When Dr. Mrs. GZ* finally got pregnant, one of the more scary days of my life was telling my PI. I was a postdoc at the time. I had been around a couple of years, and was pretty sure that my boss was going to be cool. But there was a bit of uncertainty. Had I just "ruined" my career? Would my funding go away? And would my j-o-b follow right behind???
I think everything worked out OK. Yes, there were a few months that shit was slow. But I got caught up on my sleep and grouped my poop**. I thought I was pretty efficient before the kiddo. But I have turned it up a notch. I found a way to get everything done AND have a baby in my life. I wrote a K99, it got funded, then I published some papers, went out on the job market, and started my own lab. And hell, I just submitted my very own R01.
Five years later*** I am not sure I have the work/life "balance" thing figured out. Mini-G is awesome, and I can't imagine my life without her. You know what I can imagine? How terrifying it must be to go out looking for a postdoc/other job when you are pregnant. There is a fantastic, and important post over at Chemical BiLOLogy about this. You should go read. Now. I'll wait.
I was lucky. My postdoc advisor was freaking fantastic. When I told him my wife was pregnant he gave me a big hug. Then high-5. It was the most positive reaction I ever got from him****. I know this is not always the norm. I had it good, and if I ever have pregnant postdocs/students I want to behave the same way. I can do these things that make it OK to be a woman that has children in academia. But there has to be more. Right? Because if we want to keep women in the academic world, it HAS to be OK to have kids while you are in the "early" part of your career, especially when you are a postdoc.
Please go back over to Chemical BiLOLogy and add your ideas about how, as a community, we can make it OK to be a #scimom. What projects/programs need to exist to make this a more reasonable career path?
*Wow. I need to get a better pseud for my wife.
**Thank you, Namnezia for this hilarious version of "get your shit together"
****I was told, at that moment, that raising a child is "The most important thing you will ever do".
This post is my contribution to the #scimom project, started by David Wescott at It's not a lecture*. I'm a little late, but I think it is continuing all month, and it's a fun idea, so I'm going to jump in.
Here is what David wrote on his blog:
"if you're a mom AND a scientist, then just write a post this month about how awesome it is to be a mom and a scientist or something like that. Maybe suggest a role model, or a story about why both roles are important to you. Just make it personal and relevant to your life. As far as I'm concerned you make an awesome role model and people should know about you."
I am a mom and a scientist. Mini-G is a ridiculously cute 4 yo that is turning into one of the most awesome people I know. She is smart, hilarious and a little bossy. No one enjoys a cup of steamed milk like she does. Throw in a donut and you are witnessing pure job. Being a mom is one of the coolest things ever. I go to the park and play on the swings, watch little kids play soccer and play in the sprinkler. Yeah, I drank out of the hose, and my kid will too. The best part is watching as she discovers the world around her. People have often asked me when I decided to be a scientist. For years, my answer has been "somehow I avoided growing out of it". Kids have a fantastic way of looking at the world that is not that different from scientists. They ask questions (the constant "why?" is definitely part of my life) and notice details that we might take for granted. My own mother encouraged this behavior in me, though she was not a scientist. I was constantly asked to defend and explain my ideas. And she was very understanding when I brought home critters I caught in the field, or took apart the telephone (again).
Being a mom has made starting up a new lab easier for me. There are a couple of hours pretty much everyday that I am NOT thinking about lab stuff. This gives me a chance to get some separation so I have room to actually think about what I'm doing. And also to keep me from getting too wound up. And having a kid forced me to be more efficient about my time when I am at work. Staying a few more hours isn't an option. Yes, I sometimes do more work after Mini-G goes to bed. But, I have learned that sometimes, balls will drop. And I'm OK with that. There are other things that are more important to me. Here's one: Mini-G collects things she thinks are interesting in an empty petri dish, and we take them to lab and look at them in the microscope together. It is AWESOME.
There are always going to be times that I struggle with the "balance" of being a mom and a scientist. But, for me, I can't be anything but both.
*h/t to Janet Stemwedel-her #scimom post was great and got me fired up to write this. Also, I <3 Friday Sprog Blogging 🙂