having children and future as scientist?

Peggy Barr mbarr at scripps.edu
Tue Feb 4 11:33:50 EST 1997

In article <ljmiller-0302972241090001 at ind-0023-19.iquest.net>,
ljmiller at iquest.net (Laura J Miller) wrote:

> So, my questions are:  how receptive/flexible are post-docs and
> faculty positions to motherhood?  I worked in industry
> before going back to school and I learned that the most important
> thing is being organized and planning out the research.  Because
> of this approach, I don't see trying to balance motherhood and
> science as a conflict, necessarily.  However, others might.
> I'd really appreciate thoughts on this topic!
> Thanx,
> Laura

My experience is that balancing motherhood and science is quite possible,
with the planning and organization you mentioned (of course, children have
a way of disorganizing your life in ways you might never have imagined!). 
However, I also think that many post-doc and faculty positions are not all
that receptive or flexible to the demands of parenthood in general and
motherhood in particular.  It is especially important to get a good idea
of the attitudes of the PI and other lab members in a postdoctoral
position.  Some of these positions expect "lab slaves" who are around at
all hours.  They don't seem to understand that a person who organizes her
work well and doesn't succumb to distractions can achieve a tremendous
amount of work in an 8 or 9 hour workday.  All they see is mom rushing out
at 5:30 to make the 6:00 childcare center closing time.

I am now in a postdoc position where all 3 postdocs (two males and myself)
and the PI have young children (mine are 3 and 6 yrs. old).  We all know
what it is like to have a sick child, or a childcare crisis of some kind. 
No one works 12 hour days or spends the entire weekend in the lab, yet the
lab is quite well-funded and productive.  This environment makes it much
easier to do the "balancing" required between work and family.

Good luck,


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