On being a great dad

For a variety of life reasons, I had to take the Weer One into work today to attend a meeting that included two departments and the Dean. Wasn't a big deal, she slept most of the meeting (wish we could have switched) and when she made some slight noise, I pulled her out of the car seat and held her. People were aware she was there, but it wasn't a disturbance. Life happens and you have to pull an audible sometimes.

But as I was leaving the meeting, I got several comments. A couple people asked me about the baby and then something unexpected happened. One of my senior colleagues with whom I do not interact much, said to me "You're such a great dad." This was quickly agreed to by another colleague. Now maybe I am, maybe I'm not, these people wouldn't have any idea. I could have been on my way to dropping her off to the traveling circus*. But apparently being willing to watch your kid while fulfilling work obligations is enough to win me the distinction.

You can't read the inscription, but it says "Way to at least give half a shit, Dad!"

But it got me wondering, how many women who have to bring kids in to a meeting are considered "great"? While I will admit that my department is pretty family friendly, I have never seen a female colleague admired for just making the best of a childcare "situation".


* Obviously this isn't the case. The circus doesn't take kids until they can eat gruel.

16 responses so far

  • Gerty-Z says:

    When I was a postdoc I had to take mini-g into work for a meeting, and a couple of times I put her in the backpack to finish up some experiments. No one ever mentioned that they thought this made me a good mother, but I didn't feel like it was held against me, either. I did feel a general, unspoken sense that I shouldn't do that too often, though.

  • Sadly when we women do it, it's all part of being a working mom. I chalk it upto the same attitude or value system that lead people (men & women) to think Mr.SM is great for "babysitting" his own child(ren). Uhm he's their father, it's his job last time I checked.

  • Pretty much what Gerty-Z said. I've had to take my kiddos with me to various events from grad school to current faculty position, and I always feel uncomfortable doing so, even with people who know I'm a single mom. The kids have been complimented many times on how well-behaved they are, but I don't think anyone has said anything to me directly about my parenting skills (or lack thereof as the case may be).

  • femalephysioprof says:

    Classic case of unconscious bias, PLS. Men who parent at work are applauded; women who do so are viewed as irresponsible (as in: can't you manage to organize childcare). The bias is our gendered expectation regarding the different roles of mothers + fathers...

  • New Asst. Prof. says:

    I wore Sweet Pea in a front pack to meet with one of our associate deans about a program project grant when she was 4 weeks old - shocked the heck out of him and it actually did elicit a compliment (though I seem to remember that it was targeted more towards my 'juggling' than 'parenting' skills). Oddly (though perhaps not), I felt more dismissed by a senior, female colleague when I brought her to a different meeting the following week.

  • ianqui says:

    I agree with the sentiment above. Women who do this are seen as intrusively bringing their private lives into the workplace. Men are applauded for the heroic (but surely temporary, and therefore tolerated) dedication to the family. Even the liberal educated elites that we are (said tongue in cheek) have not overcome this age-old bias.

  • RespiSci says:

    A male colleague of mine would sometimes bring his children in to work on the days when schools were closed (side note: the kids were very, very well behaved). Depending on his work load (and meeting schedule) sometimes he would bring the children in for half the day and then try to work from home the rest of the day or take the entire day off if he could. As his wife was frequently changing jobs she didn't have the vacation time banked to allow her the option to take time off. Als0, for a period of time, she was working in a high ranked law office which prohibited her from taking the children into work. Initially for my colleague the reaction at work was positive, with people commenting on what a fine father he was, but over time this welcoming attitude became less and less although the frequency of visits were maximally 4-5 times a year! Furthermore there were a few snide comments suggesting that his wife was not taking her fair share of the burden. I expressed my doubts that if the roles were reversed, whether people would have criticized him for not taking the time off or for not bringing the kids into work.

  • I've done ok bringing my kids in to work. I only got the "we're not a daycare" line once from a lab director (not my supervisor). The childcare situation in this country is so miserable, particularly for graduate students, that I'll take any benefit I get with a smile. I would, however, prefer universal federally-funded child-care. I suggest we raise taxes to do it, in case anyone is curious about how this could be accomplished.

