, parents. But you also have to live with the reality of the labor market. If you really manage to advance in your career with a 35 hour week, wow, I need to have that job. Because no one I know, who is a research, tenure track or tenured faculty works that little.

  80. Sorry for all the typos, typing from the Crackberry sucks. It completes or updates your words for you, by guessing what you intend to type and it does not always get it right. I am too tired to fight with it.

  81. It sucks, and it is broken, and many things should be different. There are implications both large and small on many levels. There should be more flexibility and support for people raising children, who are our future. And it should make us angry that there isn’t. Things should be different.But they aren’t. And they wont be different in the time frame that you are currently raising small children.
    My gut feel is that you have two options. Either get flexible childcare (through spousal support, nanny, sitters, family, whatever) or yes, admit that you can’t do your job the same way you used to. Your life isn’t the way you used to live. Why would this aspect of it be different?
    For what it is worth, after my 2nd child was born, I looked for and found a job that had stable, union, core hours. My spouse still does the 7-7 crazy support thing, and I don’t. We trade off of the various ups and downs of our jobs. He works from home if a child is ill at least 50% of the time, and I use vacation days or banked hours to cover appointments, therapy, etc. I can leave my job at 4. He can arrange to get in a little later one week if someone has art camp and has to do the drop off.

  82. @lolismum- I think the reference to bankers and lawyers getting pay to compensate for their late nights and weekend hours was a reference to the relatively high base rate of pay those professions make, particularly relative to an untenured professor in liberal arts.And I have to say- I have serious career goals, and have achieved a fair amount of success in my career, and I work 8ish – 4:30 most days. I’ve kept the same basic hours for going on 10 years now. The only thing that has changed with the addition of children is that I used to go in later and work later. I’m not a morning person. But my kids are, so I shifted my schedule.

  83. I’m an academic in a UK university (research fellow, so non-permanent — basically I apply for grant money every 2-3 years and hope that we get some so that I can keep my job). I have a number of female colleagues who have kids, but almost all of them took their 3 months full pay maternity leave (at my uni you can take 12 months leave: you get 3 months full pay or 6 months half pay, and then you’re on your own. I think. It’s been a while since I had to think about this, and it was complicated enough to calculate even then) and then put their kids in full time daycare and went back to work. I took the full year, and then went back to work very, very part time (as in, 1 day per week for another year, 2.5 days per week for the following year, and am now 4 days per week). I am VERY lucky that my department was happy for me to work as little or as much as I wanted to. BUT. I recently applied for a permanent teaching job in my department (where I have been teaching in the exact field that the post was advertised for, for the last 10 years, in addition to doing my research, for no additional pay, because I like it, and I like the people that I work with, and I thought it would help my CV), and I didn’t even make the longlist. The (female, with kids in fulltime daycare from 3 months old) colleague who informed me that I didn’t get longlisted said that it was because my publication list wasn’t strong enough. When I asked her what would have been “strong enough,” she informed me “One major paper per year, since finishing your PhD”. Well, I have that — until my mat leave and part time work. AND, if you actually calculate the full-time equivalent of time that I have worked since coming back from mat leave, it’s about 9 months (or rather, it was when I applied for the job). So, not enough time (by my colleague’s calculation) to get another paper out. I am quite sure that I was passed over because I chose to have a family *and to let that affect the way that I conduct the rest of my life* instead of pretending (by going back to work as soon as possible, and taking work home every single day) that I didn’t have kids, like the rest of my female colleagues with families. And I will concede that some women *want* to do that (go back to work and work all the time), but shit, some of us don’t — and that doesn’t mean that I don’t love my job and don’t have ambitious career goals. Can you tell I’m still pissed? I also think that I was passed over because I was an internal candidate, and didn’t do the traditional thing of moving from lab to lab (and thus city to city) to “get experience working with lots of different people”. Instead I broke the “rules” and stayed in my department, which is arguably one of the best places in the world to do the type of research that I do, so going elsewhere wouldn’t really have served much purpose in my case.So, yes, I think that academia, while having the reputation of being much more family friendly than some other fields, is only friendly to a point. You can probably work part time, you can almost certainly work flexi time or from home whenever you want to (my father is an academic, and he certainly was never in the office from 9-5; I don’t know of any of my colleagues who work 9-5; I work in a research-heavy, computing based area, and my father is a musician, so although it will certainly vary from field to field, not working traditional hours is pretty common in academia). But, the downside of all that flexibility is that you are then supposed (by some unwritten rule) to work every hour of the day. And be willing to up-sticks and move to the University of Armpit, Anywhere to take whatever measly teaching/research post you can get your hands on to prove that you’re willing to sacrifice your life to get on in academia.
    Gnarg. Have now worked myself into a tizz again over all this.

