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Any scientists out there?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Just wondering if there are any scientist mamas out there?  I'd love to hear about your experiences as a mother and scientist.  :)  Are you happy with your chosen path and work/life balance?  

 

I'm currently working on a master's in microbiology while working part time in a public health/genomics lab and am toying with the idea of a PhD.  For the most part, I love my job, but there is also the part of me that dislikes the time commitment it takes to be competitive in the field (as a post-doc/PI).  Anyone been there done that?  

post #2 of 16
I'm a medical laboratory scientist (I also have a BA in public health). I love my job too but I'm quitting this summer to become a SAHM and homeschool my kids.

I know how hard it is to go to school with kiddos! How many do you have?

I'm very unhappy with my work life balance right now. I LOVE my job but I'm out of the home too much and my family suffers. I appreciate those mamas that can do both, I simply can't. I feel like I've missed too much of my kids growing up already. I thought going to a normal, 9 to 5 Monday thru Friday would be better, but in many ways it just made things worse.

It's not my intention to bring you down though lol. This has just been my bad experience. I know lots if mamas who do just fine balancing everything out! Best of luck to you smile.gif))
post #3 of 16

My husband's a scientist (physicist).  He generally works a lot of hours and his schedule varies a lot.  The time commitment has stressed us out at times, but we generally make it work.  It helps that we found a flexible day care that is open late. I have two jobs plus grad school and freelance gigs.  But a good thing is that with a scientist dad and artist mom, I think our kid is getting exposure to lots of ideas and fields of knowledge!

post #4 of 16
My dh is also a scientist. He has been the head of a large micro lab for a major meat manufacturer and he is now head of a chem lab for a major cheese manufacturer. He works a more than 40 hours when things are going well and signifigantly more when things are not going well. Even his staff work extra then. And no one is 9-5 because manufacturing is not 9-5p. At least with this job he generally has weekends off.
post #5 of 16

I'm technically an engineer, but I got my PhD in Mechanical Engineering in a plasma physics laboratory, so I ended up doing a lot more science than engineering in my education. (And I really don't like the whole science vs. engineering debate anyway -- can't we all be friends?) I didn't have kids when I got my degrees. I got pregnant 2 months after I defended my dissertation. I had a full time job that was part engineering, part science for about 18 months, which I absolutely loved, but I quit to stay home with my son. I agree with @Fortune Teller. I personally know at least a few women who have successfully struck a balance they're happy with, but I hated being away from my 6 month old and felt like my job was interfering with my ability to enjoy him and participate in his everyday moments.  I'm now pregnant with my third kid and still working part time mostly from home, though my part-time has dwindled down to about 5 hours a week recently due to my own lack of motivation. I know there are at least a few people who think I wasted my time getting an education, and probably a number more think it but don't say anything, but I'm really glad I saw it through. It's given me freedom I wouldn't have had otherwise and I haven't completely given up on the idea of getting back into the field more seriously someday. Just not anytime soon.

post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks all for sharing your experiences!  It's nice to know there are others out there dealing with the same stress put on your time and energy.  Well, I had an unexpected surprise this morning-- just found out I'm pregnant with my 3rd child!  I currently have a 15 mo and cycles have been erratic due to nursing.  So, this will definitely change things!  

 

Looks like I will be having my Master's defense this fall, which is the same time baby will arrive.  We wanted another child, but it would've been better if we had waited until after I finish my degree (hah, I've said that before).  I've heard people say having kids during grad school is one of the best times... I don't know about that.  Maybe they aren't doing any lab work?  Luckily, I'm almost done, so I think I want to stick with it.  I just have one more class and need to wrap up my project and write the thesis.  

 

I totally disagree with people who think education is ever "wasted."  Ridiculous!  I'm thinking about staying home, since after daycare for two little ones, I will bring home around $200/mo.  I think staying at home would be good for our family in a lot of ways, but I will also miss having a career and our budget will be very tight.  I'm still thinking about a PhD, but will probably wait a couple years now (and we'd still have to figure out how to pay for daycare).  

post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fortune Teller View Post

I'm a medical laboratory scientist (I also have a BA in public health). I love my job too but I'm quitting this summer to become a SAHM and homeschool my kids.

I know how hard it is to go to school with kiddos! How many do you have?

I'm very unhappy with my work life balance right now. I LOVE my job but I'm out of the home too much and my family suffers. I appreciate those mamas that can do both, I simply can't. I feel like I've missed too much of my kids growing up already. I thought going to a normal, 9 to 5 Monday thru Friday would be better, but in many ways it just made things worse.

