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An in-depth exploration with good evening and welcome to woman. Tonight we continue our look at marriage with a discussion of the two profession marriage. My guest Gail and Tom Parker will tell us how they make their two profession marriage work. Gayle is president of Bennington College in Bennington Vermont. And Tom is vice president. Welcome to the show both of you. Thank you. Thank you. Tom Who are your role models when you were a kid that your mother work. No my mother didn't work. I don't think I think I've learned the term role model so late in life but I can tell you when I was a kid what I thought a role model was I said I suppose they were pretty traditional as they were businessmen and lawyers and others. But about the women. Well I think the women role the roles that I saw women fulfill and more pretty traditional roles. I did not know as I think about it I don't think I knew any working women.
Really. Your pediatrician my pediatrician. Yeah. Yes I did yes I did. Gail what about you. I had a grandmother who worked all of her life for all you know all of her life that I knew her and my mother went back to work. I suppose when I was about 12 something like that it's a little blurry in my mind so that I did see I saw her working but I definitely saw my grandmother working she was the career woman as opposed to someone who worked. Did you want to be a mommy when you grew up. Yes. Among other things. I always had a category of other things. Well I think for a long time probably ever since I went to school I got the idea that I wanted to be a teacher probably showed profound hostility to anyone that was going to win in the end and be a teacher so that when I was in kindergarten I wanted to teach kindergarten in fourth grade I wanted to teach fourth grade in high school high school and of course when I got to college I saw that I wanted to be a college teacher. Where did you meet Tom.
We met at Harvard. We were both undergraduates at Harvard together and. I guess we met in a class classroom with a pretty stereotypical Harvard grad married in the beginning at least. Did you have feelings about marriage before you got married to have alone conversations about what marriage worth and how realistic were you. I think in retrospect one of the things that struck us particularly when we have friends who are who are obviously they're not married are just now considering getting married and they will ask us and how did you decide to get married in the answer. Quite literally as we don't know. I think that in nineteen sixty four when we got married that the feeling that when you were in college and you had a feeling that you wanted to live together that was the signal you wanted to get married you didn't think much beyond that except that you thought it would be more fun the next year after college have an apartment together and some along with that.
It meant you had to go pick out the silver you wanted and so on there was all this other paraphernalia. I thought I feel quite sure that if we were just graduating from college now that that automatic connection wouldn't occur. We would have to think harder about what it might be like to be married but at the time we really didn't. We went to a conference at Princeton you know two years ago a year and a half ago and there are lots of students there asking us questions like How did you get out. How did you and how did you make this decision to have a two career marriage and so on it I think were terribly disappointing as the fact is we didn't plan it out. Register now. And yet they were thinking about those issues much more carefully than we ever had. And so we look like and indeed our kind of fluke we don't really count in their eyes because they've been through all kinds of agonies trying to figure out how they want to run their marriages that we did I said I thought marriages in the plural
have us to be true that there are two marriages in every marriage. OK I don't know what I said but your marriage and his marriage and everyone else and did your careers grow at the same rate. Well I'm trying to think what rate our careers grew out if at all. We certainly were always we were both. Working. All the time. Although I went right on to regular graduate school and took a detour through high school teaching which meant there was a period where I was in school and he was in the outside. World. More or less. And then he came back in to finish up it. Is graduate work at Harvard. But I don't ever remember having the feeling that one of us had leaped ahead of the other in fact we both. Kind of moved along. It is true though that in the beginning I was working I had a job.
I was working on. And Gail while she was doing some teaching she was doing teaching as a graduate student. It was when I went to the library. That's right. So I looked a little more time in the morning. And so there is this trait of you I didn't nobody else to do. The time. But at no point did either of you have to give up what you were doing so that the other person could progress. No and I think that was one of the real advantages and one of the main reasons that we stayed around Harvard that we stayed in Cambridge. It was it was the kind of environment that would support to people like us I don't just mean financially it really gave us something rather interesting to do. And by staying there. We. Were able. To both keep doing things that we were interested in. I think that have been a much more problematic had someone you know come in and said to either Tom or me how about a great job in Cincinnati. And then we really would have had to face relocation as long as you stayed in the same environment we were very good at getting the next job
because we had networks. While it was a great advantage in that we really were doing the same thing. I think it's more difficult if it if a. Married or unmarried couple is pursuing the same. Professional interest or the same field of study or the same anything then their problems there can be problems of competition and certainly problems of job. And there are only so many jobs in the same category in any community. I just never felt that. While we were doing different things or doing different we were on different forks of. The same academic road. Yes I mean this this is most dramatic in an academic community where you see people who tend to meet and decide to marry in part because they are in the same field and so you get you know two Shakespearean scholars will now when they try to find jobs they are obviously in competition in a way that we never. Have been. There's never been that question of we want the same job we've never coveted the same
job and that probably makes it a lot easier. With their every question about having children to just spend hours and hours discussing that. That's the other question that we look like such as I think we can certainly bury that question. No I don't think we do it I think. After we had a child we begin to think about whether we're going to have another. And that may be when that consciousness intruded. That may well be why we only have one child but we certainly came to that notion that it was a question about having children. Quite late indeed after the fact of having had. One. You had Julia and that's where you were in graduate school. Yes we'd been married less than two years and at that time did you have feelings about this is going to stop me. And you know did you feel the pregnancy or rearing a child was going to interfere with what you wanted Did you have any of those negative kinds of feelings. No I I remember as a matter of fact having a conversation with Tom's mother.
