Repost: On being a great dad

Aug 07 2013 Published by under [Education&Careers], LifeTrajectories

I originally posted this nearly 2 years ago, but have been recently reminded of this wonderful piece of our culture.

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".

Discuss.

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

7 responses so far

  • Anon says:

    I'm a mother of 2 little kids (3 and 5) and a new-ish Assistant Professor (had my first kid at the end of my PhD, the second at the end of my 2-year post-doc). I often brought my babies to meetings, lab meetings, and talks. I often got 'admired' but never for being a 'great mom' - the admiration was usually for balancing work and motherhood, for having children during an academic career, or for 'setting an example'!! (my personal favorite - like thats why anyone would have kids!).

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I think it is critical that women aspiring to an academic career can see that others have managed to balance career and family, but no, I'm guessing that is never the intention of the profs with kids.

  • From a societal standpoint, 95% of being a "great dad" is just showing up.

  • Paul Raeburn says:

    Perhaps one reason the bar seems so much lower for fathers is that we have such low expectations of fathers. The anthropological literature suggests that mothers are essential for kids' survival, and fathers are helpful but not essential--they are "facultative" fathers. That is often carelessly misinterpreted, I think, to mean that fathers are not very important. So when fathers do anything that appears to be helpful, they get plaudits. But not mothers, because they have no choice, in this misinterpretation.

    --------
    Author of "Do Fathers Matter? The new science of fatherhood," to be published for Father's Day, 2014 by Scientific American/FSG.

  • anonymous says:

    When I was a graduate student, I would have *loved* to see some of the faculty bring their kids into the office on occasion. As PFS suggests, it would have helped me believe that the balance was possible. Of course, I knew many of the faculty had kids, but the fact that they existed in a far-off metaphorical sense (where someone else - presumably someone who was NOT faculty - was taking care of them) didn't actually help me all that much. The more dominant message was that 24/7 work + availability was required to make a serious go of the faculty thing.

    Fast forward to the end of my PhD, which was defended about 6-months after kid #1 was born. I toyed around with the idea of faculty positions but ultimately left academia for the non-profit (research) world. My primary reason for leaving was concern about work-life balance.

    Three years later, I'm very happy with my job but now have a different perspective on the faculty life. I have a number of faculty collaborators, including a few from the university I attended as a phd student. I see, now, how much work the thing takes, and that it is possible to duck out in and out as life demands.

    My point, I think... it's not such a bad thing to be the one who 'sets an example'. Sometimes that is sorely needed, as the grad students are seeing only a piece of the whole puzzle.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    The flip side of that is the importance of being an example as a male faculty member who takes on family responsibilities. It is always clear to my people when I am not coming in because a kid is sick, or whatever. Most female colleagues can't afford to do this, but I want to impress upon my trainees that dudes need to step up too.

  • drugmonkey says:

    From a societal standpoint, 95% of being a "great dad" is just showing up.

    I found this rather startlingly so after the arrival of my firstborn.

    being an example as a male faculty member who takes on family responsibilities. It is always clear to my people when I am not coming in because a kid is sick, or whatever. Most female colleagues can't afford to do this, but I want to impress upon my trainees that dudes need to step up too.

    And as you move forward in your career this has very helpful effects on more-junior male colleagues. So well done.

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