This week (6/30/2014), the United States Supreme Court ruled that “…certain for-profit companies cannot be required to pay for specific types of contraceptives for their employees” (http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/30/politics/scotus-obamacare-contraception/). The corporations involved in the case (Conestoga Wood Specialties and Hobby Lobby) are allowed to use their religious beliefs to prevent female employees from gaining access to contraception through insurance plans offered by the company. Furthermore, they cannot be compelled to offer contraceptive under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). If you’re a woman that works for these companies and want contraceptives, you’re on your own.
This ruling brought so many things to mind:
1) When did corporations have religious beliefs? I never remember my pastor baptizing a company, watched my dad sing in the choir alongside a company, or heard a corporation holler “Thank you Jesus!” while I was in church.
2) When did contraception go against religious beliefs? Maybe those companies don’t know that ancient people have long known how not to have a kid? (I Googled “ancient world & contraception” and saw there are whole books describing the ways the folks that lived in the Bible used to keep from having unwanted pregnancies).
3) Do these corporations really want their employees to have tons of kids? I Googled “Hobby Lobby & daycare” and didn’t see any company-sponsored options for their employees with kids. Do they want legions of employees out of the office taking care of all their sick children? Do they really want each female employee on maternity leave 5 and 6 times during their tenure at these companies? Tell me there will be no retaliation for employees that continually have to ask for time off to take care of all their children or are perpetually on maternity leave.
4) Do these companies pay such high wages that employees can easily cover the daycare costs for 3—5 kids? Do they pay enough that all their employees can have the luxury of living in single-wage earner households? My wife and I drop about $1,200 a month on daycare for our two kids. Maybe I’m in the wrong profession if Hobby Lobby employees are rolling in salaries so robust they can have as many kids as they want because covering daycare costs for their tribe would be no problem.
I really don’t know what the repercussions of this decision will be. There are loads of worst-case scenario stuff floating around in the news media, but one thing is for sure: Women will figure out a way to take care of their own fertility. They always have and always will. These companies know that, which is why their fight to the Supreme Court is so ridiculous.
I also know most American companies and governments don’t care about their employees’ families. They seem to especially hate children young enough to need their parents’ care. They all say they’re for families, but do so many things that make it hard to raise kids in this country. What do you think ‘Right to Work’ is all about? If U.S employers cared about families, things would be much more different. They’d be more like the Scandinavian countries. If the government and companies actually cared about families, we’d follow the Nordic Model.
Why do I care? Archaeologists aren’t supposed to have kids anyway.
My Facebook feed has been blowing up with status updates from all the angry, educated women I’m friends with. They’re pissed about the Supreme Court decision and disappointed that, once again, corporate interests influenced public policy. I quickly noted that vasectomies are still covered under Obamacare, so maybe men should take the lead on controlling our own fertility.
This decision will probably do little to change things for my archaeologist friends because we’re not supposed to have kids anyway (especially the women). Actually, we’re not even supposed to get married. Archaeology is not a career path that is conducive to children and things are particularly bad if you’re a field archaeo.
(Before I continue with this discussion, I’d like to say that all of the companies I’ve worked for have been very, very amenable to my decision to get married and have kids. My bosses have always made time for me to deal with “family issues”, whether it was dying parents, assuming guardianship of my sister, having a wedding and honeymoon, or being present for the birth of both of my kids. While I had to take FMLA for these events, there was no retaliation when I came back to the office. In fact, my co-workers were always very supportive and compassionate. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart for being there when I needed them and for letting me have the time to deal with these huge life events.
When I say archaeologists aren’t supposed to have families, I mean the field of archaeology is not conducive to the sustenance and growth of families.)
Cultural resource management does not nurture young families
I love being a cultural resource management archaeologist, but I’ll be the first to admit it’s hard to be a husband, dad, and a field archaeologist. I’m fortunate to have married a non-archaeo because I don’t know if we’d have either of our wonderful kids if we were both CRMers. Between fieldwork, layoffs, wage stagnation, non-existent corporate ladder, and all the after-hours work it takes to forge a fruitful career in archaeology, I don’t know if I could have created the nurturing family environment that results in well-adjusted, intelligent children without my wife. It’s also hard to be there for your wife when you’re out in the field for half the year. Archaeology strains marriages.
CRM makes it hard to raise kids primarily because of:
— Frequent fieldwork
— Low pay
— Expensive benefits
— Proliferation of temporary/project-to-project work, and
— The “feast or famine” nature of CRM companies
How can you raise a kid if you don’t make much money, have to work out of town all the time, and don’t know if you’ll have a job next year. And, it’s hard to make that leap from the field to the office because the office is already full of other archaeos that are trying to raise kids and don’t want to go back out into the field. It’s not like CRM companies want things this way, but that’s the nature of our industry.
It’s also important to note that many archaeologists don’t have access to health care anyway. A recent blog post on Doug’s Archaeology suggests there’s a little more than 11,000 archaeologists in the United States (http://dougsarchaeology.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/how-many-archaeologists-are-in-the-us-more-than-a-couple-less-than-there-should-be/). These are the best numbers anyone can come up with since we don’t actually count ourselves and there are too few archaeos for the Bureau of Labor and Statistics to include us in their calculations.
While we can debate the true number of archaeos in the U.S., we can’t debate the fact that most temporary and seasonal archaeological technicians aren’t included in these calculations. The majority of these pseudo-undocumented archaeological workers are freshly out of school or are currently college students and are doing their best to break into the industry. Few of these techs are covered by company insurance policies because they’re temporary workers. This means they don’t have access to birth control through their insurance provider unless they’re enrolled in Obamacare, have insurance through their universities, or are young enough to still be on their parents’ insurance (Hopefully, their parents don’t work for Hobby Lobby). I have never asked any female temporary archaeo techs where they get their birth control, but I am fairly certain that they used some sort of contraceptive or controlled their fertility through other means even if they didn’t have insurance.
