How is your pandemic parenting going? "The Faculty Parent" series chronicles the highs and lows of juggling parenting, teaching, research, and writing in uncertain times.
Looking ahead to the New Year I am reflecting on some of the biggest changes in my professional life as a faculty parent. Perhaps one of the strangest is that I have been to more speaking events, conferences and symposia in the last few months than I have been able to attend in the last few years. This is all because, without the hassle of having to leave my partner to parent alone for several days or (gods-forbid) travel with a toddler to Des Moines or wherever, I can show up. And when I can’t be there for the live session, I can often watch it recorded later. I can be there and not be square—amazing! In a profession in which being there and being up to speed on the latest research is essential, this change is a game changer indeed.
I am hoping that, even after this pandemic is behind us and the toilet paper aisle is full of toilet paper again, we can keep some of the changes that this reboot has brought about. I would gratefully transform my conference travel schedule to an 80% online and 20% in person attendance ratio, instead of 10% in person and 90% hear about it from a friend or forget about it all together ratio.
And that’s not the only thing I’m hoping to take with me when this pandemic ends and the schools reopen and my work schedule is un-upended someday somehow. If nothing else, this past year I’ve learned how to shut it down and try something completely different, to hit the reset button, no, the reboot button, on, for example, writing:
This year I threw absolutely everything at the wall to try and eke out a bit of writing despite the challenges of 24/7 childcare through the summer. I hung in there with my weekly writing accountability group through thick and thin. I worked with a writing coach to develop a master plan for my long- and short-term writing projects, a process which included with weekly check-ins to keep me on track. I reconnected with an old writing partner (also a Rutgers faculty parent) who committed to watching me like a hawk via Zoom in 45-minute intervals to keep me on task. With this hefty lineup of supports I managed to make the most of the extremely limited amount of writing time available to me each day. Knowing how effective this souped-up writing support machine has been, I don’t want to step it down even when my childcare worries are lessened (if there is such a world).
And what about family:
I knew it would be hard to raise kids in the city but never dreamed it would be as hard as it was this past spring. After a few disastrously stir-crazy weeks in a tiny apartment with a baby and a 4-year-old we made the decision to get out. We moved: out of the city, away from campus, into my in-laws’ basement for five months. Not wanting to lose the support from nearby family, we moved into a rental down the street from my in-laws, complete with a backyard, a spare room I could use as a home office, and importantly, a nearby school that was open for (mostly) in-person learning. It was not the ideal time to make a big move and then another one with a family, BUT yesterday my toddler got kisses and graham crackers from his grandparents after breakfast. Last week my daughter played with her cousins in between remote kindergarten learning sessions. I ate a hot dinner (at actual dinner time) made with love by someone other than me or my husband. I leaned on my spouse and coparent, my mother- and father-in-law, my sister- and brother-in-law, my other sister and brother-in-law, my nephews and niece, my little brother, my dad, and it was wonderful, and maddening, and wonderful. Having had this taste of the good life, I don’t want to give up living near extended family.
And there’s more:
I dug deep and hired a grader to help manage the grading load; I hired a babysitter for three hours on the weekend so I could do my asynch teaching prep and take and honest-to-god nap; I tested out Shipt, Instacart, and other local services to find the best and most cost-effective way to get my groceries delivered; I found a great Pilates class that meets twice a week via Zoom. All these unexpected resources (and more) have become as familiar and irreplaceable to me now as my old routines. And, New Year or no, I’m not planning on letting them go. If I can help it, the reboot is here to stay.
Faculty parents can now join the e-list Rutgers Newark faculty parents, a forum for building community, and sharing important news, ideas and solutions.
To find an academic coach or editor, word of mouth is often the best place to start, but you might also consult NCFDD’s list of recommended resources here. If you want to access this content and don't have already have a NCFDD membership, you can activate your free institutional membership from RU-N here.
You may find these recorded NCFDD webinars particularly useful. All are freely available through Rutgers Newark’s institutional membership (remember, you can activate your free institutional membership from RU-N here).
Additionally, there is a live Guest Webinar coming up
“Turning Chutes into Ladders for Women Faculty: A Roadmap to Equity in Academia.” Tuesday, Jan 26 2-3pm. You can register here.
North, Anna. “Pandemic Parenting: The Burnout Crisis Has Reached a Tipping Point,” Vox (Dec 8, 2020)
Tuttle, Brad. “The Best Online Grocery Delivery Services for Your Money: A Comprehensive Guide to Fees, Prices and Availability,” Money (Oct 21, 2020)
How the Pandemic is Affecting Women in Higher Ed. The Advance Journal 2.2 Covid-19 Special Issue (Dec 4, 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.