When I first discovered I was pregnant. We were at his home in Oklahoma and she said something like well how are you going to feel about stopping school. And I said OK because it just had never occurred to me. That I was going to stop going to school I had a kind of fantasy about having a child by Sadducee I don't mean it didn't come true I'm just talking about the state of mind before she was born where I look forward to having a baby because I've been doing the same thing for so many years that is I've been an undergraduate in a field and I've gone on to graduate school at the same school in the same field and I was very much looking for a diversion. You know I thought there must be qualities that I had that would be elicited by a child that were listed by graduate school which is to say almost any human you can name because I don't think Graduate school is a great place for nurturing the human personality. And so I you know what I like the idea that there be a little break I don't mean that I would stop going to school but that I be doing something else you know at least with one hand while I went to school with you know.
Did you take all the care of her or is it a thing that you shared. We shared but Gayle did most. Actively. There's another option there besides Gail doing it all and sharing and that is Gail doing most of. The gratifying out of it. In fact when Julie was born I was a graduate student and Tom was teaching full time which meant he got up at 6:15 in the morning and he got out of this high school at about 7:30 and came home at about 4:30. And my life obviously was more flexible so the sensible thing in fact was and I'm sure if we had it to do all over again and weren't anything like analogous positions the same thing would happen all over again. Despite new consciousness we took the money here and teaching high school and got a babysitter part of the time. And the rest of the time I was around. But as I do say this was something of my own doing I I wanted to be around and I definitely saw her as an option as
opposed to. You know something I wanted to have but basically not. Deal with. So you never found. There's a certain person around here who isn't doing his share. I mean I don't think so but then I have a kind of competence mania. And it means that I'm very slow to notice though other people are doing their share I don't want them to do my share. I usually of Labor has always been pretty easy for them. I would. I they may have said you would. We both have a certain instinct to keep the house clean. I mean maybe as simple as that. I think. I don't know. I've. Lately I've begun to think there are occasions when I think that I am doing more. Of those domestic things I must say I'm getting some pleasure out of it. And I'm getting to how is it. Because if it's true that I felt guilty earlier than now I can assuage that guilt by playing make up law. I suspect this is all.
In our heads. Do you recall ever feeling guilty though really. Well I don't know I certainly had that kind of guilt that means that you get up in the middle of the night to. Blame others really no reason to be up and. You feel that it's unfair. If you wake up rested and relaxed the next morning. I remember that from the early days of the early days of childrearing. A few minutes ago you mentioned competition are you competitive with each other. Do you compete. I don't think so. I think when we compete with everybody overall not. One of them one of the things that certainly happens in the situation where we are now where. Where we are in a small very good college. In which we are them. You know we're the ones whose fault it is whatever and I think if you're in that situation you you draw together pretty closely. Certainly do.
So I would be fools obviously to carpet each other and overlook when we need our supporters or even in private. It's hard to carp in private when you have to spend so much of your energy coping. With. People who are. Who want. X Y or Z. How did you come to be partners and how did you come to Bennington. They asked us. I hope that sounds like a stupid response but if you didn't live life to live let me know. As a matter of fact did you know in sort of high academic etiquette one never applied that one I would have to hold you to come and they had a very elaborate search process and somehow in casting their nets. They hauled us in and we went through all sorts of interviews and real interviews and talking to we thought every man woman and child in a 50 mile radius or college before they finally made their decision which in fact probably was good for us because it gave us about five months something like that during this process to really think what it would be
like. And for a long time we had qualms we had among other things qualms about whether our personal allergies could ever stand leaving Harvard after 12 years and we had qualms about you know what it would be like to live in the woods. In effect when you've been used to an urban setting. But I think about two weeks before they announced the decision was we realized that we couldn't remember what our qualms were anymore and then we knew we were in trouble because we really wanted to. What were you both. To be either president or vice president or was that something that was determined from the very beginning that you knew was that something was defined for you initially. Well it was it was obvious in that gale was clearly the academic and Bennington as it is the kind of place where a president would have to be. Very academically competent. And I clearly my experience was administrative. In a more bureaucratic sense of that term. Although Gail was not inexperienced as an administrator but her administration was more academic administration.