It's not my intention to bring you down though lol. This has just been my bad experience. I know lots if mamas who do just fine balancing everything out! Best of luck to you smile.gif))

Hi Fortune Teller,  I've been thinking of going in to clinical micro, as it seems more "family friendly" than research.  I like the idea of not bringing work home with me, but maybe I am naive to think that?  I have 2 kiddos, 8 yo and a 15 mo old... and one on the way!  I can definitely relate to feeling like you miss a lot when you're working out of the home.  

post #8 of 16

First of all, congrats on the pregnancy ernjkly!  How exciting! :)

 

I've never worked in research, so I can't really compare, but I do know that in a clinical setting there really is no taking work home with you, which is one thing I've always been thankful for!  And it is often family friendly in terms of scheduling.  

 

Hopefully everything times out perfectly for you, and you will wrap up your Masters program before baby arrives!  I think it's good that you want to finish, being so close to the end as you are!  

 

I also love to hear that you are open to staying home with baby and putting your career and education on hold for awhile.  I know so many who feel pressure to keep working and building their careers to justify the degree they worked so hard to obtain.  I myself struggled with that for so long. It can seem like a waste, especially if you have student loans to pay back.  In the end, I realized it was silly to live my life tethered to my degree and student loans. (When it went against everything I truly wanted to do).  Do what's in your heart, and it will work itself out!

 

We will be on a tight budget too once I quit, and I will miss my job a lot.  (I do hope to maybe work one day a week, and pick up more hours over summers when people are on vacation).  Anyhow, maybe you should join me in lurking over in the frugality/finances/homesteading/gardening forums!  I'm trying to learn everything I can on stretching our budget and making do with less!  :Peace

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

Well I'm glad that you were able to make a decision that you are truly happy with!  I'm thinking of maybe working part time, depending on how much income I would bring in after daycare.  Also thought of trying to work from home, but don't know how I would find a job in the sciences.  Makes me wish I had a background in computer science!    

 

I will likely be checking out the frugality and stay at home boards as well!  Luckily I don't have a ton of student debt, but it is definitely a concern.  My DH is pretty frugal, so I think living off one income will be a transition that we both are willing to make.

post #10 of 16

I have a PhD in neurobiology.  Honestly I left bench science in large part because I felt it was totally incompatible with parenting young children.  Fortunately I also have an MD and was able to transition to a more clinically oriented area of research that is much much more compatible with having young children (and also more remunerative because of the addition of clinical work).  I still don't know if I'm going to make it in academia or not (my publication record has definitely suffered from motherhood) but I am positive I never would have been able to stick with bench research and also be a mom.  The time commitment of the bench was way too overwhelming.

 

I would consider that you need at least 60 hours a week during postdoc and early prof phases to be competitive for getting and keeping academic positions in basic biology.  (This is pretty ballpark - it's not about hours per week but about productivity in publications and grants - but since you are competing with others who are not parents and are easily able to spend 60+ hours per week on the same job, it's hard to be competitive with significantly less unless there are special circumstances operating.)

 

If there is likely to be a point in your life when you are ready to make this time commitment (e.g. a set age for your youngest child - 2? 5? 10? 15? your call) I would count backwards and try to plan things so you finish your PhD around the time your youngest child reaches this age.  (PhD is somewhat more 'protected' than postdoc although the time commitment can still be very intense.)

 

If you think you will never reach a point where you want/are able to WOH 60+ hours per week then I would not bother with a PhD.  If you like benchwork but don't want to do it to the competitive level of being a lab PI then a master's is a better choice for getting lab tech/lab manager positions where you will have less say over the research but more ability to curtail your hours.

 

I don't know anything about clinical micro but as I said personally I have found clinical research to be far, far more compatible with family life than basic bench science.  (Added bonus of minimal exposure to toxic reagents.)  If you could say more about the climate, types of options/tracks, typical degree held, etc. I might be able to give more useful input.

post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mambera View Post
 

I have a PhD in neurobiology.  Honestly I left bench science in large part because I felt it was totally incompatible with parenting young children.  Fortunately I also have an MD and was able to transition to a more clinically oriented area of research that is much much more compatible with having young children (and also more remunerative because of the addition of clinical work).  I still don't know if I'm going to make it in academia or not (my publication record has definitely suffered from motherhood) but I am positive I never would have been able to stick with bench research and also be a mom.  The time commitment of the bench was way too overwhelming.

