The university has made its decision. I asked for a further six months on the grounds of limited childcare; they have given me three. Their answer came back with the strict warning that they will not, under any circumstances, consider any further requests for more time: if I do not submit my dissertation by 1 December, then I fail.
I think that, providing nothing unforeseen happens over the next three months, then I should be OK. We’ve upped my daughter’s days at nursery from two to three days a week, and my husband will take over on the domestic front at the weekends to free me up to work. There has even been some talk of him taking some vacation days between now and December, but I’m not sure whether this will actually happen: he’s one of those workaholic types who are absolutely convinced that the wheels will fall off if he’s not there to keep them in place.
But the way in which the University has responded has made me hopping mad on two fronts. How can anyone attempt to dictate how long it is ‘reasonable’ to take to recover from a miscarriage, or indeed a failed cycle of treatment? If I had been dealing with any other recurrent, chronic and long-term health condition, I do not think they would have disputed the amount of extra time I had requested in the past. But they appear to view infertility differently: as a matter of lifestyle/choice.
Their approval of the three-month extension was forwarded to me by my dissertation advisor, who made the helpful suggestion that, ‘if you feel you will find it difficult to meet this deadline, then you could perhaps consider buying in extra childcare.’ What with? Magic beans? Although we are fortunate enough to be in a financial position to put Little A into nursery for an extra day a week while I go all out to meet this deadline, here in the UK, we still have some of the most expensive childcare in Europe. This suggestion came from someone who was actively involved in the campaigns for more affordable childcare run by the Women’s Liberation Movement back in the 1970s (and, forty years on, little has changed on that front). And this is, I think, my increasing problem with much of academic feminism: as feminism has become established within the university, so too has it become increasingly divorced from its activist beginnings. It has become in the process a methodology–(in my discipline in particular) a means of saying clever things about art–rather than a political practice with the potential not just to change women’s, but everyone’s, lives for the better.
But I intend to use this fury to propel me through the next three months. And, if nothing else, it’s got me blogging again.