So it's pretty clear that. That. I was not. Going to be the president. If I were to be the president of college I would have to be a college where the faculty. Were less demanding about the academic qualifications of its president. And there are such places. Time to take a lot of heat about the fact that Gail is president and your vice president. Well I don't think so I as matter of fact I think I take less heat than there really is because people who feel that that there's something wrong with that usually are embarrassed to bring it up. Consciousness is just enough now so that just for you don't feel the fiddle that's right people don't talk about it in the way that they might think about it. I can't I can't tell you what they think about it because that although once we were on a television show I guess in Albany. And people called me in as one of those things they called it and after we done what we thought was our wonderful little presentation of self and what we did and the person talking to us it Carafano said and she's the president and he's the vice president the first call that
came in was. Well Tom how would you feel if she were the president and you were the vice president. And we start all over again having to explain it was clear that this you know the person watching simply could not. Could not hear that when it was said so clearly. But I was the president he was the vice president they had to switch it. And a lot of people are our own alumni included insist on thinking of us as co-presidents. It's been hard to get around the notion that that Gail was the president the vice president there's this notion of the quality. Which. Which are we correct when it comes up. But people it's hard for people to to buy. Him either of you ever concerned that this kind of situation would put pressure on your marriage that it couldn't bare. We both have big egos. We can handle it.
I think that you know one thing that's been known for a long time about. Women in our society is that we've been trained to think that it reflects very well on us to have an important husband. And that women don't go around flinching because their husbands are rich doctors or successful lawyers quite the contrary they believe it adds a kind of luster to their lives ordinarily. And I think you know one of the things that's happening is that. There are more and more men. In the world perhaps not enough to go around who have a feeling that it adds a kind of luster to their lives who similarly is successful and probably not incidentally earns a good salary which presumably has the good grace to share with her mate. In other words that feeling so far I guess from Tom's feeling or most of our friends feeling that it is a liability to have a wife who seems to be a little bit too successful. There are. Some people and I think you know ourselves included who
really rather question. I don't know whether it's the the strength or the human worth of a male who insists on having a wife who is lesser than he is is a kind of reverse snobbery going on. I get a lot of credit Oh perfectly decent and pleasant job as the vice president of a major American college and I get credit for somehow sacrificing myself by having this good job. I'm delighted. I like what I do and I know it's an attractive far harder than that. And of course it's it's. The people who who give me credit. For somehow being good about this are by large people whose values I share and whom I really like the people who think I'm somehow weak or. Straight talk because I will be the vice president to a wife who is the president or people whose values I generally don't share. So it's not really not a problem. I don't think so.
I really don't think so. Gail Do people often wonder if you're the front for the two of you. I have occasionally said that that people's questions lead me to believe that they see him as kind of my manager and I'm his trained bear he and his infinite cunning is found a good act. That's me and he sends me out but he's behind you know sort of taking the paychecks and setting up things as if he were my agent. And I think that's another that is a model that people have. For understanding what seem to them in anomalous or intolerable power relationships that you say well of course this is this is the front woman and behind the scenes there is a masterful creature. Do you ever have trouble with people not accepting your authority because you're female. I don't I don't think I have any trouble sort of on my own territory. I certainly have had. You know a number of situations which I in some cases I'm cool
enough to pull along where individuals clearly mistake me for someone else whether it's my own secretary. Or a kind of aging student or whatever and I must admit I torment them a little of I'll let them go pretty far before I'll say to them well now. Of course then the shock is so great so overwhelming. But you know I think on the whole I I don't have the sense but it may be that I'm naive or that I block it that most of the people at Bennington College that think to themselves Oh there goes that young woman president. The adjectives have gone away. The president part may have gone away they may have such whatever they think they may capsulize in other forms. Instead of common complaint that many people who have marriages in which their two careers have is that. There's so much time spent at home working out the logistics of the two careers that there's not very much time that gets spent on the marriage to
find it that's at all true. Well I think there's not very much time that is spent on. On doing those that we have a terrible time figuring out how to find time to do cook clean. Shine our shoes do the do those things that one ordinarily does. We do not have a traditional wife. And that's a problem. And Samwise means that there are certain things that you like to get. You like to get done. But I. I think that. The deeper question about whether it affects the marriage itself. Can be played both ways either the answer is yes you spend so much time talking shop and doing the logistics of the professions that you never really get to know each other. Or the other way get to know each other better because you know what. Much more about what each other up to and you see each other more. We probably see each other the surveys about how