When it comes to families, archaeology isn’t gender-neutral
As a man, I don’t see parenthood the same a woman does. I don’t have first-hand experience of the plight of a working mom, but I live that life vicariously through my wife. I also see what happens to my female archaeology colleagues with regard to how parenthood effects their careers.
Archaeology is loaded with women that do awesome, insightful, quality work. I feel like archaeology is one of those careers where women and men are pretty much equal. Any of the back-breaking, strenuous “men’s work”, like lifting huge boulders or going He-Man on an excavation unit, shouldn’t really be done by anyone because it’s a safety risk. I’m a living example of why you shouldn’t try to be like John Henry in the field. Going Beastmode seriously shortens your field career.
However, I do see how the career path is different for women and men in CRM archaeology. Men are expected to be ready to mobilize for the field at any time, dads included. We aren’t supposed to feel anything about having to leaving our wife and kids to go out of town. Our spouses are supposed to pick up the slack and not feel bad about being a single-mom for weeks at a time, every other month. CRM companies know that we dads should be there for the birth of our kids, but dads aren’t supposed to care about missing their first steps, or kindergarten graduation, or prom, or the first time they kiss a girl. We’re not supposed to take paternity leave like some Norwegian. We’re archaeologists. Indiana Jones didn’t become a dad until the 4th movie and his kid was already grown. We’re not supposed to have families until we’re PIs and the mother is supposed to raise the kid.
Things are even worse for women field archaeologists. Pregnancy in the field is avoided like a disease. I’ve never been in the field with a woman in her second trimester even though they could easily do non-excavation survey and field lab work. Coming up on your third trimester? Got a newborn? You’re probably not going to get hired by a CRM company unless you have some skills they really, really want or your kids are in school. Things get more difficult after the baby’s born. Where are you going to pump breast milk in the field? How are you gonna pump? How will you preserve the pumped milk when you’re out in a forest somewhere? Women field archaeos aren’t supposed to ask those questions because they’re not supposed to have babies. A woman with a small child will rarely be found in the field.
Women are also supposed to be the primary caregivers for their kids. When a kid gets sick and can’t go to daycare or school, who’s supposed to stay home with them? Mom, not dad. And, mom can’t stay home with the kids if she’s in Yuma County on a field project. This “Mommy the Caregiver” is probably a huge reason why I don’t see more mothers with small children in the higher levels of CRM archaeology. It’s pretty hard to rise from field tech to PI if you get fewer chances to lead field projects, can’t go out of town for conferences and fieldwork, and can’t go back to school for a PhD because you have little kids. Almost all the female principals I know have already raised their children or never had kids at all. It took the mom PIs about a decade longer to make it to the top than their male counterparts. I wonder why?
It ain’t much better for archaeology professors
Becoming an archaeology professor is almost as difficult as becoming a general in any branch of the U.S. military. In fact, there are many more generals and admirals than there are archaeology professors. It’s even more difficult to become a tenure-track archaeology professor; or, a professor of anything. It’s nearly impossible to become a tenure-track professor if you’re a woman with children. Ladies, if you want to become an archaeology prof you’ll need to have your kids after you pass your tenure review. Seriously.
The plight of women professors with kids has been well-documented. In the Journal of Higher Education, Wolfinger et al. (2008) revealed that, “…family and children account for the lower rate at which women obtain tenure-track jobs” (http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/jhe/summary/v079/79.4.wolfinger.html). Summarizing a study of how babies alter academic careers, Robin Wilson noted that; “The worst time for women who pursue careers in academe to have a baby is within five years of earning a Ph.D…” (http://physics.acadiau.ca/tl_files/sites/physics/resources/Women%20in%20Science%20and%20Engineering%20Workshop/How%20Babies%20Alter%20Careers.pdf). These are just a few of the studies that suggest that academic careers are more difficult for women with young children. But the situation is not the same for men in academe. Wilson continues to state that; “Men who took a university job without children were 70 percent more likely than their female counterparts to become parents, the study found. Only one-third of women who took a university job without children ever became mothers.” Since tenure is so hard to achieve, what woman with the potential of landing a tenure-track position is going to have a baby before that job is locked in? It looks like only a third of women are willing to risk it even after they’ve achieved tenure.
Female archaeologists are going to use contraception even if their employer doesn’t provide it
Before there was Obamacare, women archaeologists controlled their fertility. With or without insurance they kept from having babies. They’ll continue to do so regardless of what the Supreme Court says. I’m not saying the Supreme Court decision doesn’t erode the ability for women to have affordable means of controlling their fertility. It does. The decision also follows along a frightful line of thought where corporations can have religious beliefs. The freedoms our parents and grandparents fought for are slowly being eroded because we Gen-Xers and Millennials aren’t doing anything about it. We’re going to need to act quickly if we want to have the same rights and freedoms as our parents.
For women in archaeology, this decision does little to change their status. Many female CRMers don’t have health insurance anyway, so they’ve always been on their own to figure out how they’re going to control their fertility. It also doesn’t change the fact that it’s difficult to raise a family as cultural resource management archaeologist.
While it’s hard, having kids and being an archaeologist is not impossible. Most of the full-time CRMers I know have spouses and children. Many of the PIs have grandkids now. If we can do it, so can the rest of you. Don’t let your desire to become an archaeologist keep you from having kids.
Let’s keep the discussion going. How do you feel about raising a family as an archaeologist?
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