Wednesday, February 16, 2011

more of family-friendly policies

Dr. Mr. Palimpsest has the flu, so I'm taking over his two classes today. Luckily, both kids are reasonably healthy. Bunny is jumping around like, well, a bunny, and Pumpkin has a bit of a cold, but nothing too dire. I've mostly lost my voice, but otherwise I'm golden. At least I don't have the flu!

I've mentioned before that our department chair is a gift from the academic gods, and worth every ounce of her weight in gold. We are incredibly sorry that she's leaving at the end of this academic year.

Here's example of her awesomeness: One of my colleagues is adopting a little girl from China. According to Tiny U policy, she only gets 2 weeks off, plus her courses must be covered by her colleagues out of the goodness of their hearts. My colleague successfully argued with the department chair and now has A) 6 weeks off (not all of it paid, I believe); and B) $2,000 to be paid to each colleague who takes on one of her courses for those 6 weeks. Our department chair managed to eek the money out of our non-existent budget, because she believes so strongly in family-friendly workplaces. Yay, department chair!

Now to drop the other shoe: I'm taking on my colleague's intro course for 6 weeks. It's not in my field, but related (think, like, intro to world history)*. And, yes, I'm taking on another 70 students, in addition to the 70 in my intro to Cultural class, and the 60 in my intro to Bioanth class, and the 15 in my upper-level seminar. Ack! And I'm already having trouble getting anything done this semester.

On the other hand, it's $2,000 that can go toward childcare this summer. (We're currently looking at taking both kids out of childcare this summer, to save the money, unless I can get money through a grant to pay for childcare and let me spend some time working on a new project.) Also, it's my contribution to a more family-friendly workplace.

UPDATE: H1N1 is running rampant through our community. That may be the culprit in our most recent edition of the plague chronicles.

*Yes, there are faculty members in my colleague's field who would be better suited to take over this class. In fact, one of them teaches this intro course every Fall semester. She refused to take on her colleague's course, because it would be "too hard" to teach 70 more students, on top of her three (tiny) upper-division seminars. Also, she's complete dead wood who refuses to even develop a new course unless she gets a course release to make up for the lost time. Oh, and she hates my colleague for refusing to hide a previous colleague's alcoholism, which eventually led to his forced retirement for passing out in class and making students visit his house at night, while he was drunk. Aren't academic politics fun?


  1. A few questions and comments:

    a. Yikes, H1N1! Hope you are all healthy again soon!!

    b. Good for you for taking the course. $2000 + helping your colleague = everyone happier. You'll have some breathing room later with your summer and sabbatical.

    c. I have a suggestion for a future post or perhaps simply a comment. Shortly after Bunny was born, you argued strongly that you could combine archaeology with parenthood--no one (perhaps women in particular) needed to give up one for the other. I think you meant it in contrast to the messages many of us got in graduate school. Obviously, both arguments (combine kids with your career! DON'T combine kids with your career!) strike me now as part true and part false. Is there anything you would say NOW to yourself then?

  2. Thanks! I've complained a lot about our health problems, but frankly it could be worse. Pumpkin's best little friend has pneumonia, and one of our friends in English had pneumonia after she had H1N1.

    I'll have to think about your comment! Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about the situation at this point. The fact that I'm sick and tired (literally, you understand!) probably contributes to my overall negative mood about balance issues right now. I'm going to think about this for a longer post, since it is an excellent question.

  3. I can tell you what my advice to new/soon-to-be parents in academia would be:

    Don't think that the massive flexibility of an academic job means you can go without full-time (all day, five days a week) daycare for more than a semester or so.

    We did fine with Bunny because I was the daycare for the first year, then 80% of the daycare the second year (the other 20% was professional). It meant I barely spent any time on my academic career those two years, but we were happy with it that way. Once I started teaching at Tiny U myself, it got more difficult, even though we increased Bunny's professional childcare time to three then four days a week.

    With the arrival of a second child, a lot of the gains we'd made from increased professional childcare (and just Bunny getting older) went out the window. This is Pumpkin's third semester, and we're just now up to four days a week of professional childcare--even though Palimpsest and I are both teaching 12 credits right now. Though not ideal, this is manageable...until someone gets sick (and with two kids in daycare, somebody's always going to get sick). Then you realize that the day home with the baby is a luxury you might not be able to afford, because you're always just half-a-day (at best) from falling behind. Lose a few hours to sick kids (or sick parents) or to weather-caused late starts, and BOOM, you're behind. With no time to get caught up.