  • PQA says:

    My husband gets these compliments all the time if he is out with the mini-me by himself. He finds them incredibly condescending and annoying. My favorite is how when I have an event that I am going out of town for everyone asks me "who is going to take care of the baby?". To my knowledge my husband has never gotten this question.

  • yvr_fca_osl says:

    My little one has spent a fair amount of time in my office, partly because she was coming in once or twice a day with the nanny my first year as faculty to breastfeed, and after that because the on-campus daycare is in the next building over. Everyone has been incredibly supportive. Each fall my significant other has to spend a couple weeks away, during which time the little one has come in to a couple meetings. Most people in the meetings thought it was great - watching her play on the floor made it that much more interesting.

    One thing I hadn't anticipated is how invested some of the students around here got in watching my daughter get bigger (learn to walk, learning to talk, etc.). They really enjoyed getting a chance to see her, the male and female students alike. I appreciated the chance to be a live model of what is possible - I don't think a lot of my students, of any gender, had seen someone being both a fulfilled faculty member and enjoying parenthood at the same time.

    Last year I had to bring her in to a two hour lecture with me. Sig Other was out of town, nanny cancelled at the very last minute, and I had barely enough time to show up in the classroom, kid in tow (no time to ask a colleague to look after her, for instance). I explained the situation to my students, my daughter (1.5 years at the time) drew on the whiteboard and some paper I had, and she was really well behaved. To be honest, she thought having a room full of people shyly smiling at her was great. And I had several students who did actually compliment me on parenting skills after that class was over.

    These things make me really appreciative of the job I have.

  • Ink says:

    Arrrgh re: the double standard. Sigh.

    That inscription on the trophy, though? Priceless.

  • Alyssa says:

    As PQA said, my husband gets comments like this when he's out with the baby on his own, or if I'm at work and he's staying home, etc. He finds these comments very annoying, because he sees himself as an equal partner in this whole parenting thing (which he is), and hates when people assume he is a lazy dad.

    He finds it particularly annoying when we're at the doctor or something, and the person is only speaking to me - like he doesn't have any input in our son's health and well-being.

    I have brought our son into work a few times, and no one has ever commented on me being a "good mother". But, DH has watched him at work, and he gets the adoring looks and comments from co-workers and others.

  • Dr. O says:

    Neither Hubby or I have brought Monkey in to work, but I get the VERY DISTINCT feeling that having Monkey here would be highly frowned upon by many of the faculty. I've seen men bring their kids in though, and it's the opposite. Infuriating.

  • Zuska says:

    Good Mothers should not be seen or heard i.e., at home with the kids all the time. Good Fathers are seen and heard, i.e. take the kids out for a while to give Good Mothers a break. You totally earned that trophy, PLS!!! Now, if you have the kids too much, you'll be a Long-Suffering Father married to a Bad Mother.

  • Dr. Dad, PhD says:

    I'm slow to post, but for a reason related to your post. Hurricane Irene screwed with the start date of kindergarten and we needed to adjust. So I get to have an extra "helper." No one has ever gone so far as saying I'm a good dad for doing it.

    Sadly, at times it is easier/more acceptable for me to watch the older wee on (although my wife's work is also GREAT and very understanding). I like to think that a lot of it is simply a matter of my future being in my own hands, but I'm not totally sure. My PI takes the approach of helping me, but ultimately my success or failure is in my hands and my ability to manage my time/life/balance.

    I'm not sure why, but I don't necessarily advertise the fact my oldest is with me.Maybe it's psychological, but I set him up in the spare desk by me and that's it. Pretty much bare bones parenting with lots of electronics and coloring. No walking around to my coworkers, displaying my offspring (as others do).

    I'm sure I'm less productive with him here, but I'd argue that all of us have less productive days.... Partially because I have WAY too much stuff to do, but also I don't really give a rats ass what people think about me bringing him in.Maybe they think I'm wasting my time. Maybe they think I'm awesome. Most likely all they care about is whether I got funded, finished my paper, and prepared the lecture/poster/presentation they asked me to....

  • [...] wink). Of course I don't get these questions because I can show passing interest in my child and be Daddy of the Year, but these ladies are always coming up with excuses to cut out early. Sounds sketchy, no? At least [...]

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