Not really. But sometimes it seems like my department must be the most meeting-happy in all of academia. Department cultures vary on this score, I realize. "A lot of meetings" means different things to different faculty. My last position at Smallish Private University (SPU) was in a department where monthly faculty meetings were the end of it. Two meetings a month caused eyes to roll. Committee business, whenever possible, was conducted via email.
Fast forward to current department at Anonymous Big University (ABU). Meetings monthly, which is pretty standard. But wait, and weep for me won't you: day-long focused meetings three times this term to discuss changes to the curriculum and department mission, plus lunchtime special topics meetings sprinkled liberally throughout every six to eight weeks. Plus the random all day Saturday 'retreat' every semester. Specific purpose: uncertain.
I realize that I am getting a paycheck from these good people, and that they pay me for my time and effort in collaboratively working toward department and university success. There is work to do, meetings are part of that work, and I am not exempt from bureaucratic tedium any more than the next professor. (Please note that the aforementioned meetings are in addition to department and university committee service, which weighs on us all.) I am on board with the monthly meetings, the lunch meetings, the day-long meetings.
The all-day Saturday meetings stick in my craw.
It's wrong of me. I'm not a happy camper, there is no "i" in team, every time I point a finger there are four pointing back at me, fostering collaborative department culture is critical, 'best practices' suggest that creative ......... blah blah blah. Around this point, my inner uberscholar who is busy quoting from Mentor in a Manual is drowned out by the eerie noise that all of the teachers make on the Peanuts holiday specials.
See, I am a single mom. I am divided on what this means for my career. In other words I am a hypocrite. I fully expect that my status as parent will not count against me in any official way. My work is quite good. I am in a strong place, tenure-wise. I've heard the phrase "go up early" several times. I would not expect that my having children would be held against me. If I were passed over for opportunities on this basis I would be apoplectic. Yet when I hear that a meeting has been scheduled for all day on a Saturday, I immediately feel slighted. Don't they remember I'm a single mom??! It does not help that I am the only unpartnered parent in the department, as my own beloved lives in another state.
I lose more than a day's recreation on retreat Saturdays. It costs me around $40-50 to secure child care for the hours I need to be able to get to the retreat site, stay for all of the goal-setting and mission-stating, and get back home. I lose a day's leisure and the cost of my monthly phone bill. And that is if I can get childcare for all day on a Saturday. On Saturdays when there is a sporting event, festival, or concert I might as well be waiting for Godot. If I can't go I seem a bad department citizen due to circumstances not of my choosing. If I draw attention to this tangle, I seem like a bad and bitter citizen.
This is only one event of many. Regardless of purpose or type of event, they are all essentially the same. Here's the template: required event critical to (department success, executive position in professional group, chance at getting major grant, ad nauseum) comes up. Dr. O gets notice (in department mailbox, through email, in snail mail) that her attendance is highly encouraged. Said event or activity is during time when conventional childcare already purchased for a small fortune is not available. Making necessary accommodations for attendance will cost Dr. O two to three times the monetary ding felt by other non-single-parent faculty, will bring about ire from ex on 'Dr. O. is too dedicated and works too much to be good mom' with vague implications of potentially reopening custody case, or will otherwise engender strife
My options for response are limited. Usually I smile, nod and dissemble (if in person) , or else breathe deeply and wait until I can do 'office hours voice' (on phone) or compose reply that doesn't include the word "asshat" (email). I only swallow my tongue half the time these days, while choking on my gracious acceptance.
Now what? Here is where I get stuck. Now what? I don't want to be accommodated, treated differently because I am a single mom. I also don't want to have to pay more, do more, panic more than ninety percent of my tenure cohort all in the name of equal treatment. Even if it does give me fodder for meeting with the other ten percent -- the rest of the single moms -- so we can laugh until we cry about the absurdity of it all over mojitos at our conferences.
Since I won't pack my children up and send them to relatives to raise, and since I won't give up on thirteen years' and six figures' worth of education, the change isn't going to come on my end. I won't be one of those single moms who tallies up the emotional and financial costs of academia and packs it in to work in an real estate instead dammit.
Academia is going to have to change. Period.
Stop flipping me off. This isn't as unreasonable as it sounds. If my personal circumstances, common and banal as they are, prevent me from being fully competitive in my field despite my competitive performance and skill, then academia is failing at its own project. This isn't a "Shakespeare's sister" argument. I'm not the rare high-achieving woman hampered by a predominantly male field of play. Women's enrollment in college, in graduate school, is climbing -- and divorce rates are not similarly dropping. More and more highly trained mothers, who will not abdicate a beloved career or who cannot even if they want to because of student loans and other financial responsibilities, will find themselves raising children alone. More and more academic fathers, also, will find themselves as single parents -- or will find themselves shouldering a larger proportion of the parenting load as their wives' careers and incomes are necessary to the family economy. We have to dump the academic model which assumes that a professor will have a stay at home partner to manage 'mundania,' leaving our hero's energies for Higher Things.