Friday, March 05, 2010

Our Meeting this Afternoon

Typically, colleagues in my department who have children under 13 to about 16 miss occasional meetings because of child care issues.

It's a gorgeous day out. My bike is back from the shop after its spring tune up.

I wonder if I can tell my colleagues that I have an inner-child care issue and have to miss our afternoon meeting today?

(The folks who have child care issues have minimal sense of humor about the problem of missing meetings. I could not make this joke with any of my current colleagues who have children. There's a retired colleague who would laugh, though.)

Children trump everything. On one level, I get that. On another, I think that if you know there's a meeting at work--and this isn't a last minute, emergency thing--you should find other care for your child, even if you have to pay a babysitter. I know it costs money, but I'm tired of being asked to always pick up the slack.

**OMG, as I hit post, a parade of little kids from the subsidized day care center (subsidized by our low pay being less than it otherwise would be) coming around doing a fund raiser. Seriously, can we NOT have a parade of kids disrupting the workplace?


  1. I'd go for the bike ride :)

  2. How are you picking up the slack? Not picking a fight at all, I just can't tell from the post: do you mean that you have to attend the meeting while they don't?

    In which case: perhaps it is a time to call an inner-child care day off!

    Everyone has different excuses, after all, for missing meetings. Yours is just as valid. :)

  3. I would call that a "personal emergency." Or, if you want to be basically truthful, "a personal issue that has to be resolved in the afternoon." After all, you can't bike in the dark.

    My mother calls them "mental health days." Everyone needs one once in a while.

  4. I like Ana's solution. Re: babysitters, they're not always easy to find. My sister-in-law has a long list, & still comes up dry sometimes.

  5. I have a colleague who often misses meetings because of childcare issues. I find that excuse to be craptacular. When I was home for two months taking care of my dad after his heart surgery, I would attend each meeting via speakerphone.

    However, when I feel like bailing on a meeting (as I did just this past Monday, in fact), I simply say, "I have an appointment off campus that I cannot change." Sometimes I have a real appointment; other times, I have an appointment to sit on my couch.

    In short, go for the bike ride.

  6. I think it never pays to say why you can't attend a meeting--whatever the reason, it's likely to annoy someone.

    I'd go for the bike ride.

    FWIW, I'm far more annoyed by my colleagues who come to meetings and never really do anything when there, than I am by colleagues who miss meetings for childcare arrangements falling through. (That said, the last dept meeting I went to, I brought my kid with me.)

  7. p.s. for clarity--this comment and the one just prior are from a different Susan than the first-commenting-Susan. Hi other Susan!

  8. I don't think it's anyone's business why someone misses a meeting. I don't want to give excuses, I don't want to hear excuses. Ok, maybe an excuse is necessary if one is a critical player (e.g. supposed to run the meeting).

    I've been unavailable before because I wanted to go running, so I 100% support you going on a ride. :)

    Interestingly, now that I have a kid I'm less likely to miss meetings and I'm totally paranoid about what people will say if I do miss a meeting. I never used to care.

  9. Thanks for your comments, all.

    I went to the meeting, and it was good that I did. I learned some stuff, and shared a question or two.

    And then I was able to get out for a short bike ride. And it was glorious out there.

  10. I'm thrilled that you got your bike ride. I believe that everyone should have the ability to protect some hours as needed for emergencies or for preservation of sanity.

    I respect my colleague who's taking a dancing class for protecting those personal hours. I suspect yours would understand you blocking off some time that's not just for research but to protect your regular bike rides.

    On the other hand, I've finally wised up enough to know that I'm doing no one any good to drag my sorry, virus-ridden ass into the U for a meeting, no matter how important it is. Your health is more important than any meeting. This summer's devastating viral arthritis attack taught me that, if nothing else could get that lesson through my thick skull!

  11. Next time, take the day off. You do have an appointment--with your bike--but they don't have to know that.

  12. Not to quibble, but if a kid is sick, then no one will babysit for him/her, regardless of how much money one offers the sitter. It's up to dear old mom/dad to take care of the kid. And in the event that the kid is not sick but that the usual caregiver cannot provide care, it's almost impossible to find alternatives within 24 hours of needed care. It would be one thing if children could take care of themselves, but obviously, they can't. There are a lot of factors and variables in here that people without kids just don't seem to understand.

    All that to be said, I seriously recommend taking any and all mental health days that you need. But believe me, most of the parents that have to stay home with a sick kid would MUCH rather be at that meeting than at home with said sick kid. It's not fun taking a day off to deal with vomit, fever, diarrhea, or whatever. Especially because when you have young kids, like I do, a lot of times all those body fluids end up on the parent somehow. I can't tell you how many times my four-year-old has projectile vomited on me. The best time was when he did it on my face.

    YES, I'd rather be at work at the most boring meeting available than be vomited on any day of the week.

  13. Susan, You probably have more sense than I do.

    Ink, if there's X amount of work, and five people to do it (say, scheduling classes or editing letters, or whatever) and one person doesn't show, then four people have to do the same work. It doesn't go away, and the dean's deadlines don't change.

    Ana, I don't think my biking is generally an emergency.

    Dame Eleanor, Indeed, the best child care sometimes falls through.

    Roaringgrrl, Speakerphone is a smart solution! Good thinking!

    Susan, Good point; I want people to be ready to do the job when they come to meetings, too.

    Profgrrrl, I respectfully disagree. I don't think my biking qualifies for missing a meeting that's part of my job.

    Janice, You're absolutely right that missing because you're sick (or a family member is sick and needs care) is a very different and legitimate reason.

    Undine, I can't bring myself to do that. I'm paid for this, and not to ride my bike, after all.

    Fie, Thanks for your comment. Indeed, I wouldn't criticize a colleague for caring for a sick child, ever. But I have several colleagues who just can't manage to arrange child care for after school, even though we have regular meetings starting at 3pm for some things.

  14. I hate to be a voice of dissent, but I'm one of those parents with a kid I can't get childcare for.

    Mr. delagar and I can usually work our schedules so that one of us has the kid when the other one has meetings, but it doesn't always work out. Up to last year, we did have an emergency back-up (a neighbor who took the kid once in a while), but that fell through. We don't have family in town; we don't belong to a helpful church with lots of friendly useful teenagers who will work for a couple bucks an hour. We don't know a nice old grandma who will volunteer to drop in.

    Saying pay for it is fine, but he's an adjunct and I haven't have a raise in 4 years. The aftercare at her school is a hundred a week, for something we'd use once in awhile at best. If you're going to use it at all, you have to sign on and pay for it all year -- not that I blame them, either. They have to hire their workers whether I use the service or not.

    And I'd bring her to meetings, but she's not that great at staying quiet -- what kid is? -- and who wants a parade of kids disrupting the workplace?

    So I miss meetings, even though I know they've been scheduled for weeks ahead of time. I'm not sure what else I'm supposed to do. The schools let out at 3:00, after all.

  15. Anonymous1:41 PM

    My question would be, if these colleagues miss/skip meetings, do they then turn around and complain about decisions that were made in their absence? For a peek at the possible consequences, see Dean Dad's "Why Wasn't I Notified?" at