infrequently married people actually talk to each other. Their whole series of studies indicating that married people in traditional marriages people do not say very many words to each other. And certainly that's not a problem. Whether the if you want me if I do this is a mash up that I can vouch for the qualities of someone who. Sat in a corner like a mouse would have to. Make out an observation about the quality of the conversations we had. Well I think that that's one explanation for why we the logistics business is one explanation for why we. So far I've only managed to have one child. Is that there is that tendency of producing when there's a child involved to be like ships passing in the night we are constantly trading the child when you're home the other one by definition has to be away because that's in effect how you cover the home front and get the babysitting done and make sure that that the child is not abandoned in this world and I think that that is a real problem. That is a real problem of arrangements I think
another reason we only have one child is exactly what Tom blurted out before and that is that we do have a rather large where you say egos we are people who take up a lot of room. And when you see three Parkers together in one big house your brother glad probably they're not. We all three take up a lot of room. How does she describe what you're doing how does Julia describe it. Well I. Guess he doesn't describe it to us that's not what we would get the most objective view how she describes it. I think you have to ask someone and you have to ask her best friend or her teacher. She did say as a matter of fact the other day that she was and she was quite incredulous a friend of hers had insinuated that because Thomas the vice president I was the president that the vice president must be a better job. It's true. And she's you know she's very quick to say that she thinks that there ought to be women everywhere women presidents in the United States and so on she's she has a good line she snorts commercials with the best of us.
And so she certainly has a a raised consciousness about some things. But other than that she thinks you know we travel too much. You know she has all the general complaints that a child would have without much political analysis. Tom you said something in a article in Miss magazine and I just I assume you were quoted correctly that the way you make it work is it takes an enormous amount of effort and a lot of coping. What did you mean by that. Well as an example I can tell you that it is very difficult simply to convey to each other all the information we have to convey about where we're going to be when we and it's it's hard even for us to remember that we don't each know. Everything that the other has been through in a given day. And that's complicated even more by the fact that everybody else assumes that we both know everything or John it leaks out. We have separate offices we've frequently will go through a day not seen each other because we're busy seeing the people we have to see to do
our jobs and then the next day or even the next week those people come to the other and say What have you done anything about X well. You. Know. There's a lot of a lot of coping there. But also coping. I think that sense that. That I would use for that. What I think I meant by coping in the MS article has to do with. Tolerance really. And. I don't think that has. That's not peculiar to. Two career marriages that's. That's peculiar to the world. Being married or living with anybody is hard work you have to think about. Gayle you described your marriage as like people in their 50s. What did you mean by that. It is horrible somehow to be caught up on the answers that you've given to questions. We have been known to say that one of the reasons just in general that we seem to still be
married well while no one else we know is. Had to do with the fact that at the age of 21 we were somehow 50 year olds and I'm not sure what the implications what we have in our minds about 50 year old people. But I suppose to some degree it really has to do with liking to be with the other one but letting them alone not living through or with them. So that for example tomorrow morning when we get up and go into New York City when we're not having appointments you'll see Parker walking one direction down Fifth Avenue and Gail Parker walking the other. And we're delighted. Back. I don't want to say to be walking in opposite directions but just to go about our own business rather secret and private in the way I think many people whom you see are happily married but are a 50 years old don't don't do that much with the other one. And that we've always had. Something like that between have 30 seconds and I'd like to get in women. Quick question. There are a lot of colleges in universities that have policies against hiring husbands and wives.
Two Profession Marriages
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WNED (Buffalo, New York)
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Episode Description
This episode features a conversation with Gail and Tom Parker. Gail and Tom are President and Vice President of Bennington College in Vermont.
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Woman is a talk show featuring in-depth conversations exploring issues affecting the lives of women.
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Director: George, Will
Guest: Parker, Gail
Guest: Parker, Tom
Host: Elkin, Sandra
Producer: Elkin, Sandra
Producing Organization: WNED
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: WNED 04314 (WNED-TV)
Format: DVCPRO
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:28:50
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Chicago: “Woman; Two Profession Marriages,” 1974-11-06, WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 28, 2021,
MLA: “Woman; Two Profession Marriages.” 1974-11-06. WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 28, 2021. <>.
APA: Woman; Two Profession Marriages. Boston, MA: WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from