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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Work-Life Balance (An Elusive Butterfly?)

So I am traveling, again, and this gives me time to reflect on exactly what I think work-life balance means. As I do this I realize that the "correct" balance may be different for each person. A great example is what happens when I discuss this with my husband.

I feel bad when I travel. Even if I really need to go for my job, I always feel some nagging remorse at leaving my children behind. When I return, I feel it is important to make up for this lost time by spending extra time with my family.

My husband really doesn't see things this way. When he needs to go, he goes. He doesn't feel bad about it, and he has no problem being gone for several days, returning, and immediately hiring a sitter so that he and I can have a date. I could never do that. (I always talk him out of this when he proposes it.)

But looking to the wider world, I know many faculty with children who travel all the time. I know faculty who don't even live in the same city as their children (or spouses for that matter). I know faculty who drag their children half-way round the world for a sabbatical year (which can also be seen as an opportunity for the kids, don't get me wrong).

It's hard. I want to have a successful career. I know that getting out there and publicizing myself and what we are doing is important to that success. I know that others are willing to put everything aside and concentrate on their labs (usually these folks have stay at home spouses, but not always). Yet, for me, I would not be complete if I was defined by my career alone. Beyond the time that I spend with my children and husband, I need time to develop other facets of my personality. The things that make me an interesting person, rather than an interesting scientist. This is the balance that I have chosen and it seems to work for me.


At 1:33 AM , Blogger PhD in Yogurtry said...

This is my first time reading your blog and I'm a dr. mom as well, not affiliated with a university, though. I am fully in sympathy with the difficult balance of family and work. While in grad school, watching my female assistant profs struggle to put in enough time to get enough pubs (to include working through all holidays), I think I realized I wouldn't have the stamina or the discipline for an academic career. And I wanted children -- how to make that work? So I chose a career path that would allow for a more flexible schedule, had long talks with husband about his committment to flexible work schedule (i.e., equal sick-child-duty). And has my career suffered? Yes, I am certain I'm not as "successful" in my career as I might be. But am I successful as a mom and wife? I think so. I am often consoled by this thought: People don't lie on their deathbeds lamenting, "if only I had worked more." They lament not having spent more time with their loved ones. So all this to say, I think you're making the right decision. Our kids do need us. Time with us. Both parents.


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