Work/Home Balance Affecting Junior Male Faculty on College Campuses

Mar 25, 2010

by Kevin Ladd

Since around the middle of the twentieth century, when more and more women began to seek careers, American culture, particularly in the workplace, has had to evolve and expand to accommodate this change. While it once was assumed that practically every employee with children had a spouse and that they (wife) handled all the "family stuff" during the workday and when said employee (husband) was on the road, now allowances for maternity leave, time-off to attend PTA meetings, school plays, etc. had to be made. It seems somewhat ironic that they’ve mostly, if not exclusively, been made with respect to womens' schedules. Apparently it is still assumed, though they are now every bit the career person their spouse is, that women are the ones who must handle all of the aforementioned "family stuff". At least, this appears to be the case on college campuses, according to a recent study.

There are many problems with the apparently common practice of making more allowances for women as parents than are made for men and I only have the time and space to get into a few of them, unfortunately. While this policy was clearly intended as a way to allow women to have the requisite career flexibility to have both children and profession, is this not still sexist? Does it not make an extremely broad generalization about all male/female relationships and the responsibilities and gender-based assignments that were common a century ago? I am sure it gets even more complicated in the case of female/female partnerships and male/male partnerships where children are involved.

Apparently, one of the problems with changing this all-too-common policy is that men generally tend to find it much more difficult to admit to being unhappy with their work/home balance. It seems that, traditionally, it is not nearly as acceptable for men to complain about spending too much time at work and not enough caring for and spending time with their family. There is the older male faculty to consider, for starters. Those who might come from a different generation and whose mother more likely was a homemaker and whose father worked six days a week. Those who would not really understand the plight of their younger male counterpart, and this could discourage a younger man to complain or communicate any sort of displeasure with this policy until he has tenure. Often, men in the employ of a college or university might even try to put off having children until they have achieved this level of career stability, making it easier for them to balance their career schedule and their family schedule with greater confidence and control. Those still trying to get tenure are much less likely to ask for time off for any reason, for fear of doing anything at all that might jeopardize their chances at this desirable, almost necessary, status at a university. It should be noted, too, that this can be much more difficult for a woman to do and is just one more way in which this policy is detrimental to both men and women.

I think it’s time we, as a society, respect and recognize both parents in any given family as responsible for the raising of their children and afford them equal benefits and opportunities not just for employment but of employment. Without either gender having to admit displeasure with the terms of their employment or work/home balance when surveyed, each person should be afforded the option to occasionally tailor their schedule based upon their responsibilities as parents without worrying it might cost them their career.

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