  84. @cassieblanca – Wow. Just wow. “female with kids in daycare from 3 months old” and “instead of pretending I didn’t have kids like the rest of my female colleagues with families”. I guess there really is a limit to supporting other women’s choices, huh? Your attitude and lack of understanding of their position is fairly remarkable in 2010.

  85. Erk. SO sorry. It really, really wasn’t my intention to belittle anyone else’s choices. I guess I’m just too close to this issue, and have felt too hurt by people who I thought were friends, and who I thought would respect *my* choice, despite their choice (i.e., my female colleagues with children) to write about it without sounding all pissy.The point I was trying, poorly it seems, to make, is that I think that women in academia are still expected to toe the old-boy-network line. Are, in fact, still expected to be men. It is not so long since women in academia were a massively unusual thing, and since all academics were men with “faculty wives”. Women are now much more widely represented in academia, but I think they are still expected to behave as if they were men with someone to look after their house and kids for them. To be able to drop everything and teach that evening course, go to every conference, take marking and writing home with them every single day, and know that there is someone who will be able to pick up the kids and feed them and play with them and put them to bed. Oh, and to constantly be moving around the world for a job, and have a spouse who is willing to just tag along for the ride. (This is no different from other jobs, of course — it’s just that academia has an air of freedom that other jobs don’t.)
    I know that some of my female colleagues would have chosen to do all of that anyway, and absolutely more power to them, but I didn’t, and I feel (rightly or wrongly) like I’m being punished for it.
    Anyway, please accept my apologies, anyone who was hurt by what I said above.

  86. I’m completely livid thinking about this scenario.In response to other commenters, I found going to university pretty flexible as far as parenting went, but I would have HATED such a time slot as a student or an instructor. I avoided supper time course slots and all the “special talks”hosted by departments at 4:30, meant I got to exactly Zero of them.
    I know professor friends to have had varying experiences around parenting and professional life balance. From great to people asking why more research wasn’t done during mat leave.
    IME, it is much more likely you can bring your children to work when needed etc. if you are an academic versus staff positions, however.
    Doing graduate work part time while working full time and having kids made last year hell and I’m stepping back. . At my work, we seem to understand family life is important. At school, the attitude seemed to be the scholarly life is primary.

  87. I LOVE what Tonina said about the job world wanting both old and new expectations: 9-5 AND after hours – flexibility on their terms, but not on ours.I work with a woman with no kids and a man with who never goes home. I’m made to feel guilty if I don’t put in the hours even though there is no “work” to do.
    Where I’m lucky is they are very competative and do everything possible to nab the big projects so I get left with nothing which is ok with me because that means I can go home at a decent hour.
    At my old job if there were an emergency people would run and I’d be left holding the bag. Here it’s like they don’t want me to do the big things because that would steal their thunder. I’m the junior member anyway and I would rather be with my small children.
    I am not what you’d call ambitious, but I strive for perfection. To make up for being put on the backburner I started taking grad school classes online. Since there’s not much room for me to make a name for myself the conventional way I might as well get more training to compensate.
    I am not bitter about being sidelined, because I truly don’t want to be working 10-hr days and weekends. I just find it funny how they work so much and there’s nothing left for me to do, but then I get dirty looks because I’m not “pulling my weight.” Paradox, any one??

  88. I have had a female boss with young children who considers spending time with children beyond the bare minimum a preference. SHe loves them, but she really honestly says her career is more important to her life and to society.I’m okay with her feeling that way; I’m not okay when she thinks me wanting to maximize time with family is wrong.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *