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The Dual Vocation of Parenthood and Professional Theology: How are we Doing? Where are we Headed?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 March 2013

Florence Caffrey Bourg
Affiliation:
Academy of the Sacred Heart and Loyola University, New Orleans

Abstract

This article focuses on an increasing trend—the attempt to combine responsibilities of parenthood and professional theology in a dual vocation. Today, many theologians are attempting to complete doctoral studies and earn tenure with young children in tow. Most likely, this will become the majority trend in the near future. How well is our profession adjusting to this significant demographic shift? This article compiles results of a survey of parent-theologians, covering family planning decisions, financial stability, attempts to balance work and leisure, and impact of parenthood on their work as theologians, as well as their suggestions for making the profession more conducive to this dual vocation.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The College Theology Society 2005

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References

1 Yocum-Mize, Sandra, “The History of the College Theology Society” (presented at the annual CTS meeting in Milwaukee, WI, 30 May 2003)Google Scholar; idem, “On Writing a History of the College Theology Society: Renewing Fifty Years of Theological Conversations,” Horizons 31/1 (Spring 2004): 94–104, at 103.

2 See the entire issue of Academe 90/6 (November-December 2004), on Balancing Faculty Careers and Family Work, also American Association of University Professors, Statement of Principles on Family Responsibilities and Academic Work (2001) at http://www.aaup.org/statements/REPORTS/re01fam.htmGoogle Scholar; Mason, Mary Ann and Goulden, Marc, “Do Babies Matter? The Effect of Family Formation on the Lifelong Careers of Academic Men and Women,” Academe 88/6 (November-December 2002), at http://www.aaup.org/publications/Academe/02nd/02ndmas.htmCrossRefGoogle Scholar; Wilson, Robin, “A Push to Help New Parents Prepare for Tenure Reviews” and “For Women With Tenure and Families, Moving Up the Ranks is Challenging,” both in The Chronicle of Higher Education (9 November 2001) at http://chronicle.com/free/v48/i11/11a01001.htmGoogle Scholar; Williams, Joan, “How the Tenure Track Discriminates Against Women,” The Chronicle of Higher Education (27 October 2000), at http://chronicle.com/jobs/2000/10/2000102703c.htmGoogle Scholar; Pennsylvania State University Population Research Institute, “Half-Time Tenure Track Could Level Professional Playing Field” (15 February 2001), at http://www.pop.psu.edu/searchable/press/feb1501.htmGoogle Scholar; Drago, Robert, “A Half-Time Tenure Track Proposal,” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 32/6 (November-December 2000): 4652CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Peterson-Iyer, Karen and Ravizza, Bridget Burke, “The Price of Motherhood: Are Christian Universities Willing to Pay It?” (unpublished paper presented at annual meeting of Society of Christian Ethics, January 2002).Google Scholar

3 See Hochschild, Arlie, The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1997)Google Scholar; idem, The Second Shift, 2nd ed. (East Rutherford, NJ: Penguin, 2003); Graaf, John De, ed., Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2003)Google Scholar; Schor, Juliet B., The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of American Leisure (New York: Basic Books, 1991)Google Scholar, and Wallis, Claudia, “The Case for Staying Home,” Time, 22 March 2004, pp. 5159Google Scholar

4 Miller McLemore, Bonnie J., Also a Mother: Work and Family as a Theological Dilemma (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1994), 194.Google Scholar

5 Questionnaires were distributed in two primary ways: via email and in person at the 2003 College Theology Society annual meeting. In addition, those who received the survey by email were encouraged to forward the questionnaire to interested colleagues, and this resulted in two completed questionnaires submitted by email.

6 One woman recently resigned a tenure-track position to relocate due to her husband's career—she hopes to find employment in the new locale. One has completed her doctorate and teaches on an adjunct basis so as to be home with her children; she hopes for a tenure-track position when they are older. Two other women are still trying to finish their doctorates—both halfway across the country from their doctoral school, because this is what their husbands' career paths required. One of these two teaches on an adjunct basis; the other is taking time off paid work because she has a new baby.

7 This is not counting the woman who resigned her post, plus two respondents who did not identify their employer.

8 Note: one respondent works at a research institute in Belgium.

9 Shea, William, “The Future of Graduate Education in Theology: A Clear Sky with the Possibility of a Late Afternoon Thunderstorm,” in Carey, Patrick and Muller, Earl, eds., Theological Education in the Catholic Tradition: Contemporary Challenges (New York: Crossroad, 1997), 131–44, at 132, 140–41.Google Scholar See also Matthew Lamb, “Challenges for Catholic Graduate Theological Education,” in Carey and Muller, 108–30.

