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Child care at women's events - Lindsey Kuper [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Lindsey Kuper

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Child care at women's events [Sep. 26th, 2008|03:48 pm]
Lindsey Kuper

Yesterday, I went to a reception for the Women in Science Program here at IU. It was a fairly standard, cookies-and-coffee, meet-people event. The two sentences on the invitation that jumped out at me the most, though, were 'Bring your children. Childcare will be provided.'

I have not seen child care mentioned on invitations for any other campus organization's event. I think it's awesome that the Women in Science Program is providing child care at their events. I also think that it's wrong to only provide child care at events for women. That's unfair to dads, and it reinforces the idea that child care is a woman's responsibility.

And yet, like it or not, in 2008 child care still usually is the responsibility of a woman. The ideal, it seems, would be if the gender of the expected attendees at an event had absolutely no bearing on whether or not there was child care provided at the event. But to make that vacuously true by saying "Men's events never seem to have child care, so, dammit, we won't have it at women's events, either!" would clearly be ridiculous.

So, I guess the question is: How do we help people who are trying to take care of their kids -- most of whom are probably going to be women -- without implicitly reinforcing the notion that child care must be a woman's responsibility?

I don't have the answer. And furthermore, I suspect that if I did have kids, I would be quite happy to get whatever child care help was available, regardless of whatever notions were being implicitly reinforced by its existence, and would probably be rolling my eyes at any hand-wringing taking place with regard to same. So, you know, maybe I should just drop it. You tell me.

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Comments:
From: rmfleming
2008-09-26 08:58 pm (UTC)
What struck me about "Bring your children." is that it's imperative. I mean, really? You have to?
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[User Picture]From: deepdistraction
2008-09-27 03:31 am (UTC)
It sounds more like a friendly invitation to bring them, rather than an imperative, to me.

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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2008-09-27 08:23 pm (UTC)
I think they were just trying to make it completely, absolutely clear that it was fine to bring your kids. But they could have phrased it better. "If you have kids, you are encouraged to bring them."
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2008-09-27 12:02 am (UTC)
No. There should be child care at men's events, too. Unfortunately, this requires action on the part of the dads involved and it also requires them to be comfortable enough in their masculinity to ask for something that is traditionally a female requirement. Unfortunately, being good with computers and comfortable in your masculinity are often at odds. As are being a professor and schlepping kids. I, for one, am surprised that the women stand for it.
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2008-09-27 01:07 am (UTC)
Meaning that I'm having enough trouble doing this with a supportive partner picking up some slack and without kids - I can't imagine having kids and having to be the supportive one and doing my job.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2008-09-27 09:04 pm (UTC)
Do you think being a professor with kids is necessarily harder than having any other professional job and having kids? I'm curious.

Also, I'm not sure who these hypothetical men are who have children and yet are uncomfortable asking for child care, but adults ask for what they need in order to get their jobs done. Yeah, it's hard to ask for what one needs, but when the alternative is failing to do one's job, I would think that would be a worse blow to one's self-esteem.
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2008-09-27 09:08 pm (UTC)
I think that being a first-year professor whilst finishing up ones dissertation is more difficult than most other jobs. I would expect that being a second (or more) year professor who has finished his PhD would be a bit less taxing.

These hypothetical men are (as you pointed out) both lame, and faced with a choice: do I give the work to my wife, thus moving in line with social expectation, or do I rock the boat and do extra work and ask for childcare? Doing the thing that involves exercising male privilege is, as long as the other parter is willing to stand for it, usually easier.
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[User Picture]From: floydcollins
2008-10-28 07:12 pm (UTC)
*cough* *bullshit*

No offense, but hard is quite a relative term. Is it harder than combat soldier? What about nursing home nurse, or home health aide, or a million other jobs.

