I should say up front that I work in a fairly family-friendly department. They were fantastic when I interviewed (Minnow was just 1 month old) and my colleagues have occasionally asked after her development. I brought her to class once last semester and nobody said anything negative.
And there’s a couple of really committed Dads in the department.
Generally, that’s great. I’d love see all dads actively involved in their kids lives, and I’d prefer to work with colleagues who understand that there is life outside of science.
But what’s not so great is when I see those colleagues getting cut slack explicitly because they are Dads, yet I am not cut any slack because I am a Mom.
This was brought home in vivid relief for me the other day.
There’s a massive professional Service Task that is being undertaken by the members of our department. As the newbie, I wasn’t here when the plum assignments were handed out, yet I was implicitly and explicitly expected to become quite involved with the Service Task. I’m still trying to figure out what I can get away with saying “no” to, so I got stuck with a mountain of logistical work related to the project.
Fine, whatever, it’s not really the sort of service I wanted to do and I’m really feeling like I’ve got more than enough on my plate right now, but I’ll be a good sport and pitch in. (I’ve probably been acculturated to be a good woman and accept that its my place to do what the men hand to me, but that’s not the point of this post.)
So I am in a Service Task related meeting with the childless male colleague Chair of Service Task and childless male colleague Also Untenured and we are trying to figure out how to divide up responsibilities. Chair of Service Task asks me to handle part of a sub-task, related to but in addition to that which I had already agreed to do.
At this point, I say “I thought that Active Dad was in chart of that sub-task.”
And Chair of Service Task says: “He is, but I didn’t want to burden him with anything since he’s got a little one at home.”
I’m sure I flushed. I remember being at a loss for words.
Fortunately, Also Untenured came to my defense: “So does she.”
So Active Dad gets cut slack because he’s got a 3 year old, and ScienceWoman is supposed to pick up after him? No way. If I were Zuska, I would have puked on his shoes.
Since I am not Zuska, I merely told Chair of Service Task that as chair, it was really his responsibility to make sure that everyone was doing what they had agreed to do. And I silently thanked Also Untenured for stepping up for me. I probably should have thanked him audibly.
Older male colleagues (there are no older female colleagues) are so accommodating to the Active Dads. They praise the guys’ involvement with their children’s lives. Yet these same older male colleagues don’t understand why myself and the one other mom don’t want to do things like have all-weekend retreats or 5 pm meetings. Women’s parenting responsibilities are completely unseen by our senior colleagues.
I hope that as the older male colleagues slowly retire that the younger generation will be more equitable and empathetic. At the very least, I hope that 5 pm meetings will go out the window as people like Active Dad take the reins of leadership. After all, at least they’ll understand that daycare closes at 6 and bedtime’s at 7:30.