Sciencewoman ponders seen and unseen parenting responsibilities. In a discussion about parceling out responsibilities for a large project, the department chair expressed his desire not to unduly belabor a Department Dad because of his Very Special Parenting Responsibilities; Sciencewoman, however, he had no problem assigning the task to her. Until reminded by her colleague that Sciencewoman, too, is a parent. Why was Daddy’s time more worth protecting than Mommy’s? Well, one hopes the department chair has learned a lesson.
What really burns my shorts even more, however, are the resentful commenters who think that parents need to suck it up and not get “special treatment”.
For example, J says
I agree this was ridiculous, but I’d also be upset since I don’t think parents should be given special slack for the sake of the kids (even small kids) – at least not all the time. Everyone has things in their personal life they’d like to attend to, and I figure we should all share the burden, and make sure that at least over time things even out. So maybe I get a break on one service task because I can’t really do one element of it due to daycare/whatever child related thing, but I’d hope I would remember the colleague who picked up the slack that time so I could repay them in the appropriate circumstances.
I have no problem if working parents are given some slack as long as the workers without children are given the exact same amount of slack. It is far better that some things go undone than it is for one group of workers to be forced to do more than others without receiving additional compensation.
And mxracer652 says
Since work & children was brought up, why no discussion of how working parent (male or female) gets cut a ridiculous amount of slack because they have kids?
It’s just another form of preferential treatment toward one group.
Please explain to me why YOUR responsibilities are more important than what I do with the free time in my life? After all, your “responsibility” is a choice of which I have no voice in.
It is simple economics. People who work longer and produce more are worth more money, therefore they get paid more. People with kids can’t work as long, therefore they get paid less. This is not some nefarious conspiracy.
Let’s tackle that “it’s all your responsibility, not my choice” and “you aren’t worth as much if you are raising kids”.
People with these views seem to forget that if society is going to continue, someone needs to have – and raise – kids. And that takes time and effort. And we need to somehow allow, as a group, for this task to be accomplished, because we all benefit. Even – especially! – those of us who don’t have kids. After all, the kid you’re raising today may be the person wiping my ass someday in the nursing home. I’m sure not going to have any kids of my own around to do it, and the cats are pretty worthless when it comes to things like that. What is it worth, to society, to have some people willing to take on the work of producing the next generation? It ought to be worth quite a lot, but so many people continually pretend that having kids is all “an individual choice” and has nothing to do with our collective selves.
Do working parents get cut a tremendous amount of slack because they have kids? Please show me the workplace where this happens. It’s sure not in academia, where one is expected to produce just as much research and published papers as one’s peers who aren’t devoting any time to raising the next generation. In fact, some women who take advantage of a university’s “stop the tenure clock” option find themselves penalized: their colleagues think that since they had all that “extra time” off from teaching, they ought to have produced more scholarship than normal.
Raising children is not a hobby, and your video game time is not equivalent in importance. That’s not to say that your boss should think it perfectly normal that you spend every waking hour at work. People who whine about singles being disadvantaged compared to those slacker parents forget that the larger issue is about how to make our workplaces more humane for everyone.
The whiners often see child-care policies as just about children. What we should all be talking about is how to design our workplaces so that they can accommodate all kinds of life issues, whether it’s a new baby (birthed or adopted), a devastating family illness, or the need to care for aged parents. Nearly everybody is going to encounter at least one of these at some point in their lives. The question is not “why special policies for those breeders” but “how do we accommodate the realities of life and make sure the workplace still functions?”
Advocating for parent-friendly policies is not just for those with children. Everyone in society benefits if people are able to raise children (to perpetuate society) and continue as productive members of the workforce. We all benefit from having the workplace recognize that people have lives, things happen in those lives, and we occasionally need time to attend to them.
We have to stop thinking narrowly about just what affects me, personally, right at this moment in my life. We have responsibilities to each other as citizens. I think we have a strong responsibility to speak up especially for issues that are not our “own” personally, because many times a person who doesn’t “own” the issue will be taken more seriously and can have more impact than a person who does. Men speaking out for gender equity, whites for racial equality, straight people as allies of gays and lesbians, and non-parents advocating for better parental policies – this is how we ought to approach the world.
In the end, it all comes down to justice, and if you are advocating only for your own self-interest, you are not playing the part of a good citizen. Whose issue is this? It’s yours, it’s mine, it’s everyone’s.