Parenting whilst being an archaeologist?

An early attempt at fieldwalking?

An early attempt at archaeological fieldwalking by The Toddler?

This blog post is happening because I have just read an article on a parenting website which infuriated me. It was about working mums being able to have it all so if this is not a topic that interests you then look away now and be spared the rant!

There is a lot of ‘big thinking’ going on in the Household recently. The Toddler is now a proper little boy – not our wee baby anymore, Daddy is doing a grand job at being a Senior Archaeologist at work as well as doing other archaeological research and being a great daddy, but moi? Well, I’m not sure.

For the last few months I’ve been back at work, which I’ve loved, in a very part time way. I’ve even managed to do some other non mummy things like the odd pint in the pub *shock horror* and get a haircut alone. All these small things are very good but it’s time to think about the bigger picture and get back into work (career) seriously as well as work on taking some more time for myself.

Up until now I’ve thought that me-time was selfish, that I should be concentrating more on the mummy stuff, but I don’t think I’m cut out to make homemade playdough (worth a post in itself) and bake cookies all day.

I think I have realised that I am a mummy who, whilst I love the Sproggle more than I ever thought you could love someone, needs to also have a career. There’s been some soul searching as to whether this makes me a terrible mother, some N*T mummy group people are probably setting up the wooden stakes and lighting matches as we speak. Lots of mummy magazine articles and blogs announce that you ‘can have it all‘, the ideal solution seems to be that you work part time and share childcare with daddy and grandma. That way, the articles say, you can have two salaries coming in but with no childcare costs going out. Both parents get to work and feel human, and your little cherub learns social skills and how to be away from you and go on adventures with grandma for ice cream and teddy bear picnics. Lovely.

Alas, not really practical if both parents are archaeologists. I haven’t seen one parenting article tackling *that*. How can you realistically share childcare with things like fieldwork, away jobs and long office hours? You need nursery. Sproggle is at nursery part time and loves it, it’s great for him and I’m happy he’s there but until they provide a chaffeur service a parent still needs to drop him off and pick him up. Nursery also only opens from 8am to 6pm. Luckily, this hasn’t been an issue for us because, for one of us anyway, our digging days are over. But I wonder how on earth digging parents manage to do the nursery run, assuming the fieldwork is not an away job in the first place. One of you would have to say no to work if the contracts clashed. And talking of contracts, if you are a digger unlucky enough to be on short contracts then you can’t plan life anyway really, nevermind childcare. Many nurseries can’t do (understandably) random hours care here and there, yes this week but not next etc.

I guess some people might read this and think, well don’t have babies if you don’t have a steady permanent job or something like that, and I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion but that would mean that most archaeologists wouldn’t ever be in a position to have a family. Who has a permanent job these days anyway?

But let’s leave digging archaeologists out of the equation for a while. Let’s tackle the academic ones. In some respects, archaeologist parents in academia might appear to have it easier than their commercial counterparts. They probably have an office and don’t do much fieldwork – nursery run sorted then. However, academics have a huge workload and most of the time are probably taking work home just to fit it in – like student essay marking, that extra funding bid to finish to keep your job. It’s almost impossible to do that stuff in the evening when there is a little person who won’t sleep or hasn’t seen you all day and wants hugs. Academic fieldwork probably involves long stints away from home when it does happen, weeks at a time. That leaves one parent at home alone for weeks, probably over the summer, now faced with a wee one who has noticed mummy or daddy is away and is probably now playing up.

The annoying article I read that led to to write this (and many others) suggests that you don’t need nursery at all if both parents work flexitime and use grandparents for a few hours a week. Archaeology doesn’t generally work with flexitime (i’m not suggesting it can or should, just pointing it out) and many archaeologist mummies and daddies have probably moved around the country (read: away from family) to keep a career going so grandparent care isn’t an option anyway. Non parents might be shocked to read that full time nursery costs about £12000 a year, and non archaeologists might be shocked to learn that archaeology salaries can be as low as £17000 a year before tax. Do the maths, that could be working full time to earn £2000 a year (or £40 a week) and never see your wee one.

Something isn’t right when parents might have to choose between carrying on an archaeological career and having a balanced family life. I’ve a mind to write to the yummy mummy blog concerned but now I’ve ranted I feel much better. What do other archaeologist parents think?

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2 comments
  1. Dan Hull said:

    Some very good points, and something that we too have struggled with. Well said!

    • emmajaneoriordan said:

      I should have made it clear that archaeological daddies have the dilemma too! 🙂

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