It really drives me crazy that issues like a flexible work day and dealing with children are considered “women’s issues” — my husband is just as involved with our children as I am. I haven’t been traveling as much as I usually do, so I have taken on more of the “shuttle” duties, getting the kids to their activities, etc…but when I have events to attend, or when I go out of town for a conference next week, the fact the Mike has a flexible work day is just as critical as it is for me. We both end up working in the evening, after the kids go to bed, so we can keep up with our various projects. As a professor, I usually end up editing my lectures the night before class and posting my notes. Mike often has conference calls with colleagues in Asia. I actually do the cooking in our house, but only because I don’t like to do the dishes, so Mike takes care of that. But dinner wasn’t the issue when I had a 9-5 job and the kids were in preschool, it was picking the kids up on time. Now that they are in school they have multiple activities that I take them to — I tell folks that I can’t schedule anything between 4 and 7 — that’s when I become the “mommy shuttle” and sit down with my kids, and usually my husband, for a family meal and review of the day.
I can’t help but think that if more men would speak up about their need for a flexible work day, this wouldn’t be an issue for women. In academia, parental leave became more important as the model of the male professor with the spouse who took care of the household came to an end. My male colleagues with children are all glad that they have flexible schedules, and some have even put their career on the back burner for their more successful wives in academia or the private sector.
Issue like birth control and healthcare shouldn’t just be women’s issues, either. Men who care about their mothers, sisters, daughters or wives all have a stake in these issues. It’s crazy that more men aren’t speaking up and supporting women in their fight to maintain funding for critical healthcare for women — we will all suffer in the end. It’s time for men to speak up and show that women aren’t the only ones who care about these issues.
Last weekend was our 25 year reunion at Stanford University — Mike and I graduated the same year, so we’re lucky that we can go to the same reunion, and we have been a couple since our first big reunion, the 5 year. It also happens to be my birthday month, so I’m feeling my age…luckily I feel pretty good. Although it has only been a couple of years since I visited Stanford to be honored as a distinguished alumni scholar, I was still very excited to be back on campus. It was wonderful seeing old friends, going to a football game where the Stanford Cardinal lived up to their nickname “the cardiac card” – at least we won that game in overtime. We weren’t so lucky at Notre Dame :-(. Seeing the campus again always brings back fond memories of the days when alcohol was allowed at games, fountain hopping was a requirement after games that we won (didn’t happen very often in my four years there), and I don’t know how many times I crashed my bike. I’m envious of the sparkling new athletic facilities that I hope the athletes appreciate. When I ran track, it was around the football field in a very old stadium with the rubberized track patched and peeling in places. I remember doing the stadium stairs and feeling the pain for the next few days. The Stanford of today has grown with new buildings that look like they are straight out of a science fiction movie. The boom in Silicon Valley has put the university in a very enviable position. The founders of a variety of technology companies including Google, HP and others recognize the value of a top-notch university up the road.
As a university professor and alum, I certainly appreciate what Stanford has become, but even 28 years ago, Stanford was a special place. My life was changed completely during my years at Stanford. I’ll never forget walking into my freshman dorm that first day — some of the first people I met were Faisal Khan from Pakistan and Nick Shah, an Indian from Kenya, but at the time I had no idea what kind of background these dark-skinned young men came from. In small town Spokane, the only people I had met from outside the US had been Kenyan soccer players who came to go to school. My horizons broadened immensely while at Stanford. I had decided long before that first day that I wanted to major in international relations — partially because it required at least a quarter of study abroad. I had been learning French since junior high and going to France was my dream. I can’t say enough about how that trip during my junior year impacted me, particularly visiting the Normandy beaches. It would be the spark that would ignite a career in academia studying France and other European countries.
As my friends and I have aged, we have had our ups and downs, some I keep in touch with regularly, others I only see at reunions, but I have always appreciated the opportunities and doors that were opened by my time at Stanford — which include meeting the love of my life. It was good to get a reminder over the reunion weekend, that despite the struggles I may have experienced during my time at Stanford (I’ll save those for another blog post), in the end it was truly the experience of a lifetime, and as I grow another year older this month, I am glad for the ties that will always bind me to a very special place.