I started out the week writing about my crazy family schedule– and then blabbered on about the importance of showing folks interested in this career what it really looks like.. day in, day out … from the inside. Many of you have posted comments on my two previous posts- and I’m just delighted by this. But gosh- it always comes back to Whimple’s comments. His comment on the thread on my last post touched on lots of things – what effect such crazy schedules might have on kids, on marriage, on my ability to be fair or family friendly later on in my career … should I be promoted… sit on study section etc. etc. ..
So, I started out writing a reply to Whimple- and to others of you who commented on the last post- and it just became too long… so I made it a post instead. Here goes:
Whimple- I adore you too- but believe me, I’ve seen it all.
First, our schedule wasn’t always so crazy. We seem to go in cycles of crazy and sane schedule wise. When I did my Ph.D., I did not have children until the very end. I worked very 8-5 , and rarely (unless to take care of cell culture) on the weekends- same after my older daughter was born for about 2 years time. In my fourth year of vet school- there were periods of craziness depending on what clinical rotation I was on. This was unavoidable, because horses just don’t foal 9-5, and that little dog with the flail chest might crash, and it won’t be on your schedule. When I was a postdoc and my husband was a pre-tenure TT faculty, and our children were small, our work/family schedule was easier- mostly because I bore most of the child care responsibility, and I wasn’t particularly invested in my job at the time.
Second, I’m not going to lie to you- our schedule has been nuts in the last 2 years- with cycles of continuous grant writing- while hours spent grant writing may feel productive (we write lots of pages)-unless the grant gets funded, they are not. But these hours take away from actual productive work – running the lab, mentoring and paper writing (the only work that counts by NIH standards, I’m depressed to say). No papers… no grants … vicious cycle. I hope we are going to break that cycle now. And- needless to say- no grant equals NO JOB. I have lots of skills and am not afraid of doing something else- but I have chosen to give this career a try and give it my best effort. … and my kids are now old enough to keep telling me they don’t want to move away from this town and their friends, and they say that I better get my grant.
Third, my children are no longer day-care age (as they were at earlier points in my career). They are school age, and with school age come after school sports/ events/ and extracurricular activities- and also school events that occur during the middle of the day as well. Now we are not just juggling two adult schedules, we are also juggling schedules of two sets of kids events and activities. Instead of 2x schedules to manage, we’ve got 4x. It’s actually exponentially more difficult. (Kind of like 2 kids is more than twice the work of one.)
Fourth- then there is marriage. DrMrA is, as I’ve stated before on this blog, the bedrock of my existence. We have been together almost two decades. I’m not going to lie to you about that one either- we have so much joy- but we can also be as pissed off at each other as the next couple. There will ALWAYS be competing influences that challenge our relationship – whether they are job issues, whether they are kid issues, whether they are aging parent issues or whatever (and I can tell you we have them all!)… but in my heart I know that we have a marriage that we are both committed to- and if adjustments need to be made, they will be. And, I suppose I failed to mention that we frequently see each other during the work day- as our offices are close. This is something we have been fortunate to be able to do for most of our relationship.
And finally- how will I behave when and if I’m so fortunate to get tenure, be promoted, and sit on P&T or study section? I suppose only time will tell. But- I will say this. All of my grad students and my post-doc have kids (in fact, most of them have TWO kids). Two babies have been born to lab members in the last three years- and there may yet be another. One of my lab members bears the majority of the child and household responsibility because the spouse travels continuously for job responsibilities. These lab members are pretty 8-5, but when something critical needs to get done- they find a way. Personally, I think this is an excellent thing- a life skill really- that I hope I’ve been able to teach them by example. Since I’ve been here we’ve recruited 4 faculty members, the majority were women, the majority were people with children … most had >1 child. So, I think I should be judged not by what I might do at some hypothetical point in the future, not by what I might think- but by what I have actually done to change the face of science (or just my institution), or the family friendliness of science by my own actions. When it comes to P&T and study section- I might actually have to be on the inside to be able to change things for the better- I’m doing my best to make this happen.