I envy those who have the option of leaving academia (“Vocation, vexation, salvation”, Features, 13 July). Women are often more able to make this move than men, but I’m the breadwinner.
I was working 60 hours a week during term time and spending 30 to 40 hours running the household, cooking, doing the childcare and so on. My institution keeps increasing student enrolment in my discipline without adequately increasing staff numbers. Meanwhile, we are entitled to one research day a week, but that is occupied with teaching preparation and bureaucracy. The only time that I could squeeze in any of my research was after my child’s bedtime, and I would work as late as 2am five or so nights a week after being up since 6am. Not surprisingly, I became very ill.
As I’m the breadwinner I can’t quit my job, but I also know that I simply can’t keep this up. This is not a normal life – it isn’t really any kind of life. Universities seem to think that the problem in maintaining a work-life balance for parents is to ensure that they have adequate childcare and that it’s OK to ask me to do open days on Saturdays or take part in evening teaching/events, as long as
childcare is provided. I meet many female academics who have avoided having kids because they can’t imagine juggling life and work. What we need is a survey of how academia is affecting the life choices of these women.