10 See Williams, Joan, Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)Google Scholar; also Albrecht, Gloria, Hitting Home: Feminist Ethics, Women's Work, and the Betrayal of Family Values (New York: Continuum, 2002).Google Scholar

11 Pennsylvania State University Population Research Institute, “Half-Time Tenure Track Could Level Professional Playing Field.”

12 Williams, “How the Tenure Track Discriminates Against Women.”

14 For theological insights on the dual vocation of working parents, especially mothers, see Miller-McLemore, and Rubio, Julie Hanlon, A Christian Theology of Marriage and Family (New York: Paulist Press, 2003), 89111.Google Scholar

15 Lamb, 125.

16 A parent of toddlers thinks differently about administrative work: “[C]learly had I any aspirations to administrative positions, being a parent has put the kibosh on them. I'm not interested in working summers or the kinds of inflexible hours administrators work.”

17 Miller-McLemore speaks to this chronic frustration: “A hundred times—and not for the last time by any means—I have wondered, am I attempting a self-defeating task, attempting to ‘conceive’ in professional and familial ways at the same time?” (Also a Mother, 31).

18 Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe, The State of Our Unions 2002, retrieved from the website of the Rutgers University National Marriage project: http://marriage.rutgers.edu/Publications/SOOU/TEXTSOOU2002.htm#Child%20Centeredness.

19 Here I am including the woman who recently resigned her post.

20 A ninth answered “it worked.” Two respondents amended their “yes” by saying “I'm fortunate to have a spouse in a high-paying profession” or “I am probably the exception, since I hold a very generous endowed chair.”

21 One disturbing statistic uncovered by Mary Ann Mason and Marc Goulden in their review of the longitudinal Survey of Doctoral Recipients is this: “On a year-to-year basis, the chances that a tenure-track woman will divorce are twice those of a second-tier woman [=those working on a part-time or adjunct basis] and around 50 percent more than those of a male colleague in a tenure-track position” (“Do Babies Matter (Part II)?” Academe 90/6 [November-December 2004], 12).

22 In a survey of University of California faculty, Mason and Goulden documented this pattern, including disproportionate burdens for mothers. Among parents between thirty and fifty years old, mothers reported clocking over 100 hours per week in a combination of professional work, housework, and caregiving (presumably including both childcare and care for elderly/infirm loved ones); of these 100 hours, 51.2 were devoted to professional work. Fathers devoted about 55.6 hours per week to professional work, and about 30 additional hours to housework and caregiving. Women and men without children devoted 59.8 and 59.1 hours per week, respectively, to professional work, and about 19 hours per week to housework and caregiving. [“Do Babies Matter (Part II)?”, 14]

23 Williams, “How the Tenure Track Discriminates Against Women.”

24 Five respondents did not answer the sabbath/leisure question.

25 With concern for practicing solidarity with the least among us, an elder theologian says, “We manage to tithe from our gross income, but did not achieve that goal until about ten years ago.” This person adds, almost apologetically, “I do a great deal of volunteer work but as a result my publication record is very poor.” It is worth asking, what kind of warped institutional culture have we created, where a person who tithes and volunteers regularly feels self-conscious about his or her contributions? Does academia not need at least a few role models like this?

26 “Do Babies Matter?” (2002).

27 Drago, “A Half-Time Tenure Track Proposal.”

28 “Half-Time Tenure Track Could Level Professional Playing Field.”

29 One other woman reports that her husband receives retirement benefits, and three more report that their husbands work part-time, so these women are the primary breadwinners for their families. Only one man reports that his wife is the primary breadwinner for the household.

30 Research conducted in 2003 by Julie Hanlon Rubio of Saint Louis University found that of fifteen Catholic institutions and fifteen other Christian institutions, only seven percent offered an entire semester of paid maternity leave with no teaching or research responsibilities. Furthermore, over fifty percent of the Catholic universities and 30% of other Christian universities had no provisions for paid family leave of any type. Rubio cites additional studies which corroborate her finding that Christian schools, where most theologians teach, tend not to be role-models in support of work-family balance—this despite much “pro-family” rhetoric in the religious traditions with which they are affiliated (“The Cost of Doing Nothing: Universities and Family Leave Policies,” unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics, January 2003, p. 11).

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