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, January 30, 2008

When in a hole, stop digging

So from my last few posts you can probably tell that things are a little crazy. I have been complaining about all this to my husband, on the nights that he isn't in school, and he keeps telling me the same thing:

When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging.

It really makes a lot of sense, but what happens when you think you see a nice shiny treasure just *one* more layer down...

I don't really want to scale back my existing commitments, only refuse to take on new ones. For example, my husband suggested that I give up being an asst. Daisy troop leader, but to me this is an important component of my balance. It is something that is important to me, that I derive a great deal of pleasure from, and that allows me to connect with my daughter in a special way. I would rather give up the review article I am writing than the troop.

I think it is really, really hard to stop digging. This is probably why mentors at the successful women seminars almost always say their best piece of advice is learning to say no. And being a professor is like being at a buffet with limitless choices. Want to teach..you can do as much or as little as you like (well of course there is some required course load, and a minimal effort required to not be fired). Want to do outreach, bring it on we need more people like you. You can do outreach at any level preK-graduate. Want to do reasearch, well raise some money first, but then go to it.

And the thing is I want to do everything! I am sure that time and some delegation will eventually bring me to sanity, but right now I am finding it hard to put down the shovel.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Taking Your Kids to Work

This week has been a little rough as my son, myself, and my nanny have been sick. One good thing about a nanny is that you have childcare even when your kids are sick (as opposed to preschool or daycare), but a significant disadvantage is that when the nanny is sick, you are often left scrambling for childcare....which brings me to yesterday...

I teach Thursday mornings. I wasn't feeling well, but not particularly poor enough to stay home. I trudged through my class, letting them out early, and returned to my office where I hoped to hide and work on a key assignment due today. As soon as I returned to my office, I had an email from DH indicating that the nanny was sick and needed to home *now*. He of course had class all afternoon (and night for that matter). So, I packed up my stuff and headed home.

Fortunately, son is also sick so he was in bed sleeping and I was able to cozy up to a can of chicken soup and work intently on key assignment until it was time to pick my daughter up from school. I have office hours at the end of the day, so I packed up juice boxes, snacks, and a DVD player. Waking sick son was a little difficult and he whined the entire way to daughter's school and to my office.

I arrived at office hours just in time, put kids in front of Peter Pan DVD, gave out juice boxes and snacks and proceeded with office hours. Son spent most of his time asking my students if they like Peter Pan and offering juice boxes. Daughter asked if she could do homework too. I pointed out to daughter that unfortunately she couldn't read, which would limit her homework participation ability. Students seemed amused, but it was a loud distracting scene.

Was this okay? Probably once, but I wouldn't make it a regular adventure. Sometimes though you have to do what you have to do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

There is only one of me

Well, things this quarter are crazy again, probably because I am teaching. I can say that it is in improvement over last year, when I was teaching this course for the first time, but it is still crazy. I calculated out that I spend about 1/4 of my time teaching, either preparing for class, meeting with students, or actually delivering lectures. Which leaves the rest of my week for all the otehr stuff I agreed to but probably shouldn't have.

Recently coming up or completed:
  • Reviewed 2 articles
  • Am writing part of a review article (way behind on this one)
  • Written 2 pages for a big multi-investigator grant
  • Reviews for a panel I am sitting on in two weeks
  • Meetings for renewal of giant center grant I am part of
  • Organized a women's group in my discipline
  • Preparing a paper (on work that is almost two years old, gah!)
  • Assist postdoc preparing different paper
  • Overseeing 7 undergrads, and many of them are getting results, and getting close to papers
Not to mention that I am:
  • co-troop leader for a daisy scouts troop
  • on the fundraising committe at my daughter's school planning a massive event
  • trying desperately to get my eyes examined (hard to drive, blurry)
  • attending weekly counseling sessions for "behavioral modification" for my son who seems to have trouble not hitting, spitting, biting, etc.
And on top of all that my husband is in night class three nights a week and is unavailable about 1/4 of the weekend.

How am I getting through this? Well, I spend at least an hour every night reading trashy romance novels (this really helps). I do yoga every other day, and I am trying to take every day one day at a time, focusing only on the things that are critically due that day and in the next few.
Eventually, the dust will settle (I think).

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Not Funded

Well I got my CAREER proposal back (one of the most important I will probably ever write) and it was rejected...I mean declined as they like to say.

My scores were good (or very good to be exact) but not sufficient in this abysmal funding climate to get the $$ that I need.

I wasn't actually too upset, this was only my first attempt and I am competing against people who are everywhere from new to almost tenured. Also, it seems to be rare to get it on the first attempt. Instead, I am happy with the good show and looking to turn it into an unsolicited proposal for the March deadlines.

But I have to say the current funding climate makes me extremely nervous. Most of the proposals that I write come back as somewhere between very good and excellent, yet only 1 has been funded (all excellents). I probably need to find some other agencies to apply to with more money (are there any?) I just hope we can hit before we run out of money.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Year in Review

It always seems weird to me that the academic "new year" and calendar new year are so differently aligned. But, this is as good a time as any to think about what's happened and where I am going.

My greatest achievement last year was getting a grant funded, and I sure hope that next year brings more of the same. I also published a few papers, but all from my postdoc. I hope that next year I will have at least one from my lab alone.

Teaching was a lot more work than I expected and my reviews were a lot lower than I expected, but not terrible. This year I hope to get better reviews by standardizing my grading and decreasing the length of my exams. I also hope to spend less time preparing, which now that I have taught this class once, I think will be true.

I had some great opportunities to get involved in service last year both inside and outside the university especially to women. This year I hope to continue that work, but carefully balanced against my other obligations.

Personally, it would be great if I could work out a few days a week, have a little time for knitting and reading, and make some more time for my family in general.

Overall though, I can say that I am really happy. I have a great department, live in a great place, and have a supportive family.

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