Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New paradigms

It's a question I'd never even considered before.

"Do you know if you plan on taking paternity leave?"

We're at 18-plus weeks now, and while I know I'm entitled to leave by Lehigh policy I had never actually thought about it. The context was pretty good in that nobody in my department is freaking out about how my life is about to get rearranged. It was just curiosity, but I had no answer.

Work and life have a loose confederation for me, probably because I've always been fortunate to work in careers I found enjoyable. I loved being in the newsroom (and still miss it) and loved the job of journalism as a whole. My teaching is the same; just love being around students and brilliant colleagues.

I'm not sure if I'm bad for not thinking of stepping away here. I mean, I plan to be around the house a lot, and that was always the plan: less office hours and more work done in advance so I can help out around the house. I grade and do research at home, my students call me when needed, and I hear from them all the time on Twitter. So I've never really had a line between work and home such that I thought to consider leave.

Taking leave almost feels like throwing up an artificial wall of separation between work and home. I realize there are more reasons for that and that it probably makes good head sense, but I've realized after hearing the question that I've never thought about life in those terms. This isn't some macho male thing either - I realize there was stigma attached to dads who did leave and I don't really care about those social attitudes. You do what's best for you and the family; in my case I'm just not used to thinking about work and family in those terms.

Maybe I will and just need to think about it more. All this stuff is just so new to me that I sometimes think I don't even have a good framework for making a good decision. So maybe I need to see what I need after the baby comes and go from there.

I have to say, one thing I love about Lehigh is my department has been really good to us. Not only has this life change not been a cause for alarm, but they are asking me questions like the one above to help me think about things now. I'm really grateful for that, because while I might be a professor my education on being a parent is just starting.


  1. Two things:

    1. Once-a-week classes and virtual office hours (via chat or your blackboard client) were helpful in my first semester, and my dept was good about accommodating these. There's a reason why I came up with all those "let's do a virtual assignment!" ideas last spring.

    2. Grad students seem to have more flexible schedules for babysitting. They're usually more mature, too, and you'll have 'em for a couple years.

  2. Whether or not to take leave is a very personal decision, but as a mother of 4 I can tell you that it depends on what your role would be while at home. Would you be more useful holding the baby occasionally, or getting out of the house? Are you the type of guy that helps out around the house, or pretends to be there while multi-tasking online? Tim's main job when the babies were really little was to get out of bed, pick up the baby, and hand him/her to me... then he went back to sleep while I did everything else... but that small gesture made a huge difference.
    I guess the biggest factor will be the health and recovery of your wife. Most new moms can't dance at weddings 2 days later like I did...

  3. That first idea is very good, Bob. Wish I had grad students here.