By France Griggs Sloat
By 10:30 p.m., dinner, homework and baths are finished, and the kids are in bed. Now—finally—Dianne Ceo-DiFrancesco can get back to work. At a time when most people who’ve been up since 6:00 a.m. are turning in, Dianne is grabbing a cup of hot tea and trotting down to her office in a carpeted corner of the basement. She logs on to her e-mail, finds a submission from her partner on a Spanish textbook they’re co-authoring, and begins editing what will be the final chapter.
As she edits, holding the cup of tea on her lap, she begins to relax. Her toes curl into the soft fibers of the carpet, which extends to the linoleum across the room where the kids’ toys lie randomly abandoned. Jerking suddenly to the sensation of warm tea on her legs, Ceo-DiFrancesco realizes she’s nodded off. It’s 12:30 a.m.
Usually one to work until 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m., she decides to call it quits. The fifth-year assistant professor of Spanish has been going all day—driving the kids to school, teaching, driving them home and returning to campus for an evening class. She got home at 10:00 p.m. Her husband, Mark, a physicist who also worked all day, handled the dinner and chores. She makes her way upstairs and finds him slumped on the kitchen table, asleep. It’s been an exhausting day.
Most days seem to be much the same—squeezing the responsibilities of parenting into the work day and the demands of work into life at home. For university professors, the unique demands of the academic world pose a particular dilemma: While their work schedules can be more flexible, the expectations that they also publish scholarly work eat up any extra time that flexibility may create.
“The pressure is very heavy in the first five and a half years, which is when most faculty have their first kids,” says William Madges, department of theology chair and a father of two. “Two of my three new hires this year have young children. Most young parents say they can still teach, but when they go home, they’re not getting much scholarship done.”
From the University’s perspective, it’s a challenge as well—how to attract talented young faculty with families without sacrificing the quality of its demanding programs. Either way, both faculty and administrators agree on one thing: Family matters.