We (that is, us mothers in the higher education sector) have decided to write to you with our wish list. I have taken it upon myself to pen this note, as my fellow sisters in arms are snowed under with end of year tasks, marking and deadlines to meet. Now, as you may know, sometimes mothers have trouble asking for things for themselves so I have decided to open this letter with a rationale
* I know, you are probably rolling your eyes and thinking kids are soooooo much more interesting but just tolerate us, we are after all in academia*
Why we deserve to have our wishes come true (numbered because you are a busy man)
1) Like most mothers we are selfless and Mother Mary-like in our devotion and commitment to our children. We have already given considerable time and thought to the CHILDREN’S Christmas wishes (not actioned as yet, no time) and will probably kill ourselves trying to get hold of a Peppa Pig roller-trolley in time for the big day **disclaimer: I do understand that not all mothers have a Peppa Pig problem.**
2) We are flat out being great role models for our kids so that you can receive more letters that are grammatically correct, polite and strike just the right balance between requesting and persuading. We teach them this when we role model how to get back the iPad when they are watching Peppa Pig so we can use our OWN technological devices FOR WORK.
3) We don’t like to whinge and whine. Nagging we do, but for the most part we never speak up too loudly when perhaps we should. We tolerate some of the things that are unreasonable (like meetings that start at 5pm or workshops that run on the weekend) because we don’t really want to be singled out as being difficult or GOD-FORBID feel like we are using our children as an excuse for not performing equally to the ideal student/employee (those without caring responsibilities who can truly devote themselves to their academic careers).
4) In conclusion, based on the above points we deserve to have our list given serious consideration because we have a history of tolerating less-than- ideal situations and for not complaining when we should. In reality, it is difficult for us to ask the powers-who-be in the universities for what we want. We don’t want to cause trouble, draw attention to ourselves and possibly lose our jobs. Let’s face it, it is hard enough getting into academia and then surviving there without being labeled as a trouble maker. So you – you lovely, old, cuddly, fluffy fella, are who we are turning to with our wishes. The worst you can do to us, if you don’t think we deserve this, is put a turnip in our stockings. So here goes…
OUR WISHES FOR THE HIGHER EDUCATION SYSTEM ARE:
1) Don’t make us feel bad if we can’t work after-hours. That is outside of the hours we signed up for originally and are paid for. We probably do more work in the hours we are there than other employees who have the luxury of networking, attending morning teas and chatting at the water cooler. Don’t make us work when we aren’t supposed to. You know we aren’t paid extra for this and, in fact, if we have to get childcare it even costs us money.
2) Don’t tell us we should do extra that we are not paid for because everyone else does it and that is how things are done around here. We tell our kids not to follow the crowd when they are doing something wrong, don’t make us go against our own advice. It’s not that this just applies to mothers. NO-ONE should be pressured to work unpaid, unplanned hours in ANY industry. We perhaps struggle a little bit more with it in higher education because chances are we don’t have the great research jobs that attract funding. We are (usually) doing the part-time teaching roles (often while studying at the same time.) Just telling us that “everyone does it” does not make it right. It is illegal and evidence of poor management. If you have funding issues how about asking those in the top level jobs to donate some money downwards so you can actually pay those who are teaching your students – not to be picky – but you could call them customers, you know those ones who PAY the fees, to be TAUGHT by real people who actually care about what they are doing.
3) Toilets are not acceptable places for breastfeeding mothers to pump. Please don’t make us feel ungrateful or demanding if we aren’t happy with that arrangement. And given that the chance of having a private office is basically nil, underneath our desk is not an acceptable place to pump either.
4) Don’t be surprised if we get upset when we are scheduled for classes that start before 9am or after 5pm. I am yet to find an understanding childcarer who will take kids who have not been dressed, fed and sorted out for the day by 7am so we can make it to the class we have been scheduled to teach at 8am. Same for classes that start after 5pm, childcare closes at 6pm. Reflect.
5) Don’t make it impossible for us to bring our kids to campus when we need to. There is no health and safety issues with kids being in a library or tagging along to a seminar. That is just rubbish. We don’t plan to bring them for free babysitting and like most responsible parents, we are in charge of them. If you want to know what really goes on in libraries that might concern your health and safety policies, you may be interested to Google what students get up to in study rooms (and yes, it is R rated and shared on social media).
6) Please don’t make us feel like we are using our children as an excuse. This is especially true for those older female staff who love to say “Well, when my kids were young I didn’t xyz…” Our species strives for continuous improvement and evolution. It would be a sad reflection on any system if women nowadays are still struggling with the same problems you (she) faced all those years ago. By telling you we can’t attend that meeting or teach that particular class, we are not making excuses. We are simply telling you the facts.
And finally, dearest Santa, perhaps if you can only make one wish come true please make it this…
Our last wish:
Don’t make us feel like we have to choose between one and the other. Don’t make us feel like we are crazy for trying to ‘have it all’. Yes, it is women (currently) who give birth to the children but the other parent isn’t normally made to feel like a crazed, ambitious beast for wanting something IN ADDITION to parenthood. In fact, these parents are often praised and applauded for being ‘family men’ *In no way do I wish to ignore same-sex relationships/parents here: my intention is to point out the issue of gender*
So there you have it Santa. We give our wishes over to you. We know the worst that can happen so we will sit back and hope for the best. Just in case….
Anyone got some good turnip recipes?