Saturday, October 03, 2009

Daddy Time

Willow and Junebug are on the West Coast, halfway through a 6-day excursion, which leaves me home with the twins during a long weekend (half day Thursday and inservice Friday for parent-teacher conferences). Everyone's been saying things like "will you be ok?" and "let us know if you need any help" and things like that, comments that, while of course well-intentioned, also reveal the differing expectations for academic mothers and fathers.

Of course I'll be ok. Rambunctious and Imperia are almost six. They play well together; they are well-behaved (if, well, rambunctious), well-adjusted, and easy to entertain. And if not, they fit nicely into a closet (I joke). So far we've had a fantastic time: playdates, the Children's Museum, soccer practice, Saturday brunch with friends.

But even this afternoon, after all the activities, and the scheduled quiet time, we were great. They played in the back yard, collecting grass clippiings for the nest they were building for the butterflies in the butterfly bush, while I cut the grass and moved some of the summer stuff into the garage.

Then we went in and they colored while I made dinner (pasta, tomatoes, limas, milk, pears), and we cleaned up the kitchen together, and they colored some more while I folded a couple of loads of laundry. Kind of what we do every night. Imperia got a little sad at bed time, missing mommy after a phone call out west, but barring that, this was a pretty average fun Saturday at Chez Horace.

BUT. I've barely thought about my teaching or scholarship since I picked the kids up on Thursday afternoon, and of course this is precisely why these distinctions get made: because so many women are doing that second-shift work, especially since female academic have those flexible schedules that are so easily and blithely carved into. That I am doing the second shift is not uncommon for our household (though admittedly, Willow typically does more of this than I do), but it always makes work-life balance difficult.

I'm in a lucky spot right now. I have almost a full year before my critical year for tenure begins, and I've already met my benchmarks for publishing, have earned a minor teaching award, have a raft of strong evals, and do more service than is good for me. I would be shocked if my tenure case at this institution posed more difficulty than simply the labor of compiling the file (no mean feat, I understand). But I was reading Earnest English, and hearing her talk about the anxietieis of new parenthood coinciding with the new demands of TT faculty life. My comments there were that it can be done and is done often, and that early baby time is the worst time to try to gauge how hard parenting will be. I did it with twins (thoughas a Dad, not a Mom), and am kind of doing it again, and it was hard, but it happened. It would've been much harder were I woman.

All of this makes me a bit more bothered by the questions, not because they assume that I can't do the job, but because so many mothers in the same scenario would not get nearly the same sympathetic concern.

OK, so this post went ina direction I didn't expect, but there it is. And now, since this is my only alone time of the day, I'm off to read for this week. It's Beckett week intro to drama, and so I have to find a way to teach 200-level non-majors how to love the wait for Godot.


Renaissance Girl said...

Thanks for this post, especially its unexpected directions.

jo(e) said...

I appreciate the ways you are thinking about gender here.

When my husband used to travel for work, leaving me home with several small children and stacks of papers to grade for my classes, no one ever asked, "Will you be okay?"

Sisyphus said...

Lima beans! How could you? :)

natalie said...

Love this, Horace. So glad that you and my husband are on the same train here. I've been working on a paper with some co-authors looking into the barriers that women in my field experience, and having a strong support network (especially spouses) has come up time and again. Hope Willow & Junebug are having a great time!

Earnest English said...

Horace, you totally rock! Thanks for your support!

I keep coming back to your statement about how "early baby time is the worst time to try to gauge how hard parenting will be," especially on the hard days, like today when Absurdist Baby decided he would fall asleep in my arms but NOT go to bed. I'm crossing my fingers it gets easier -- I guess it has to because people do have more babies!

Horace said...

Jo(e): I'm doing a couple of conferences this year, and you can bet that I'll be proactive about this, asking a few friends to make sure they call or drop in on Willow to offer a bit of respite.

Sis: I know. I'm a terrible father. I should've given them chocolate cake. Cacao beans are vegetables, no?

E.E.: It does. It gets easier monthly. In other ways, as I'm sure been reminded, it gets harder, but not in the How-will-I-carve-out-ten-seconds-to-brush-my-teeth harder. And AB will learn to sleep--one of the greatest reliefs of parenthood in fact.