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.
23 months in and counting, I somehow can’t quite believe where we are now, still, and again. In the first week of Spring 2022, I had two kids at home, again, every single day with no end in sight. Daycares were closed again, schools were closed again, and things were looking every bit as bad as they were in March 2020, except instead of there being a few weeks left in the semester, there were still many months ahead.
Almost a month into the new semester and these tensions have eased only slightly. Repeated snow days in the last two weeks had my six-year-old back home and with little notice. Severe staffing shortages have meant that from day-to-day, I am not sure whether my two-year-old’s daycare center will be accepting children or not. We try our best to get him to the door as soon as they open, before classrooms exceed the required child-to-teacher ratios and they shut the doors to later-coming families in need of childcare. This after the winter “break,” when his daycare was closed completely for several weeks due to clusters of COVID-19 cases in kids and teachers.
Again, we are thinking of moving our family, to a less expensive area where rents are lower and where we can better afford to pay for both daycare and a private school (which seems to have far fewer Covid-related closures on average than the local public schools). If we do uproot, it will make it our fifth move during the pandemic. In 2020, we moved out of a tiny apartment in the city and into my in-laws’ suburban basement, then into our own separate rental nearby, then back into the basement in 2021 when we lost the rental because the owners had their own pandemic schooling/housing crisis, then out to an overpriced but convenient place that would allow us to stay near family and the open school. If you’ve made a move (or two, or three) as well, you aren’t alone (see this piece on pandemic moving trends).
Still, I am waiting anxiously for that vaccine for kids under 5, weathering another semester of uncertainty, unsure whether the future holds online or in-person teaching and service, whether schools and daycares will remain open or closed, whether to risk traveling for academic conferences, whether to take an unvaccinated, unmasked two-year-old to get a haircut or just continue to watch as his mop top grows into a generous shag . . .
And I am waiting for something more: for acknowledgement and acceptance that the realities of the workplace now for faculty with caregiving responsibilities necessitate more flexibility, more options, and more support. There are those who haven’t waited, who’ve simply moved on to work in other sectors, institutions, or places where this kind of flexibility isn’t quite so hard to find. When Jan 2022 found me juggling the same impossible expectation that I will somehow just “figure out” how to manage teaching, researching, writing, and full-time caregiving, when I felt the enormity of how little had changed since the earliest days of the pandemic, I must admit I started looking for options elsewhere, too.
As a place to start, I’m doing my best to give full voice to this untenable juggling act. I’m making sure to take best advantage of every opportunity to speak up about what changes are needed. Never mind that we needed them months, if not years ago. Now is as good a time as any to make a change. So, if you have 5 minutes to be a squeaky wheel, here’s a good place to share your thoughts and to speak up about what’s still missing and what you most need, again:
President Holloway’s Future of Work Task Force (FoW) was established to explore “lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Task Force is gathering comments and suggestions from throughout Rutgers and welcomes anyone to complete their online Community Input Form and to join them for any one of their upcoming listening sessions.
FoW LISTENING SESSIONS
Thursday, February 17, 2022 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Register
Friday, February 25, 2022 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Register
Tuesday, March 1, 2022 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Register
Are you a student-parent or caregiver who would like to share your experiences, connect with other RU-N student-parents, or assist with efforts to make our campus more family-friendly? If so, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flaherty, Colleen. “More Support for COVID-19 Affected Professors,” Inside Higher Ed (Jan 27, 2022)
Foster, Stacey-Ann. “Another Educational Challenge COVID Has Revealed,” Inside Higher Ed (Jan 28, 2022)
Lundsteen, Natalie and Arnaldo Diaz Vazquez “Family Considerations for Graduate Study and Career Choices,” Inside Higher Ed (Feb 7, 2022)
Patricia Akhimie is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark, where she teaches Shakespeare, Renaissance drama, and early modern women’s travel writing. She served as the 2020-2021 Chancellor’s Scholar-in-Residence with the P3 Collaboratory. She is also the mother of two kids, ages six and two. @pakhimie