Monday, June 24, 2013

Postdoc parent: F

Today, my life is brought to you by the letter, "F".

Your publication record is what is going to get you the interview. Don't spend your time writing science for the public, or review articles, or tweeting, or, uh, blogging.
The more first author publications the better. Nevermind that there is no reasonable way someone can be first author on X number of publications if they have done all of the work that I expect should be required of the first author. Go First or Go Home, right?
There are so few tenure track academic positions relative to the number of people who want them. For some of the most competitive positions there are between 200 and 600 applicants for a single position. (The Prodigal Academic discusses the process behind whittling down applicants, and Small Pond Science reminds us that, with a little flexibility, there are more academic jobs than at first glance.)
Yes, yes, I know, being a parent negatively affects women's academic careers more than men's, on average. We should understand why there are fewer women in tenure track positions, and consider how to promote it. But, as a woman planning to go into academia, I am sick of hearing about how hard it is going to be. No, that's not it. I want this research to be done, and I want us all to talk about it. I am frustrated with this being a "go-to" conversation topic brought up to me by many academics I run talk to. Yes, it is tough to be a working parent, and a lot of society still has different expectations of mothers than fathers, but it is getting better. Let's focus on making it better. Or, y'know, on how awesome my research is.
Okay, so I just told you how I'm frustrated, but I'm also motivated to fight. Or, not to fight. One line in a recent article about why women leave academia by Curt Rice has been running around my head, "..women in greater numbers than men see academic careers as all-consuming, solitary and unnecessarily competitive". That last part has rung true lately. I shouldn't have to fight be be first author, when I took the time to agree with collaborators well-ahead of time about the order of authorship. I shouldn't have to badger a collaborator to do one small plot for their section of the paper, then get stuck with doing the work myself hours before a deadline. It is so juvenile. I want to stay in academia. I want to fight for it. But I don't want to fight with you.
I am truly impressed with how much students can accomplish. I am amazed with the motivation and drive of my summer students and very optimistic that we will finish some projects by the end of the summer.
Yeah, my house is a pit. At the end of the day, when it comes to choosing between family or cleaning, family comes first. Research or cleaning? Research comes first. Blogging, cooking, working out or cleaning? Well, you get it. Uh, just don't expect an invite over anytime soon.
How is my sweet girl so grown-up already? We have conversations. We read, play, draw, talk, sing, swim, and dance together. I'm happy to live with a little mess to know that I'm soaking up every minute with my Little Bear.
I love to cook, but it seems like preparing food is falling further down on my list of priorities. We still have reasonably healthy options, but food that takes more than a few simple steps is simply not on our menu. I am very happy to have the option to find healthy prepared foods. I miss cooking, when I have the time to think about it. 
Little Bear and I recently visited my husband's family (combined with a conference I had in the area). It required two cross-country red-eye flights, but seeing her cheesy grin for four strait days with her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins was totally worth it.
I feel so far from family. From friends. From finding a job. From settling down. From ever getting these papers published. From securing my next source of funding. And then I think about how far I've come. How far we've all come together. And I know it will be okay. We are healthy, together, and, yes, happy. Everything else will fall into place. 


Anonymous said...

This is the most accurate description of life as a postdoc (and parent) that I have ever read. Thank you for making me smile!

mathbionerd said...

Haha, thanks! I'm very happy it brightened your day.

Unknown said...

I am just beginning my life as a parental post doc so I am looking for areas of encouragement. Sounds like you have managed to keep realistic expectations. And it sounds like you're doing a great job. Certain things fall by the wayside, but as in all aspects of life and career, you learn to live with the things that don't require immediate and urgent attention. You don't have to divulge here, but without getting too specific for us it requires a constant renegotiating of gender roles and stereotypes in the relationship/household as well. We are a weird family!

mathbionerd said...


I hope this was encouraging, or at least not discouraging. I've heard that it was, and also that it wasn't. I just kind of wrote it to be... honest. I find it more encouraging to know I'm not alone, rather than hearing about sunshine and roses or doom and gloom.

I love the weirdness of families. :)