Nat weighs 16 pounds exactly, as accurately guessed by Mama Shannon before the doctor's appointment, Monday. She is about 25th %ile for height and between 25th and 50th for weight.
Yesterday, she met the dog downstairs, who cheerily licked her in the face. In response, she threw her arms open and squeaked with glee. It was very cute.
We are off to Philly to see GrandMom and GrandDad and Auntie Nancy who will be driving up from DC for the weekend. More upon our return. But I expect you to be scribbling furiously to your congressional representatives in my absence!
There is much to commend this Op-Ed from Sunday's New York Times not the least is the breath of fresh air I feel has suddenly been let into the mainstream media since Katrina. It is deeply disappointing that so many people have to die (here and in Iraq; military personnel and civilians; black and white; etc. etc.) before GWB gets held accountable for running the United States, to borrow Rich's language (and change its context only slightly) "into a ditch." Nevertheless it is a relief to see our fourth estate finally doing its job after what has felt to me like a five-year hiatus of journalistic responsibility.
One thing I found especially disturbing in Rich's article is the fact he points out, that
the FEMA Web site directing charitable contributions prominently listed Operation Blessing, a Pat Robertson kitty that, according to I.R.S. documents obtained by ABC News, has given more than half of its yearly cash donations to Mr. Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.
I'm going to write my senators and ask them to add this to the list of things that need investigation by an independent commission. I'm also going to email the feedback link on the FEMA site complaining. The FEMA site disclaims any responsibility for reading those emails, however, so I'm not holding my breath for change.
A number of states, including Utah and Texas, want to teach some of the dispersed Gulf Coast students in shelters instead of in local public schools, a stance supported by the Bush administration and some private education providers. But advocates for homeless families and civil rights oppose that approach.
At the center of the dispute is whether the McKinney-Vento Act, a landmark federal law banning educational segregation of homeless children, should apply to the evacuees. In addition, because many of the stranded students are black, holding classes for them at military bases, convention centers or other emergency housing sites could run afoul of racial desegregation plans still operating in some school districts.
Apparently, Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings promised Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that she would not enforce the McKinney-Vento Act so that Utah will not be forced to accept displaced New Orleans students into its public schools. It is growing clearer and clearer since Barbara Bush let slip about her concerns that people in the Astro Dome might stay in Texas, that certain well-off white people don't want poor black people in their communities or poor black children in their schools.
Then, please drop an email to your U.S. representative and your senators to let them know that even John Roberts thinks Brown v Board of Education is "settled law." Don't let Spellings give waivers to states to keep the survivors of Katrina out of decent schools.
In the past three days, I have had to divest three well-meaning straight allies of the notion that we receive "Domestic Partner Benefits" that are roughly equivalent to what we'd get if we were legally married. So I thought I'd post a little lesson about the difference between what you'd think it sounds like we have if you weren't particularly invested in looking too closely, and what we actually have.
For several years, people fought to get health insurance coverage for domestic partners from my partner's employer. Many good people who weren't queer themselves came to our assistance and petitioned on our behalf. Finally, the university changed its policy and offered something that helped us a bit when it came to my health insurance. Here's how it works:
Let's say a basic health policy costs $235/month for one person. If you're an employee, about $40 comes out of your paycheck every month and the employer just covers the rest. If you have a legal spouse who also needs coverage, an additional $75 comes out of your paycheck per month so that you pay a total of $115 for two policies worth $470. The difference never appears anywhere in your pay statements, it is simply absorbed by the employer.
In the case of domestic partners, $40 comes out for the employee's policy. To cover me, we pay $235 out of pocket. Every quarter, the university cuts my partner a reimbursement check representing the difference between what we actually paid and what would have come out of her check if I was her legal spouse. We have to fill out paperwork and go to an office in person to "request" this reimbursement, and when it comes, it is taxed as income at nearly 30%, the same way a pay check is taxed (unlike that invisible difference absorbed for married partners). (We have had to sign sworn statements and deliver proof of our economic interdependence--like jointly owned property and joint bank accounts--to prove we're really partners in the first place. Married people, on the other hand, just need a marriage certificate and are free to arrange their finances as they please, but whatever.)
And here's a real kick-in-the-pants: to figure this "difference" the university pretends we have the most expensive policy (in fact we have the least, as we couldn't possibly afford the most). So it isn't even the real difference. It's considerably less.
But this is pretty good. Not equal, but not bad compared to what we were doing before and paying the whole cost of my policy out of pocket, right? There are no other benefits for us, like shared retirement (which I mentioned in the career posts below), and that amounts to an enormous difference between our financial situation and those of our married peers, but again, whatever. The health insurance reimbursement is nice to have. It helps.
Here's where things start really sucking. Again, let's say that married couple above has a baby. The baby's health policy is another $235/month. Does another $75 come out of the employee's paycheck? Nope. Because the baby is a second "dependent" (after the wife), her policy is more sharply discounted, and only $40/month is deducted for her $235 policy. In our case, the baby is my partner's only recognized dependent ("dependent" being a legal status for "real" family members only), so her policy costs the full $75 per month.