I do agree that the finished Ph.D is probably easier than an ABD, but seriously, college professor is a *skilled* job, not always a *hard* one.
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[User Picture]From: pmb
2008-10-28 07:38 pm (UTC)
In this particular context, I was thinking of "hard" in terms of number of hours required per week. I'm pretty much doing nothing but dissertation and sleeping and teaching. The only time I have to, say, read for fun or do anything else that normal people might do on a weekend is on my 20 minute daily subway commute, which I often spend also doing dissertation because it needs to get done. If I had a kid, I would be faced with a choice of actions:

a) Let my partner take care of the kid
b) Sleep less (probably end up sleeping less than 4 hours a night)

Because I'm a guy, it would be pretty socially easy (although unethical) for me to claim male privilege either explicitly because my hypothetical partner is apparently not a feminist and is to me as the church is to God, or implicitly by just doing the easy thing and letting my partner pick up the slack and not discussing whether the situation is fair. Since I have no kid, and my partner is both a feminist and in grad school, I am not forced to make this choice, for which I am glad. Because sleeping less would take a real toll, but taking advantage of my partner would just be wrong (also impossible, but perhaps not impossible with this hypothetical partner with whom I also apparently have a child).
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[User Picture]From: sonetka
2008-09-27 03:31 am (UTC)
I really don't know, but I'm replying anyway :). It would be fantastic to have free childcare offered at all the events, but undoubtedly their resources are limited (the U here has a free student-parents' night out once a month which is greatly appreciated but which is a stretch financially in itself), and practically it makes more sense to offer at the events where statistically it's more likely to be needed. I suppose in a more organized world you could have students vote on which events would provide childcare or not, with the top four (or whatever) getting the childcare, but that would require people to look months ahead in the schedule and decide what conferences they'll be attending, and if they're at all like me they'd either forget to vote or just have no idea which conference they'd want to be at so far in the future.
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[User Picture]From: deepdistraction
2008-09-27 04:07 am (UTC)
Try not to drop it. It's too important, and the way you address it--philosophically and/or practically--will affect others' attitudes on the issue, to say nothing of your own children's. I see this is one of those issues we have a societal obligation to advance. Neither nurturing nor earning $ to pay for nurturing services are gender-specific behaviors. Caring for small human beings can also be supremely rewarding for all parties involved. More people should understand that.
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[User Picture]From: empty_fork
2008-09-28 03:58 pm (UTC)
well, okay.

volunteer to provide childcare at a few Men's Events. (which, uh. women might attend these sometimes too, I imagine? most of these are non-gendered invitations that wind up being full of men because you're in CS? so that you likely have women who are the primary caretakers of children, should go to these events, and wind up being excluded or subjected to extra work to get there except when they're invited as women?) (too long a parenthesis! new paragraph.)

make sure your childcare service is very heavily advertised. get a few of your dude friends to come help you, so you won't walk in too rightly angry that it's a woman stepping up to take care of it, again; if nobody shows up to give you their kids, use those friends as study partners. if anyone does, tell them that you're doing this for free, to help dads out with their childcare responsibilities, and could they please ask the organizers of these events for more standard assistance in the future? give them each the contact information for those organizers on a reminder note in whatever medium you think they'll keep around. keep track of attendance figures. ask people what they would have done with their kids during that event if you hadn't been there, and, if the answer isn't "stay home with them," ask what the person they would have left the kids with is getting to do now. to call the organizers yourself afterward and go HEY.

uh, obviously you will want to pick events that you both have time for and don't want to attend.

you're school's paying a lot of very expensive people to do very expensive things, no? they should be able to afford childcare at all their events. childcare is cheap. I'm childcare.
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[User Picture]From: empty_fork
2008-09-28 04:09 pm (UTC)
uh uh uh ... or, okay. these being "campus organizations" and not "official school events" (I didn't read all that carefully, you see), maybe the money isn't there. um um um. shit, now I want to up the scale of the imagined endeavor in a very intelligent way, but my shaky hands say I have to go eat breakfast now instead of researching what generally-available resources your school has for childcare already
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2008-09-28 08:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think the money is the issue, and it's hard to say what counts as "official". The Office of Women's Affairs, which sponsors the WISP, is an "official" organization. I'm not sure who's providing the free child care, but I'm guessing it's OWA employees.

There is an on-campus university-affiliated daycare here, but it's not free and there's a waiting list and it ends at 5:30 p.m.

This is a huge campus. My guess is that, every single night, there's some university event that someone wants to attend and can't because they need to watch their kids. It would be amazing if we could extend the existing program to have low-cost, pay-by-the-hour, drop-in evening childcare for grad students with kids. (Or, actually, for anyone affiliated with the university who has kids, but I think low-income parents should have priority.) I don't know how much money it would take to make this happen.
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