DEWIS reflects on the challenges faced by parents in academic positions.
Many scientists (m/f) have children or are starting a family at the same time as maintaining and building a career or are thinking about starting a family. During the second Networking Lunch of ‘Parenting and Caregiving’ on last Friday, 23 June, we discussed the main challenges (future and current) parents face during the different phases in their academic career. In the WordCloud the most important topics are made visible.
Availability and Accessibility of Information.
Future and current parents have many things to organize and think about. Finding and understanding (the consequences of) the information about leave regulations is not always easy. International people who don’t know the language and the Dutch system experience extra difficulties finding the right information. Starting and having a family is part of the fabric of life. Information about leave regulations should be available, easy assessable and clear to understand for (current and future) parents to feel supported in this new phase of life.
The first period after becoming a parent is a period of finding a new balance. After coming back from maternity and/or paternity leave parents need mental support in achieving this balance. Academics on a temporary contract might experience pressure to perform to finish the work within the limited time while at the same time looking for the next step in their career. The period just after maternity leave and paternity leave can be very overwhelming. Parents are trying to adjust to their new situation with an extra little family member to care for and at the same time trying to pick up on the academic work at the university. This might cause feelings of guilt and anxieties. Supervisors have an important role to comfort, reduce unnecessary stress and help make realistic plannings. Transparent conversations with each other can be super helpful.
Many (future) parents experience time challenges: i.e., finding ways to travel to conferences, finding longer stretches of time for Deep Work, and finding ways to join networking events. Practical support can help parents to deal with these challenges. Support can be found in the inner circle of family, neighbours, or friends, but this might be challenging, especially for international staff members who are alone and encounter cultural differences and language barriers. Other support communities, i.e., Delft Mama, can be very helpful. Some international conferences already include day-care facilities. When the child is going to day-care life becomes somewhat easier but still any unexpected events can be very challenging.
Creating family friendly working environments is important for parents to feel included and flourish and grow in their careers. Do not plan all your social networking events or teaching activities at the end of the day. Be mindful of colleagues with caregiving tasks. Universities in Scandinavia and Iceland have welcoming spaces on campus where parents can bring their children in cases of emergency. Create a culture where parents can share about their caregiving tasks and openly discuss the big and small challenges they encounter.
Flexibility is necessary for parents to juggle teaching, publishing, finding a new (or permanent) job, relocating, attending conferences, and doing research sometimes. Many parents have a lot of flexibility in time scheduling, but this has a downside because of difficulties finding large chunks of time for Deep Work. In many cases part-time working doesn’t seem to be a solution because the system is not yet fully adjusted to part-time working.
Because of an overwhelming interest to discuss this topic with each other, DEWIS will organize similar events in the new academic year. Keep an eye open for messages in our newsletter or LinkedIn group.
Any questions or remarks can be sent to Astrid Taal, email@example.com