Parenting While Academic: Issues of Childcare in the Early Academic Career (Roundtable) (Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA))
Organization: Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
Event: Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
Insensitivity to the demands of childcare is nowhere explicitly codified in any academic department or organization, but the formal structures and informal customs of the modern academic organization produce a bias that disproportionately affects the most vulnerable members of the academic hierarchies. Scholarship and childcare compete for time and attention. Extracurricular expectations — conference travel, participation in departmental committees, archival research, interviews & campus visits, &c. — take on new dimensions of difficulty. Graduate stipends and adjunct pay are prohibitively inadequate for the costs of having and raising children, even when supplemented with secondary incomes. Organized childcare at institutions, departments, and conferences is still a rarity. Frequently, the underlying assumptions that engender these obstacles — assumptions about the ability of parents to leave young children with partners, family, or friends; the affordability of childcare; the freedom parents have to balance their priorities — tend to presuppose an idealized nuclear family model and punish parents without the support of that model. These inequities are magnified for women who pursue both parenthood and academic work; graduate students also remain particularly vulnerable, as their situations rarely afford them even the barest securities of family leave time, adequate insurance, or accommodations in scheduling.
While discussions are being raised in some quarters about family leave for faculty and students, longer windows to achieve tenure, and integrated childcare opportunities, improvements are slow and are inadequately distributed. The persistent practical problems remain.
This roundtable invites participants to share their experiences with caring for children while pursuing graduate education, tangling with the job market, or navigating the first years of an academic career. The aim of the roundtable is to discuss ongoing challenges and concerns associated with “parenting while academic,” to address the norms and assumptions that hamper effective change, and to share insights and resources across a diverse range of experience.