The question of children

wijsman at wijsman at
Tue Oct 27 00:53:38 EST 1992

A few comments on kids & science careers:
1)  People DO manage both.  In my experience, although there is
probably no ideal time for kids (and this probably holds true
in non-science fields as well), graduate school and/or postdoc
years are actually not a bad time for this.  An extra year or
two during this stage doesn't count against you that much at
this stage, and the stress levels aren't as high as later.
Maintaining an unstressed relationship with home life is
pretty important to enable you to focus on your family life
when you need to & to enjoy it rather than to dread it as more
work.  My graduate school classmates are now gaining tenure,
and several have elementary-school children.

2)  BOTH parents have to be committed to taking care of the
many responsibilities which come with children, including doing
the household chores, taking kids to the doctor, school, PTA
meetings, the whole works.  We do chores on Sat morning until they
are done, or at least til the important ones are done.  Many
chores can be farmed out.  It is definitely NOT worth doing
housework (in my opinion).  I can hire people for those kinds of
chores.  A lot has to do with setting priorities, and making
sure the priorities are your internal priorities and not
something which you feel you have to do because of socialization.
(It is really important that the beds are made every morning?
Will anyone be the wiser if they are not?)

3)  There is definitely higher stress and probably slower advancement
in the field, but with 2 working parents the financial part
shouldn't really be a terrible problem in science unless you
have expensive tastes.  It is probably worth asking why you are
"doing" science, and what the fears are.  If you are into it
because of the "art" (the elegance of figuring out a solution)
then details of timing are probably not important as long as
you can do the work.  If you are into it because of the fame,
perhaps there is a more fundamental problem and the worry is
that anything which diverts effort from the goal will be too
much of a barrier.  On a more philosophical note - I am
starting to worry that too few scientists (male and female) are
losing the fun of science.  Seems to me that the older scientists
in my past who have been most successful have also been those
who have had the most fun at it - treated the whole affair like
a game or puzzle.

Got to run.  I have preparations for tomorrow yet to make.

Ellen Wijsman
Div. Medical Genetics
and Dept. Biostatistics
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195
wijsman at

More information about the Womenbio mailing list