This paper examines antecedents and consequences of faculty women’s academic–parental role balancing, defined as the process of experiencing greater interrole facilitation/enhancement than interrole conflict/depletion. It is posited that childcare responsibilities affect the career–family challenges academic women face, i.e., dueling tenure and biological clocks, reduced mobility for faculty women with children, and the illusion that a flexible academic schedule permits one to perform all the responsibilities of a full-time academic and a full-time parent. The paper presents a theoretical model of factors that serve either to contribute to or complicate academic–parental role balancing. Propositions about the relationships between these antecedents and role balancing, and between role balancing and its consequences, are identified. Practical implications of academic–parental role balancing are also considered.
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A musical metaphor may help to clarify how women’s life roles interact. When melody and harmony blend well in a musical composition, the resulting sound is richer and more pleasing to the ear than if either part were played alone. However, when the two parts mix poorly, because, for example, the notes clash or the volumes or tempos are misaligned, the cacophony is decidedly less pleasant to behold than either single part. Analogously, a woman with children and an academic career may enjoy a fuller, richer life than if she had career only or children only, but she needs to be able to join these two key parts of her life such that they are more mutually enhancing (euphonious) than conflicting (discordant).
Waldfogel (1998) attributed the earnings gap between mothers and childless women to the enduring suppressing impact of interrupted employment on future earnings. But work history explains only one-third of mothers’ lower earnings, according to Budig and England (2001), who asserted that the remaining two-thirds might be tied to the effect of children on productivity and/or employer discrimination against mothers. Moreover, Hewlett (2002) reported that one-third of the high-achieving women aged 41–55 in her study were childless, many not deliberately.
See Tietze (2002) for a discussion of the limitations of flexible schedules.
Physically or developmentally disabled children continue to place heavy demands on their parents beyond the pre-school period (see Porterfield, 2002).
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We gratefully acknowledge the insightful comments of MaryAnne Hyland, Freida Reitman, Alison Konrad, Brad Knipes, Linda Smircich, Marta Calás, Jing Jian Xiao, and two anonymous reviewers; and the research assistance of Audrey Damour. We also thank Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business for supporting our research through a grant to the first author.
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Comer, D.R., Stites-Doe, S. Antecedents and Consequences of Faculty Women’s Academic–Parental Role Balancing. J Fam Econ Iss 27, 495–512 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10834-006-9021-z