Saturday, July 27, 2013

Postdoc parent: Working break

We are just finished two weeks without daycare (the family daycare that we go to closes for two weeks in the summer and two weeks in the winter of paid vacation). The husband and I are lucky to both be postdocs with flexible schedules, and understanding advisers. Also, being the summer, and right after a conference, it is pretty quiet in my lab. Even though I'm in a cubicle office with 12-16 other spaces, during the past two weeks there have only been a handful of us in the office. So, Little Bear has come in with a couple days.

Seriously, this is adorable.
We've been trading off, and working both evenings and weekends. For me this has amounted to roughly 6 hours every day, for about 40ish hours of work each week. Granted, that's not considered "full-time" in academia, but it has been enough for me to make small steps. Most of the time I've had in lab has been spent meeting with my undergraduate students, while most of the time at home has been writing and catching up on the current literature.

Let me tell you, being able to work part time, and be home part time with Little Bear was incredible.

We've worked on potty training, gone to the library, the park, the YMCA, played monsters, painted, danced, cooked, ran errands, and snuggled. Sure, I get to do all of these things, in limited quantity, in the evenings and on weekends, but it feels so rushed. You should also know that a constant frustration of mine is that nearly all of the organized "kid-friendly" activities during the week are not  generally "working-parent-friendly" because they are planned for the middle of the traditional work day. That means people like me necessarily miss them all during the week (e.g., story hour at the library and toddler swim at the YMCA). The last two weeks I still had the time to wear my academic hat, which felt a little stressful given the reduced time. But, the extra hours during the day meant that I could truly take advantage of some of the kid-friendly activities around town.

After these two weeks I feel refreshed, and even a little antsy to get back into research full time. I feel reinvigorated, and ready to jump into writing. I feel super excited that we've gone five full days without an accident. Well, no accidents for the Little Bear. Seriously, I've never been so excited about pee and poop in the potty. Maybe I should get into microbiome research.

Now, on Saturday night, the Little Bear is sleeping soundly, and I'm thinking about our last two weeks. As excited as I am to get back into work (and I truly am), I am so sad all over again to send her to daycare on Monday. I am comforted by how much she loves it there, and how much they love her. I know she is happy and healthy and growing. But I miss her so much. I miss her already. It crushes my heart.

In the shadow of preparing job materials, this feeling makes me realize that I need to work hard to find a career that works for me.

This smile is worth more than any grant.
Let me take a minute to pause and recognize that I understand how fortunate I am to be at a place in my life where I can consider what kind of career I want to make me happy.

But here is where I am, and I need to decide what kind of environment will be best for me, the whole me, and for my family. This, brashly, assumes that after all my applications I'll get some interviews and be offered any positions. So, wish me luck.


Mark P said...

"This smile is worth more than any grant."

Still true, even though my daughters are 15 and 20.

mathbionerd said...

That is wonderful to hear!