Thursday, 29 November 2012

Academic parenthood – a thing to keep quiet about?

Nowadays, the success of different universities, institutes, schools and departments is measured on the basis of peer reviewed articles produced and grants granted. All academics should be highly productive and many universities have set individual real or perceived targets for their staff. For example, they have to produce 1-3 high quality peer reviewed articles per year – not to mention the pressure to produce books.

As an academic without a permanent post, I manage my own work load and try to get in teaching, grants and other income, while trying to finish off the old projects and produce articles and get them pass peer review. Currently, I have deadlines for peer reviewed articles at the end of November, mid-January and end of February. Sadly, this ‘rumba’ slows down the writing up/editing my long-term project.

Nevertheless, when dealing with one of those publications, it occurred to me that people are not necessarily happy to admit that having children takes time and they have to put time and effort into ‘life’ instead of concentrating constantly on academic tasks and efficiently churning out articles and books. I recently got a slightly obscure e-mail that was rather wordy and could be interpreted in many different ways, while it was drumming how one deadline was really strict and people would be coming to me shortly. This was about seven weeks before the deadline and I was becoming concerned if I will manage to make the changes in the case they were to send the corrections in at the last minute. I was gathering from the message that either there may have been some time management issues behind the carefully worded message or my contribution did not cut the mustard.

After the ‘strict’ deadline had come and gone with no sign of any comments or further instructions, I finally contacted the people in question some weeks later (when I admittedly started to have more time to deal with any corrections). It turned out that one of the involved was on a maternity leave and another was about to become a parent. Thus, the obscureness of it all got its explanation – they were busy or were to becoming very busy being awake at odd hours with small babies. This made me wonder, if they were somewhat reluctant to reveal to their peers that they do not have time to do everything, but like to have families, and may have to reschedule promised timetables and schedules. It makes you think if there is a culture that makes it difficult to balance life and archaeology, since that leaves people less time to enjoy the time, when their children are small.

Nevertheless, there are exceptions. I remember one academic – in a secure position though – leaving every day punctually and strictly around 4pm or 4.30pm in order to be with the children in the evening. I hope that with the current turbulent economic climate that sort of behaviour is not totally out of window.

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