Happy Mother’s Day

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I am not, myself, a mother. Nor am I a father. So I have no personal grounds to make any comments about the nature of parenthood within an academic structure. No endearing little stories, no heartwarming tales of family life.

In fact, I almost posted the book’s entry on children as today’s excerpt of the day. But once I looked at it, I decided it was too much of a buzzkill for the Mother’s Day holiday. So instead, youngsters, I’d like to encourage you to leave the room while I talk to your parents, those loving chairs and deans and provosts who provide you with shelter and sustenance.

<are they gone?>

Okay, listen. You’ve just hired a bunch of people in their early 30s. It’s the first decent job they’ve ever had, after years of living on leftover pizza and whatever they could take from the buffets at conferences. They’re paying for student loans, they’re maybe buying a house, they’re trading in the ’98 Corolla for something reliable. And god bless ’em, some of them are going to have babies. It’s the American Dream.

So you need to knock it the hell off with your snarky comments about “self-inflicted time management problems” and “the mommy track” and “engaged in an alternative field of productivity.” These people you’ve hired are people, not just scholars. They have lives outside the manicured lawns of your hallowed grounds—and they deserve lives that are bigger than their jobs. Our grandparents went on strike to get 40-hour weeks, they took nightsticks across the shoulders to have weekends. Contrary to what Productive! magazine proclaims, “work-life balance” is not a matter of individual struggle, but rather of collective responsibility.

I don’t care that your P&T guidelines indicate that assistant professors are expected to serve on three committees a year. Maybe you need fewer committees instead of more artificial burdens.

As I said in today’s preface, I don’t have kids. So that also means that I oughtn’t to be the person who tries to invent solutions that will help people with kids. That would be one of the subentries under the dictionary definition of “paternalism.” Maybe, instead, I should ask people with kids what would make their lives more manageable, and then try to make those resources and strategies possible.

And yes, Productive! magazine has an exclamation point in its title. And five women featured on the covers of its 33 online editions.