Archive for: January, 2018

New Mom in a New Job

Jan 29 2018 Published by under academia, female scientist, motherhood, new job, postdoc

I had no idea what to expect during my first week back to work after maternity leave at a brand new job. Just before my son was born, I landed a new academic postdoc position after being ousted from my first*. The subject matter, though generally enthralling to me, is way outside the scope of my technical/intellectual expertise. And though I knew that I would be starting over and had been looking forward to it, I could not have known how that would feel once the time came.

The first few days, all of my willpower went toward the following:

— Getting my son to daycare intact

— Figuring out where/when/how to park on a campus that sells far more parking passes than it has spaces

— Figuring out where/when/how to pump in a place with no designated facilities, and in several different buildings across the campus

— Adjusting to having zero immediate colleagues who are moms**

— Relearning material that I had sort of let slip from my mind since high school

— Between a mother and son with chronic medical needs, juggling way too many medical appointments with my husband

— Learning the schedule of outside-of-lab obligations including lab-mandated seminars/dinners and fellowship-mandated meetings/workshops

— Getting home in time to feed and see my son for 5 minutes before putting him to bed

The first few days, I cried alone in the bathroom more than I expected. I absentmindedly missed turns on my way to daycare and work. I missed kissing my son goodnight twice***. I freaked out about my milk supply dropping. I put WAY too much pressure on myself to figure it all out and be productive too quickly.

Now, three weeks in, things have not calmed down much. However, I’m more familiar with my surroundings and the personalities of my colleagues. I am very slowly getting used to not seeing my baby all day every day. I am giving myself a little leeway, having kicked so much butt at everything so far (several glitches notwithstanding). It all still feels very messy and exhausting and hit-or-miss, but I’m not crying every day anymore.

 

*Though the timing felt awful, it could not have been better in the long run to leave my previous position ASAFP without burning bridges.

**Being able to talk to other moms versus dads DOES make a huge difference. Especially moms who have experienced pumping breast milk at work. This will improve as I meet people through my fellowship and in different labs.

***Since my sweet boy was sleeping through the night at that time, this absolutely broke me.

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Getting to know you

What I really wanted to know.

Image from: http://www.fallingfifth.com/comics/20070105

In my courses this semester I have over 100 neuroscience students, ranging from just-declared sophomores to early grad students, and I am trying to get to know each one! It’s a challenge but I know it’s important, especially for the early level students, to feel connected and comfortable talking with a professor in their field, and even if all I know is their name and face, that could improve the chances of their being comfortable with me. Throughout the first weeks of the semester I ask each student to tell me (verbally or in writing depending on the size of the class) what brought them to study neuroscience, what excites them, and what their goals are.

It is remarkable (but not surprising if you know or remember college students) the range, from  “I have no clue what I’m doing but this seems cool,” to “I was drawn to neuroscience by a specific event and am on a path to medicine/research with a specialty in this ultra-specific sub-field.” One thing that has struck me is how many students are drawn to the field because of a first-hand experience with a brain-related trauma or disease, especially given the young age of the majority of my students.

More than anything though, it is refreshing. I love to see things through their wide (but not naïve!) eyes, hear their personal stories, and especially to learn about things I’ve never heard of that sparked their interests!

And I have one piece of advice for them, and everyone at this stage – try everything! Anything you think you might be interested in, any opportunities you’re presented with you think might be even a little interesting or beneficial – do it! Even if what you learn is that you don’t like that experience, that is extremely valuable as you home in on your goals and personal path. In some ways, this is most valuable advice for people who are so set on their path they don’t try it, or anything else, so if they at some point come to the realization that their top and only choice won’t work, it is devastating and difficult to find a new path. And while it’s never too late to try a variety of experiences, it’s never so easy and so cost-free as this early stage in your career.

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New Year, New Job, New Working Mom: My First Week

Jan 15 2018 Published by under academia, female scientist, motherhood, new job, postdoc

Whose idea was it to start baby’s daycare and mom’s new job on the same day?

I have been a mom for 4 months. My son has been through two surgeries, chronic issues with cranial helmet therapy, gone from remarkably low to average growth percentile, and is the happiest smilin’est kid you will ever meet.

The fourth trimester was, for me, deeply harrowing. I have new-mom PTSD. Only in the last few weeks have I begun to forget how intensely off-putting some of the struggles of new motherhood have been. Only now have I begun to find my groove as a parent, and be able to thoroughly treasure every waking moment with my tiny human. This is the worst time to hand the love of my life off to a caretaker as I attempt to unearth my scientist brain and return to work.

While I was pregnant, I participated in a marathon of job interviews. I was grateful and humbled to find a new postdoctoral position, fellowship and mentor with whom I looked forward to starting fresh following maternity leave/unemployment.

My first few days have been crazy, emotional and messy. I was: late dropping off my son, later getting to work, proud to have found a place and method for pumping and storing milk (neither intuitive nor straightforward), only mildly uncomfortable around my new colleagues (none of whom have children), grateful for the kind and supportive welcome of my new mentor (who does have grown children), thrown off by already juggling my son’s and my medical appointments during the day, saved by text messages of support from a few working scientist-mom friends, exhausted and lovesick by the time I picked up my son from daycare.

My son’s first few days were long, hot and exhausting. He was: too warm in our caretaker’s home, totally happy in her arms, able to nap less than half of his usual amount (yikes), somewhat afraid of the two slightly older babies who wanted to play with him, disrupted by medical appointments on several days, and smiling sweetly when I came to pick him up. He was a champion.

