Sleepless in Academia: Responding to New Academic Parents’ Challenges

Our main objective with the “Sleepless in Academia: Responding to New Academic Parents’ Challenges” project is to contribute to the development of inclusive family-friendly policies across Utrecht University.

Thuiswerken © iStockphoto.com/filadendron

Family-friendly policies help to balance and benefit both the work and family life of parents and caregivers of young children. These policies typically provide time, finances, and services such as opportunities for taking parental leave and the creation of relevant facilities (e.g. for nursing). Generic policies sometimes fail to address the needs of parents and caregivers. These limitations may have even more difficult consequences for parents dealing with unique challenges such as single parents, adoptive parents, or immigrant parents (e.g. non-flexible working arrangements). The importance of these policies has become even more recognized in the past years due to the pandemic where our flexibility and resilience have been put to test in terms of balancing work and life.

To address these challenges, Sleepless in Academia project will engage actively with first-time parents working as academic staff in the university. Through a set of dialogue sessions, we hope to create a safe and open space for new (immigrant) parents within UU to get together and share their experiences in relation to their transition to parenthood as academics. The focus on first-time parents is not an arbitrary choice. We expect this group to particularly face challenges when transitioning to parenthood while maintaining a work-life balance.
 
Next to the dialogue sessions, we will be conducting a set of interviews with relevant stakeholders (e.g. human resources) within the university and develop an inventory regarding the family-friendly policies across faculties. As a result, our aim is to provide policy recommendations at the university level to enhance family-friendly policies. In doing so, we particularly seek to highlight the diverse experiences and needs of academics in various family and care situations.

New parents with a migrant background must discover their role as a new parent in another country, with an unknown healthcare system, a new language, culture, and possibly less (if any) support from their social environment.

Focus on academics with a migration background

Considering the ongoing internationalization at Utrecht University, it is important to note that the project will pay particular attention to new academic parents with a migration background. Becoming a parent is in general a challenging experience involving mental and physical changes. However, for parents who live in a country other than the country of origin, this struggle is greater and often involves unexpected challenges. New parents with a migrant background (as a migrant or refugee) must discover their role as a new parent in another country, with an unknown healthcare system, a new language, culture, and possibly less (if any) support from their social environment. For academics with a migrant background, the institutional support that they may receive from their employer, in this case Utrecht University, may be even more important.
 
For questions on the project: Özge Bilgili
Project team: Özge Bilgili, Rianne Dekker, Kia Mikkonen (research assistant)
External collaborator: Parenting Across Borders