Someone gets it. Barbara Weinstein is the new president of the AHA and her column in the recent Perspectives is all about the problems of mobility for historians. Not the mobility issues of personal disability (though that would be a worthwhile question), but the broader issue of one who cannot easily travel to archives or research centres or take long sabbaticals away from home due to various personal circumstances.
Like me, Barbara Weinstein’s a parent to an autistic child. And her comments on the issue hit home:
A child with a serious disability alters a family’s life in hundreds of ways; in my case, among many other things, it shattered my fantasy of a mobile, transcultural family unit. Of course, at the time that was the least of my worries. Still, at some point I had to re-evaluate and re-think almost every aspect of my career, including whether I could ever again spend enough time in Brazil to do serious archival research. And even within an English-language environment, given the challenges of arranging special educational programs and much-needed therapy for my son, any geographic move seemed fraught with difficulty.
This resonates with me very much right now. Even a trip away to a conference fills me with guilt and anxiety as we work to reinforce the family safety net while I’m out of town. Long trips away for archival research? Inconceivable. And a year away? Not even up for discussion.
Let’s be honest, I’m a homebody, anyway. I’d rather not travel all over heck and gone, particularly not with a family in tow (who gets work done when traveling with kids, anyway?). But it’s not inclination, so much as situation, that binds me here.