BFF often jokes with me that I am "wombist." This is a term that she coined for the outrage that I feel every time (and let's just note, it's been a lot of times) I'm expected to adjust my schedule to accommodate people's child-rearing responsibilities. (In other words, this is not just directed at women. In fact, my rage is regularly directed at men.) Before people get their panties in a twist, I'm not talking about being angry at having to adjust my schedule when someone has a sick child, has a childcare mishap, or even an unusual circumstance (the first day of school, a medical appointment, child's Christmas play, eighth grade graduation, field trip, or recital). I've also had a number of pregnant students in my classes, who were to give birth during the semester or just at the tail end of it, for whom I've been happy to arrange accommodation. So my issue is not that I should not have to accommodate anything to do with kids or something like that. Dude, I like kids. I like parents. I want parents to be able to be there for their kids. I'm on board with that whole thing.
I'm talking about being the first person who is asked to change her teaching schedule in order to accommodate a colleague with children. Or being expected to teach night classes on multiple nights (I'm ok with one night class a week - not more) because I don't have kids. I'm talking about being expected to meet at 3 PM on a Friday because Mondays and Wednesdays (the only other days this colleague is on campus, because of the kids), which would be more convenient for me and for the rest of the committee, that colleague takes hir kids to gymnastics at 3 PM. Not to meets, but to practice. (And yes, I know that kids need activities and whatnot, but if you work, I feel like you sign the kid up for the 5 PM or 7 PM class, not the 3 PM class, especially if it meets multiple days a week, and when you're only on campus three days a week in the first place. Or shit, sign the kid up for lessons that meet on the days you don't teach. Don't put me at the mercy of both your reduced teaching schedule and at the mercy of your kids' activity schedule both.) I'm talking about the fact that for my first four years here I taught 5 days a week precisely because I didn't have kids, and it was made to seem like I had to because I didn't, while colleagues with kids got to teach 2 or 3 days a week. I'm talking, basically, about feeling like I don't get the same bonus things as other people, not because of anything to do with my productivity or my value as a worker (because let's note for the record I'm a higher achiever work-wise than these people), but rather because I haven't happened to birth any babies.
[Caveat: actually this isn't even entirely true. I notice that my women colleagues with children who don't also have husbands in the department do not get the same benefits that couples in the department with children, and even without children, get. In other words, accommodations are made for people who are in heteronormative university-sanctioned units.]
Now, look. I get it. Parenting is hard. There are lots of responsibilities. I don't want to be an asshole to parents, and I understand that kids (especially young kids) require a lot of time and attention. I'm not anti-kid, anti-parent, or anti-family. But I think my issue is not with parents as a monolithic group. I think my issue is rather with the fact that a pattern has emerged where I'm expected to be a "team player" - in ways that actually do harm to my ability to be a good teacher and a good colleague, as well as do harm to my individual courses and to my students, ultimately - when I never see a return on the "team player" investment that I make. Also, I do not think that it's all parents who do this. Actually, people who are inclined to take advantage anyway and who are entitled assholes anyway use the parenting card as just one more weapon in their arsenal of assholery. And it's a pretty effective weapon: if you say no when you're asked to accommodate one of these people (and typically it's not the people themselves who ask you - it's somebody at one or two removes who's got to deal with the fallout caused by the entitled person), then it makes you look like a shitty anti-kid person. I'm not a shitty anti-kid person. But I am a person who feels... affronted... when I feel like I'm being taken advantage of.
So. One of these situations arose this week, and I took two full days to think about the request that was made of me before I responded. And while I did agree to be a team player (this in itself was a very fair request - the issue was not this request in itself but the fact that my entire teaching schedule for 2009-2010 has been determined by such requests), I made it as clear as day that I should not be asked again anytime in the foreseeable future to change my teaching schedule/course rotation around for any reason. I made it clear that I want my name moved to the bottom of the "this person is very accommodating and nice" list, and if it's not, all that people can expect from me is a big fat no.
Tenure has its privileges.
5 years ago