Archive for the 'efficiency' category

Motherhood has changed my perspective on my career

Motherhood has changed my perspective on my career. (gasp!)

During graduate school, everyone told me that this would be a bad thing. It would be a sign of failure if growing a family altered my career objectives. I have decided (embarrassingly late) that this is yet another very unfortunate stigma. On the contrary, the psychological adjustments that I have made are major improvements to my mental and physical health, and likely also my career path.

It has been – far and away — the hardest thing I have ever done to start a new postdoc in a new field as a new mom. But I have learned some things about myself:

  1. I am a badass. I have never been more proud of myself as a human than when I realized that I had figured out how to coordinate pumping, training fellowship meetings, learning the lay of the lab from my colleagues when THEY had free time, juggling my son’s 2-3 weekly medical appointments and actually getting to be his mother for an hour a day. And by the way, I made actual science happen during windows between these obligations. It has all failed so far because none of my projects are as developed as I was told they were, but I have been a badass investigator and problem solver.

 

  1. It is possible that I am mentally moving away from a career at the bench. Becoming a mother has made me an even more organized and punctual person than I was prior (which is really saying something!). This includes a diminished patience with the snail-paced progress, general inefficiency and overwhelming failure rate of scientific experiments. I adore trouble-shooting; it is where I shine as a scientist. But I do not enjoy trouble-shooting that is never-ending. I used to compensate for this onerous progress by working 60+ hour weeks (as many do), but right now I refuse to miss my son’s bedtime more than twice a week, so I’m working much closer to 40 hours. Admitting that may I no longer have the patience to be the operator at the bench has given me the peace of mind I need to continue figuring it out.

 

  1. My Science Careers IDP match has always listed “Principal investigator in a research-intensive institution” as my top career path*. This is because I enjoy all the components related to being a PI – asking questions, writing grants, managing projects, mentoring scientists, networking at conferences, giving seminars, teaching science, scientific outreach. However, I don’t necessarily want my job to require ALL of these activities together. I would likely be perfectly happy with a career focusing on 2-3 of these things! What I now know that I definitely do NOT want out of my career – at least for the next few years while my son in young – is a 60+ hour work week. And that is a major change for me. I think I like it.

 

So now what? What do I do with this new perspective? My current plan is to reassess my position and objectives at 6 months and 1 year into my postdoc**. I do not think that 3 months in is the right time to reassess or act on a job change. But it is absolutely on my mind. And so is getting to go home to my sweet happy baby.

 

*As an aside, the ImaginePhD IDP matches me best to a writing/editing/publishing career. Fascinating.

**A bigger subject for another post!

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Impact

Feb 10 2018 Published by under efficiency, time management

One day, when my son was two or three, he did not want to put on his shoes. This is not unusual for a two-year-old, of course. But on this day he didn’t cry about it or throw a fit, he made up a song. His song went, “I don’t want to waaaaaste my time, I don’t want to waaaaaste my time, putting on shooooes today, putting on shooooes today.”

I’m sure he has forgotten this incident and this song, but I have not. I sing this little tune to myself sometimes. It is catchy and the sentiment rings true to me. It turns out I, too, hate to waste time.

Something I’m struggling with right now is using I devote to volunteering most efficiently. There is so much to do in this world and I have such limited time. I really want to make the maximal impact that my time and abilities allow.

I started volunteering with an organization last winter. Like many people, after the election I felt a need to get involved. There was a flood of new volunteers, so while there were many volunteers, the group felt very disorganized. They were not used to having so many hands, and so probably did not make the best use of the hands they suddenly had available. This year, so far, there is more thought and planning into what areas we can have impact. I really enjoy the planning and the idea that the time I put in will be put to better use. The planning itself does take time, but hopefully will be worth it.

I also volunteer with my local women in science group. It is a great grass roots group, entirely run by volunteers and started by student and postdocs. I am the outreach chair, and as such I organize volunteers and plan events to empower girls in science. Here, I am the organizer rather than the volunteer being told what to do. In this situation, I have to ask myself, how do I maximize my time and my volunteers time? I feel the need to plan most efficiently, but sometimes that leads to mistakes that then waste time.

I also think about whether my efforts are duplicating those of others. Other groups do science outreach with kids. What am I adding that is different enough to be worth it? If I am not doing something different, of course my efforts are not a complete waste. However, my time might be better spent volunteering for those other groups rather than organizing something myself.

Do you volunteer? Do you organize volunteers? How do you make an impact or deal with the struggle of limited time?

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