As a post-doc, wife, and a mother of two (2.5 years old and 9 months old), I’m often asked “How do you do it?”.
The truthful answer is – barely.
I’m certainly not excelling in any area of my life, whether as a post-doc, wife, or mother. I’m really just getting by in each area. On top of that, I have no life. Seriously, if you asked me today what I do for fun, I would have no idea how to answer you. I used to do lots of things – go out with friends, go running or hiking, read a book, sew, go shopping, go to the movies, etc. My weekends are now filled with laundry, errands, and wiping bums.
I love it.
You might not have expected that, right? How could that be fun? If not fun, it is incredibly fulfilling. I have a job I love, a supportive husband, two beautiful girls, what more could I ask for? Ok, maybe more sleep.
10 years ago, when I was struggling with the decision to go back to school or not, the lingering doubt in my mind was whether there would ever be a “good” time to have a family and would I be willing to make sacrifices in order to “have it all”. Luckily, a good friend and colleague of mine had just finished her post-doc, was just starting her family, and wished she hadn’t waited, telling me that grad school was the most flexible time of her life. I took her advice and experiences to heart and had my first daughter a few months after proposing my thesis research and my second just one month after defending that research.
In order to make it all work, I need support in every aspect of my life. I need a husband that is willing to step in and assume some of my roles/duties when I need to go to work at midnight for growth curve media collection, and I need a boss that understands that daycare closes at 5:30 and I need to be out of here in time to pick up my littles. It’s definitely a juggling act and one slip could cause everything to crash. I live in a constant state of anxiety and guilt, feeling that I’m not living up to expectations. But those expectations are only imposed by me. If I stop to listen to the people around me, asking how I do it, it’s because we’re succeeding, somehow.
Somehow, my experiments get done.
Somehow, my children are clean, fed, and well behaved.
Somehow, my husband and I have 30 minutes each night to crash on the couch together and just catch our breath.
I tell myself, over and over, that all things are temporary and this crazy phase of life will soon pass…, only to be replaced by new kinds of crazy (think ballet lessons, grant deadlines, etc.). But it’s working, and I have so much to be proud of. So, while I may not be winning prestigious awards or getting nominated for Mommy-of-the-Year anytime soon, I am awarded with happy kids and a husband that love me, and slow-but-steady progression of research.
Also posted on my mummy blog at http://ticklebugz.blogspot.com/2013/01/juggling-act.html
4 thoughts on “Juggling Act”
Thanks for sharing your life story. I am in a similar position and it’s a great comfort to see that I am not alone. Although, unfortunately I don’t have an understanding boss. So I guess I will have to look for one.
I made it a top priority when looking for a post doc to find a PI that was family oriented. I knew I would be spending time in the “mother’s room” and needing to take sick days off for my girls. My insitution is also recognized for excelling in supporting breastfeeding mothers and family issues. I hope your situation improves! Thanks for your comment!
I am actually looking for a postdoc position now and I am definitely taking those aspects into consideration. I have a son who just turn one this week, and I have a feeling that I’ve miss the first year of his life. I am defending my PhD thesis soon and I am still doubting about which institute to go to for a postdoc to avoid the situation that I am actually living now.
Thanks for your comment Jad! I totally understand. It’s so hard to leave our babies, but at the same time, I’m not cut out to be a stay at home mom, I love my work! I’ve found the PI him/herself is the main influence in being family friendly. The institution I am at is a major, highly competitive, top school, and yet, my PI is *fairly* laid back and understanding. Congrats on your son (Happy Birthday!) and good luck with your defense. Having kids makes it all worthwhile, even though it can be more challenging than facing your thesis committee! Cheers!
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