The P3 Collaboratory is pleased to continue “Teaching Tuesdays,” our ongoing series on pedagogy in higher ed and on the RU-N campus. This semester (Fall 2020), “Teaching Tuesday” will continue to explore best practices in remote instruction as well as a broad array of topics informing current teaching and research dynamics. First up, a guest post by SASN faculty member and current P3 Scholar-in-Residence, Patricia Akhimie.
Dear Fellow Faculty Parent,
How is your pandemic parenting experience going? It’s been a lot of ups and downs over here. I find myself deeply grateful for extended family and yet still overwhelmed by the realities of juggling teaching, research, and writing with parenting under these unprecedented conditions. I have a 15-month-old son and a 5-year-old daughter who has just started kindergarten. My daughter is returning to school in person after six months of living in our “bubble.” And here begins my story, which I imagine will be all-too-familiar to many of you.
When my daughter’s preschool shut down in early March we moved out of our small (really, really small when there is nowhere to go and not much to do) apartment and into in the basement of her grandparents’ suburban home where we stayed for six months. During that time my summer research and writing plans came to a screeching halt. My “workday” shrank to a mere two hours or so in the evenings after both kids were down for the night. From about 8pm to 10pm I answered emails, planned fall classes, drafted fellowship and grant applications, corrected footnotes, postponed major deadlines, listened to the nightly news with growing horror and deep sadness, and produced precious little new writing. Pre-pandemic, I was poised to launch into the most crucial and productive year of my newly post-tenure career. Under contract to produce an edited volume, a scholarly edition of a play, and at work on a second monograph, I had planned to soar to new heights of scholarly achievement! I was fired up, having finally left the haze of newborn-care behind. Instead, I found myself struggling to keep up with the absolute bare minimum.
I learned that my preschooler does not like video conference calls. In fact, she curled into a ball and hid under a table whenever we tried to use Zoom with her preschool classmates. So remote learning was a bust and the non-stop, 24/7 baby care was beyond grueling. In the meantime, my infant turned into a toddler with increasingly obvious gross motor delays and we found ourselves scrambling to get him assessed and to get him some kind of appointment for early intervention, a developmental pediatrician, and physical therapy. He took his first steps this month to wild applause from parents and grandparents and mild interest from his sister. I was humbled by his determination to move forward, and I learned a lot about my own limitations as a parent and as a scholar this year.
I wanted to share my pandemic faculty parenting story because one of the things I learned is that talking about what I have been experiencing is restorative in and of itself. I realized this slowly as I began inadvertently blurting out things I would never normally say in work meetings, like, “I have to go now! I have to give my toddler a BATH!” and things I shouldn’t have had to say, such as, “No, I cannot meet on Sunday morning at 9am,” “No, I cannot join you for Zoom cocktails at 6pm,” and “No, I cannot stay on this call for an extra 15 minutes to talk about Ron’s agenda item.” I realized I needed to be able to vocalize and share my new reality because it is a huge part of who I am and what I bring to my work life now. The segregation that had always been implicit to me in “work-life balance” has been replaced by something altogether messier and more honest—a change I’d like to keep even when things “go back to normal.” If you, too, have found yourself wanting to speak your truth about faculty pandemic parenting, consider applying to join P3 Collaboratory’s Faculty Parent Working Group, which will be brainstorming ways to help support faculty parents. You’ll also be glad to know that P3 is debuting Rutgers-Newark Faculty Parents, a forum and listserv where you can ask questions, and share experiences, news, ideas, and resources. You can join any time by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you on the site, but while you’re mulling that over, you may find the following suggestions helpful:
Parenting-Related Resources at Rutgers
The Current is a Rutgers faculty newsletter. I recommend checking The Current’s announcements page at least periodically because it often contains resources for parents that are available to all Rutgers faculty (day care programs, child development resources, and summer camps, as well as pedagogy workshops, internal fellowships, and other opportunities). Depending on where you live, some of these may be useful to you. This week, the Rutgers Livingston Day Care Center announced a special program for faculty and staff parents whose district is scheduled for remote only education. For more about this and other day care centers with discounts for Rutgers faculty visit the Rutgers HR site.
Rutgers 4-H Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program announced its online learning event for kids age 8-14. The (awesome-sounding) 2020 4-H STEM Challenge - Mars Base Camp! will run on Saturday Oct 3rd and participants receive a hands-on kit to explore at home (I am over 14 but I want one for myself).
Flaherty, Colleen. "Babar in the Room," Inside Higher Ed (Aug 11, 2020)
Nelson, Trisalyn & Early, Jessica. "Covid-19 and the Academic Parent," Chronicle of Higher Education (Apr 27, 2020)
500 Women Scientists. “Scientist Mothers Face Extra Challenges,” Scientific American (May 7, 2020)
Patricia Akhimie is a 2020-2021 Chancellor’s Scholar-in-Residence with the P3 Collaboratory. She is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark, where she teaches Shakespeare, Renaissance drama, and early modern women’s travel writing.