Academic dads operate with the privilege of separating their home life from their work life in ways unavailable to women. We get to be silent if we want to. We feel no need to attend sessions on the challenges of parenting—even though surely we encounter those same challenges—because they are perceived as "mommy issues." That perception is untrue yet remains a root cause of persistent gender discrimination. Female faculty members have been advocating for change for a long time; they still need more allies.
The discussion of caregiving must move beyond the discussion of motherhood. Fathers, too, need to advocate for paid parental leave, child-care assistance, flexible tenure clocks, and a culture that accepts the notion of male caregiving as normal. And they need to advocate loudly, using their privileged position as a lever to move the structures of our profession and lead the way in the broader culture.
I suggest we start by embracing the term "working dad."I've been writing and speaking about these issues awhile now. Here's a post I wrote about the first day of the school year. It was a busy day, beginning with my wife leaving town at 4 AM and packed with so many details to work on before 8:30! At the end of the litany, I wrote:
This quotidian litany is in no way spectacular. But somehow we still live in a society in which men cleaning, parenting, cooking, etc. is not quite masculine. It's odd. I get a lot of praise for it, often couched in the terms of "my husband never ..." or "I wish my husband would ..."That post got the attention of the Northwestern Work/Life Office in HR and the Northwestern Women's Center, where I gave a talk. You can see a clip from it and some of my major themes at the link.
This is what masculinity looks like. For me, anyway, on this Monday.
There's lots more work to do: First, to move parenting out of the conversation of motherhood. Then, to move caregiving out of the conversation on parenting. I want to be clear that this isn't a "not all men" or a "but what about men" post or theme. It's that patriarchs have to get involves to tear down patriarchy. One tiny incremental move at a time.