I am thrilled to be once again in a laboratory environment (I think), read a few papers (with my newly altered brain) and even attend a couple seminars. In time, I hope to be able to do scientific research again. I have resolved to not let the overwhelm of my first few days determine how I feel about being a working mom. I will let myself figure that out in time.

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Resolutions 2018

Jan 11 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

Happy New Year!

Please share yours in the comments!

SweetScience:

As you may have been able to tell from my last post and analysis of 2017, I was just happy to have survived, and thrilled to be moving in the direction I want, hard as it may be. So I have no ambitious goals for 2018. Other than teaching 8 classes, half of which will be new, moving into a new home in a new state, establishing healthy relationships with family in the area, and caring for my own family, including welcoming baby number two!! I’ll be happy to get through all these major changes the best I can.

peírama:

My resolutions are to improve at my job, continue to network so that it is not a huge chore if/when I am looking for a new job, and to continue to stay involved in my community without overdoing it. I am pretty happy with where I am in my career and my life, but it has taken a lot of work to get here. I am sure the future will hold more challenges, so the best I can do for now is to enjoy and to take steps to buffer against those future challenges in whatever form they come.

Curiouser&Curiouser:

My resolution this year is to give myself time to find my bliss. I spend a lot of time thinking and working on being good at my job, motherhood and wife-y-ness (yup that’s totally a real word); but I want to make sure I have space to think about what I want to be doing, not just what needs to happen right now.  Am I happy in my job or do I want to try something new, do I want more kids, do I want to start dancing again, should we pack up our family and run away to our imaginary mountain farmhouse/library/art studio and all those kinds of questions.

saraswatiphd:

I’m not a New Year’s resolution person.  I think they’re kind of overrated.  If you want to do something, why wait?  Do it now, don’t wait for the calendar to give you the green light.  But this year is different.  I’m waiting for something.  Like a sign to give me the go ahead.  

I got a sign of a sign a few months ago, sitting in my doctor’s office, going over my very suboptimal lab results.  We talked about lifestyle and diet, about stress management, about this and that.  She said that I needed to make a change how I approach my health – tune into my body, listen in closely to what it’s telling me.  I never have.  My body is something I abused for a while now – staying up too late, not dealing with stress well, not exercising, eating crappy food, or not eating enough all together, forgetting to take my thyroid medication…  It’s catching up to me.  I was surprised.  Afterall, my body hasn’t failed me yet (besides autoimmune thyroid issues and chronic insomnia that is).  Stress is something I thought I had to experience in order to prove to myself and everyone around me that I was taking things seriously.  This (tenacity? stupidity? immaturity? dedication?) is something that got me through undergraduate work, graduate school, and my postdoc (during which I had twins), allowing me to get to a place in my life where I love my job and appreciate the direction in which my career is headed.  This approach worked for me professionally.  But my body begs to differ.

So, my New Year’s resolution is to take my health seriously, before I start having serious health issues.  Eating wholesome foods, exercising regularly, managing my expectations so that stress doesn’t get the upper hand – those are on my (probably first ever) resolutions list this year.  I am giving myself time to mull it over and construct a plan.  If I am successful, I will hopefully ease into it in the next couple of months and continue throughout the year.  Kind of like a warm up run before I cross that start line.  We’ll see how I do.

NotaRealTeacher:

Like saraswatiphd, I don’t like resolutions. I prefer goals, which are a type of resolution anyway, so here are some of my goals for 2018.

In 2017, I found myself feeling so impatient. Impatient for the next career move, for the bigger house, the next car (hello minivan, I can’t wait for your sliding doors). When I take a step back, though, I am able to rationally articulate that things are going great for me. I have a teaching job I mostly love, two healthy kids, a successful husband and an adorable (albeit tiny) house in a desirable area. In 2018, my goal is to be steadfastly patient. I’ll still be looking forward to my next big thing, but I want to embrace all the good I already have.

Ragamuffinphd:

I only have one overarching goal for this year: adjust to life as a working mother, allowing myself the respect, patience and flexibility to find out what that means for me and for my family.

Before I realized that I wanted children, my goals and the attitude with which I pursued them were all about me. My dreams, my time, my ruthless obsession with academic scientific research. My perspective has already changed drastically (after 4 months of baby), and I hope that this more relaxed open-mindedness will be the driving fuel of my future endeavors.

Megan:

I am trying something very different this year. Every year, my resolution is to do more, to do better, to work harder, to improve. But 2018 needs to be different.

I started 2018 on New Year’s Eve with a stomach virus that didn’t let me leave the bathroom, let alone participate in any festivities. Frankly, I’ve been sick since around mid-November, with one thing after the next. I have a toddler in daycare and the microbes are ruthless. I need to face it: I’m completely run down. I’m often up past midnight, doing laundry and chores, writing emails, reading. Then, at 6-6:30AM, my adorable son starts babbling, then yelling, from his crib– and, trust me, toddlers don’t get that you can sleep in on weekends.

This year, as I was huddled sick and shivering on New Year’s Eve, I started thinking of possible New Year’s resolutions. Should I try to write more? Exercise more? Clean more? Network more? Make more of an effort to visit elderly relatives? Yes, I probably should do all of those things. But as I was contemplating them, I swear my churning gut screamed at me: “YOU NEED TO DO LESS!”

So, that’s my resolution this year. I don’t know exactly how it will translate yet. Maybe I’ll look into getting a maid? Try to go to bed earlier? Finally ditch our beloved but broken down old car that requires constant maintenance? I’m not sure how I’ll do it, but my body has put me on notice: it’s time to do less.

Just thinking of ways to do less instead of more already feels like a radical change.


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