The Mommyprof Track
In many ways, law teaching is an ideal job for ambitious women who value a balance between work and family. Many (though by no means all) law schools have generous maternity leaves — a semester paid, and if you can time your baby at the beginning of the calendar year or the end of the academic year, you can tack on a summer and win nine months at home with your newborn. Once you’re back to teaching full time, the flexible schedule makes it possible to spend quality time with children during the hours they are available and to get your work done after the little ones have gone to bed. And, at least in an ideal world, your colleagues view you as a lifetime investment rather than a disposable worker, so they will be flexible and supportive at this particularly challenging stage of your life.
That has been my experience and that of several of my friends, but I have heard significantly more negative stories from other women, ranging from law schools that refuse to provide more than six weeks paid leave to schools that expect female professors to wait until they have tenure to bear children. I’ve heard of other schools that require women to “make up” the classes they miss while on leave; I can only imagine what a 2-2 or 2-3 teaching load while juggling a toddler (or nursing!) does to one’s research agenda. And of course, for all of us, there’s no “part-time” option as a law professor; while working moms in many other fields can opt to work only two or three days a week for less pay, there’s no “mommy track” to tenure. So while law prof moms often have the flexibility to work from home two or three days a week, those days must be productive and can’t be spent playing with little ones. (To be sure, that’s just fine with many of us, including yours truly, but may not be ideal for all law prof moms.)
Despite all of these variations in accommodating law professor moms, there’s not much discussion of the industry standards, for obvious reasons — law prof moms, particularly pre-tenure, don’t want to out their schools’ unsupportive policies. Enter technology! I’m trying my hand at polls for the first time, and hope that readers who teach at law schools will provide information about their schools’ cultures and policies. Though admittedly highly unscientific, the results of the polls may still be of some interest and may also play a role bringing these issues to the fore. I also hope that readers will provide additional comments about the relevant cultures and policies at their schools — don’t forget that you can do so anonymously.
UPDATE: My attempt to create a fancy poll within my post sadly (though not surprisingly!) failed; I’ve created a poll on SurveyMonkey here and will share results soon. Thanks for voting!