I’ve had some thoughts brewing in my head for a while now about differing views on parenting, breastfeeding, working, etc, brought on by some strong statements from a number of voices on the internets. From letting your baby cry-it-out and taking extended maternity/paternity leave, to deciding not to breastfeed or not to have children at all, it seems everyone has an opinion. I recently commented that the day I quite breastfeeding was incredibly liberating. Despite my ease with nursing and pumping, I absolutely hated my body during that year. Finding clothes (and bras) to fit my newly disproportioned body during a tenure-track job search was demoralizing. 34H is not a common bra size, and the girls housed in that bra made me feel more like a porn star than scientist. The blogger on whose blog I commented didn’t share this view, and that’s okay – it’s my view. But I think it’s important for us all to remember how different and personal these issues and decisions are for each individual.
On a related tangent, sometime last year I got my panties in a bunch because a few bloggers were disappointed with the predominance of baby-talk at their institutions’ work-life balance and women’s issues symposia. I’m clearly biased, but I happen to think an environment that’s friendly to parents will also be more accommodating to other work-life balance issues. Let’s face it, there’s only so much that can be covered at these seminars, and issues for young parents are likely the most abundant. On the other hand, women have a lot of REAL issues to deal with other than baby leave and a clean, private place for nursing mothers to pump. Finding the right forum for all of these issues is something our society doesn’t do very well, however, because we’d rather simplify and marginalize than embrace a diversity of lifestyles.
Well, now there’s a new kerfuffle about work-life balance arising on the internets, and some jacknut wants everyone to be treated “the same”, regardless of their situation:
Everyone should have the same deal: A certain amount of vacation, a certain amount of health time.
This is obviously ridiculous – not everyone works the same, and no amount of bean-counting hours is going to level the playing field. Sure we need standards, but those standars shouldn’t be used without common sense. People get cancer and other horrible illnesses that prevent them from working every day; many of these individuals find ways of making up for the time off. Elderly parents need attention. Women have babies, and some take longer to recover. Some couples adopt from foreign countries. Divorces happen. Spouses lose their jobs. Stress from home creeps into office hours. There is just no sane way to address all people and stresses of life the same. Common sense and an accommodating boss, who understands they get the best productivity from happy employees, are really the only
fair real solutions*.
We all have different ideas of what we want our lives to look like. We all have varying views on family. We all derive different degrees of pleasure from our careers. I’m privileged to have a job in which I’m (theoretically) rewarded based on the quality of work I do, rather than the quantity of hours I or my employees work. Set up a good research program, direct the lab to solid funding, contribute to the university’s teaching and service missions. That’s what I hope I’ll get judged on, not whether or not I took a three month break to take care of a young child, or a two hour lunch to walk my pit bull.
*Like DM said, life’s not fair.