This is in response to all the messages about combining family & careers
(it is also my first newsgroup posting, so please excuse any inadvertant
etiquette errors). I delayed having children until I'd been in a faculty
position for 4 yrs (and had been married for 12). There was always a good
reason to delay - my thesis, my post-doc, getting my lab off of the
ground... But the lab didn't get off to the flying start I had hoped for
and my biological clock was ticking. Last Nov., my daughter was born on
my 35th birthday. I was in lab the day before her due date. I, & everyone
else, thought that I would just bounce back & continue my schedule (after a
brief "down period").
Well, it hasn't worked out that way. I was completely unprepared for the
intensity of the emotions I felt after giving birth - I had expected to
love my child, but LOVE took on a completely new meaning. After several
months of being emotionally torn apart (feeling guilty at work because I
wasn't at home AND vice versa), I came to the conclusion that I was
incapable of doing both my faculty job AND my parenting job as well as I
felt was necessary. Since I believe that if your going to do anything, you
should do it well (and I wasn't about to return my child), I needed to
redefine my job expectations. This did NOT mean that I wanted to toss all
my education out the window & stay home all day (the eventual resentment
would not be good for either of us). I just wanted a job involving science
that could be accomplished in 40 hrs/week instead of 60-80 hrs/week (and
yes, for me, that's what it takes to have even a chance of remaining
competitive for grants/tenure). So, after waiting for two students to get
through orals, I informed my Dept. and lab of my intention to leave my
faculty position. Next year, after seeing one student complete her Ph.D.
and teaching my courses, I will make the transition to a soft money
position as a senior researcher in a large lab who's head is currently
chair of her dept, & thus doesn't have as much time as she'd like to guide
her students. I will continue to do science & interact w/ grad students
(my students were given the option of moving w/ me, w/ full financial
support), while providing some organization/guidance to a large lab.
Yes, there are downsides to this decision (and from my brief perusal of
last month's news, I have a feeling that they'll be emphatically pointed
out!). NOTE that I am not advocating this course for everyone, just
pointing out that life doesn't always work out the way you expect it to,
and that there are different, equally "appropriate" choices for different
people. At this point in my life, this is the appropriate choice for me.
I do not know now if I will remain in this position long term, or if at
some unspecified future date I might try to return to the "established"
career path. In making my choice, I considered the message that I would be
sending female grad students and decided that it would be a lie to continue
solely to provide a good role model. Not everyone can be superwoman (to
those that can, and I know several, I sincerely applaud you).
PS It's been 2 days since I wrote this (I had trouble getting the proper
address for posting) and I see a number of other relevant comments (ie,
Life Angst & cope). Every person has to find her/his own balance for
work/family/recreation. It's important to remember that the balance may
shift (in any direction) at various points in your life and only you can
decide what is/is not too much or too long.
Dept. of Food Science and Technology
Univ. of California, Davis
phone (916) 752-4207; fax (916) 752-4759
eoshuster at ucdavis.edu