 

I would consider that you need at least 60 hours a week during postdoc and early prof phases to be competitive for getting and keeping academic positions in basic biology.  (This is pretty ballpark - it's not about hours per week but about productivity in publications and grants - but since you are competing with others who are not parents and are easily able to spend 60+ hours per week on the same job, it's hard to be competitive with significantly less unless there are special circumstances operating.)

 

If there is likely to be a point in your life when you are ready to make this time commitment (e.g. a set age for your youngest child - 2? 5? 10? 15? your call) I would count backwards and try to plan things so you finish your PhD around the time your youngest child reaches this age.  (PhD is somewhat more 'protected' than postdoc although the time commitment can still be very intense.)

 

If you think you will never reach a point where you want/are able to WOH 60+ hours per week then I would not bother with a PhD.  If you like benchwork but don't want to do it to the competitive level of being a lab PI then a master's is a better choice for getting lab tech/lab manager positions where you will have less say over the research but more ability to curtail your hours.

 

I don't know anything about clinical micro but as I said personally I have found clinical research to be far, far more compatible with family life than basic bench science.  (Added bonus of minimal exposure to toxic reagents.)  If you could say more about the climate, types of options/tracks, typical degree held, etc. I might be able to give more useful input.

Mambera, Thanks for your reply.  That is how I have been feeling lately, by observing other mothers in research and the sacrifices they make to stay competitive, I've come to the conclusion that I don't want to be a PI.  I love my job, but I'm not willing to sacrifice a great deal of family time to be successful in academia.  I guess that's why so many women go into science and then leave, and why there are fewer women in the top ranks.  One part of me would like to change that, but I honestly don't know if I would encourage my daughter to go into science (or son for that matter).  I think the model needs a major re-haul.  :)  

post #12 of 16

I have phD in neurobiology too :) didn't do any career since ds 2 was born...:/ now am trying to apply for the position of Assistant professor at local university but dont have really high hopes for that. :( my kids are now capable to study alone in the mornings..so that is big plus....really nice to get to know you, ladies :) 

post #13 of 16

I am a PhD scientist, and now a research scientist with the federal government.  It's a good situation, but certainly took a while to get here, and unfortunately the federal jobs are not plentiful in the current economy.  I used to be tenure-track faculty at a university, but like the focus of a research position better - it's a better fit for me.  I finished my PhD 20 years ago!  I would suggest looking around at the female faculty in your department or college, seeing how they did it/do it, and trying to imagine if you could do that too.  I live in a university town, and most of the women faculty/researchers with family "leaned in" hard during grad school and post-docs and got their faculty or research jobs before they had children or just as they started having children.  In my view, it requires a lot of hard work and compartmentalization, and having lots of help from family, friends and partners.  I was lucky because my partner followed me here, and even though he's in the same field, he was able to find a good position here.  Dual career couples are hard to navigate, but it's worth asking about early in the negotiation process.  I know my old department was willing to negotiate to keep me there, I was the only woman in my department and they really wanted to keep me.  My advice is if you love it, you can make it happen, but it will be a lot of hard work.  I hate to think of so many of the women I knew in graduate school and how few of them are still in science, it really bothers me, but there are many of us who are doing well so it is possible.  

post #14 of 16

I'm a Med Lab Science student with a five year old here! I'm planning to avoid research labs (because of the time commitment) and hope to work in a hospital lab with regular hours. We'll see!

post #15 of 16

Did anyone do this after having kids?  I only had a basic BA when I got married and started our family at age 25, so I decided to stay home.  Now I'm 36 and wanting to retool my life so I can have an interesting job when all my kids are in school FT.  I'm taking research and computer courses at the BS level right now to prepare for grad school, or maybe a job.  I think that I would be an attractive job or grad school candidate, as all my "family stuff" is out of the way, and I've had an interesting career as an entrepreneur, but I worry that they will think I'm "old."  Anyone have experience?

post #16 of 16

Obviously this is pretty uncommon, but my managers still value my minimal, part-time, mostly-from-home work enough that I just got a 40% raise yesterday (and I wasn't badly paid to begin with). I think my boss is worried that I'll flat out quit once I have my third kid, but I still can't believe it. Makes me really glad I saw my education through, even though I pretty much immediately quit my job to have babies and stay home with my kids. I can't believe I have this sort of freedom.

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