So we are paying, in reality about $300 per month (after the taxes that come out of my reimbursement) for three health policies whereas our married peers are paying $155 for the same thing. We're paying $1,740 per year to be queer (in the health insurance department, alone, that is). Worth it? Well, yeah. Fair? No way!
Meanwhile, the university gets to have it both ways. They look like the good guy, while still short-changing our family by comparison to other families. And everyone who isn't actually in our situation sort of assumes the problem they fought to solve is now solved, while in fact, it remains.
One woman I talked to this weekend helped get the current "benefit" passed. She told me it was hard to do in a recession year, when the university's budget was getting cut left and right. She said they just couldn't afford more. Well, excuse me, but you can either afford health care for your employees and their families or you can't. It is inhumane to suggest that some people deserve health care and others don't. I suggested to her that the university axe one of its new parking lots and give us health insurance instead. She said "Oh but I pay for parking. That's not an expense to the university." Guess what? We pay for parking too. But also we're taxed for the slight help we get on the insurance.
All of this is a violation of our state constitution, by the way, as last year, the state passed a non-discrimination amendment regarding sexual orientation, and the university is a state employer. Stay tuned for the continuing saga, folks. And the next time you hear that some company offers "domestic partner benefits" look closely and see what that offer really means. It may be fabulously generous. It may be minimal.
I am not happy that I was forced to make a choice between the thing I was (highly) trained (at great expense) to do and having what is for me, an acceptable personal life.
The fact is, I chose the career I did because teaching was the way I planned to contribute to the next generation, rather than parenting. I LOVE teaching. Teaching is absolutely my calling--it is why God put me on the planet. I have no doubts about that. I will definitely find ways to teach in this new configuration of family and life that I have made since Nat's arrival. The online thing is my first attempt at finding new, workable ways to teach. But parenting is now in the mix too, and if I am forced to cut back on one or the other, it's not going to be Nat.
I am angry at the academy I was trained to enter (the high-stakes Research I part of the academy, which offers the most stress, but the greatest rewards in terms of financial success, benefits, and professional respect) for disallowing women from its highest ranks unless they successfully pretend they either don't have personal lives, or don't value those aspects of life as highly as their careers.
I know that men get the same treatment, but it's women who really pay the price for this attitude, given a society that still assumes that mothers are the 75-90% parents and fathers are evening and weekend hobbyists. this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education showed that when women have babies before achieving tenure, their chances for ever achieving it go down, while men with babies pre-tenure actually have better chances. Clearly, wives and mothers are picking up more than their fair share of family slack.
My decision not to leap onto the gerbil wheel of a tenure-track job was, in some ways, a forced one. I know there are women willing, able and doing the incredibly hard work of both a pre-tenure academic career and parenthood, but given a choice, I was just not willing to try it. And like I said, finding a job in the first place would have been a challenge for me, given my geographical limitations at the moment.
In her book, Crittenden calls for part-time work that is paid in fair proportion to the percentage of time worked. This is not even close to what I will get in my new permanent-adjunct existence. In D.C., my university paid me $200 less per semester to teach a class than they charged me to stay enrolled as an ABD. So I worked another job half-time, in addition to teaching (which I did out of love, more than anything) to keep a roof over my head (that's a big reason it took me about 1.5 years longer to finish the degree than the average for my field). If a full-time, tenure-track faculty member makes $60K and benefits, I'd like one-third of that (including one-third of the benefits) to do one-third of the same job (for example, teaching three classes a year with no committee or research requirements). To do that work in my field, anyway, I would be getting more like one-fifth of the pay and no benefits and no job security (adjuncting is a semester-to-semester contract job). I'd also be knocking myself out to teach even that much with a baby at home and the pay would not cover/barely cover the childcare we'd need if I worked that much.
So I made the choice to skip it for now, find work from home and do it somewhat minimally until Nat is older.
But it's an incredibly loaded choice. One cannot really drop out of the high-stakes academy and return later. That's an even more uphill battle than getting tenure with a baby. Once someone has dropped out, slowed down, taken a break (especially a break for a baby), professional respect goes out the window. Hence the sudden crazy looks when I bring up my family in a conversation about where my career is going next.
When I say Nat is the most fun, fulfilling thing I've ever done, I don't mean women in general ought to run home and get pregnant and knit booties under their framed PhDs. I just mean that if I'm going to have to choose (and clearly, I am), I pick Nat.
My partner had a colleague who told her that after his young son was almost killed in a car accident he realized (yes, "he!") that on his death bed, he wouldn't be wishing he'd written that one more journal article. He'd be wishing he spent more time with his kids. So he had chosen to work at a small college without the Research I pressures (or rewards) to focus his priorities on his family. A few years later, his son died of cancer. I think the moral of the story is not "get back to home and hearth, women!" To me, the moral of the story is "get real, academia!" People have full lives. Demanding fewer articles and allowing more flexibility and pay equity for those who choose it would be a nice start.
And, as I said below, the government respecting and paying for the time people do put into the labor involved in family life would be another nice start.
And in our case, treating me like the spouse I am would be another very helpful change, but there's yet another long post.
Witchtrivets is thinking of hanging it up. She's a great writer with important things to say. Please go let her know how much you appreciate her voice and join me in grovelling at her feet, pleading with her to stick around the blogosphere a little longer.