Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I'm not dead, just busy

Well, you probably think that I have dropped off the planet but I swear that I haven't. I have been working harder than almost any time in my life both at home and at work. The kicker is I think I am actually enjoying it, except that I am so tired. If you sort of followed my last posts, I was trying to get out a two proposals and teach a class by the end of Sept. All that happened and came off without a hitch.

Unfortunately, Oct is as crazy as Sept. My husband started graduate school (MBA) and is crazy busy. He is staying up until 2-3 in the morning most nights and is completely useless at helping with kids. I am shouldering virtually the entire load at home (meals, laundry, kids, bills, etc.). This is manageable, but takes up my entire evening, until I collapse in a heap on the bed. Work is not letting up either. I foolishly/intelligently wrote a preproposal for a grant that I would really like to write and wouldn't you know it I got selected for a full proposal, which is awesome...except that now I have to write that proposal. In addition, I have an invited paper due Nov 1, a proceedings due Nov 15, and two conferences to attend (talks already written thank G-d). I did have the foresight to recruit one of my students to help with data analysis for the paper, which is on my postdoc research, and this helps enormously.

Speaking of students and the lab we are doing really, really well. I will try to get pictures up, but it will probably be another week as I will be traveling Wed-Mon. I have recruited one undergraduate who is a non-traditional student (ex-military, experience in industry), and he is fantastic. I also managed to get to visiting scholars, which at my university means people with a BS or higher who work for no pay. Both of the visiting scholars are women whose husbands are postdocing here, but don't have the appropriate visa to work for money. One has an MS and one a PhD, and both want to keep doing research even if they can't be paid. They are fantastic. They come in almost every day, work way more than a 1-2 year grad student would, and have virtually set-up the entire lab. The first lab should be semi-functional next week and fully functional by the end of October. The other lab should be ready by the end of November. All my large equipment except one piece is here, and the furniture debacle (see previous posts) is almost resolved. In fact, there are people running plumbing and electrical as we speak. If I didn't have these students managing things I would definitely have problems, and the lab would be nowhere near as ready as it is now. Hopefully, I can recruit some graduate students in the next few weeks and we can get going. Also, hope my postdoc's visa comes through (fingers crossed any day now).

I realize now how much of a team effort a lab is. I simply cannot do everything myself. Which is completely obvious to most graduate students, I mean when was the last time you saw a PI in the lab plugging away. But I now realize that I will depend on my students for much more.

I am still having a great time, and I still LOVE this job, but I am getting a little tired and could use a breath of air every now and then. So, tomorrow, to "prepare" for my conferences I am getting my hair cut and getting a pedicure. I mean a girl has to look good, right?


At 6:05 PM , Blogger ScienceWoman said...

Wow. Your post left me breathless just reading it. I can't imagine how you are handling all the at-home responsibilities on top of the work ones. And with two small kids. Can you afford any help at home? I'd imagine that having someone to come in and do laundry and dishes once a week would be a big help. Of course, its probably hard to imagine finding time to find someone.

Whew. Well at least you are taking some time for yourself tomorrow.

At 9:01 PM , Blogger SciMom said...

I'm glad that you're loving the job. That's the most important thing. However, I'm a little bummed to hear that more qualified women scientists (PhD, etc.) are working for no pay because they're following the husband. But then again, at least their hard work will advance another woman. You go girl(s)!

At 1:28 PM , Blogger PhD Mom said...

Sciencewoman: I have a maid service, a nanny, and a yard service, and we have toyed with the idea of sending laundry out at least when I am traveling or something like that. Last year we had a personal chef service for a while after I had surgery and couldn't cook. It all helps, but some things, like bills, you have to do yourself, and we are at the point where short of getting a butler (and I hear you need a several thousand sq. ft. residence for that) there is little more that we can do. Besides I want to live my life not just watch it pass by while I am at work.

Scimom: I hadn't thought about it that way and you are right. Makes me a little sad. In one case, I could not pay the girl if I wanted to because she does not have the correct visa. I understand she would have to return to her home country and come back to get the right to be paid, so she is happy to settle for nothing to stay with her spouse. The other girl can be paid, but I have no money as I already hired one postdoc and that will pretty much exhaust my start-up funds. I told her that we would write proposals together to try and get funding for her. At least this way, she can stay with her spouse until that comes through. I would like to be able to pay her.

At 9:37 AM , Anonymous tenurestressed said...

Let's start by calling these helpers woman. I've seen that situation (the wife following the husband post-doc/grad student and working for free) more times than I can count. I hope you can find ways to help them out as you intend. Anyway, I am glad you are still loving your job. I still love mine and suddenly am faced with wondering if I will get to keep it now that I am up for tenure. I used to think that tenure stress was all about the time it takes to put the packet together but now I know it is at least as much about the anxiety. Related to one part of your post, I had a more senior faculty member (male) tell me that I will probably get tenure because I am female, so I know how that feels. I hope it will happen based upon my merits, of course! Finally, my husband and I do all the cleaning, cooking, laundry and yard work. It would be nice to have more help but not realistic for everyone.

At 4:18 PM , Blogger knezmom said...

My husband is actually works part-time and is home for our elementary aged-children. I'm starting a PhD program in a few weeks, all while I'm working full-time as a consultant, and I adjunct one night a week. We have a cleaning lady come in once a month (someday I hope to afford twice!). As a 40 year old mom, I'm looking forward to the tenure track (in, um, a few years). Glad to find your blog!


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