I was looking through old blog posts that I wrote and nearly forgot I had written a post with resolutions for 2016. Or actually, tweeted resolutions for 2016. My resolutions were:
- Change my face moisturizer
- Figure out my career path and next steps
- Organize home like I organize work
I did number 1: found out Nivea also makes anti-wrinkle face moisturizer with SPF15. Not sure the anti-wrinkle part actually does something, because I did not use a scientific approach of using it only on one half of my face. (I'm also not sure if I would want to get rid of my wrinkle over my eyebrow that says:"what?! 10 t-tests without correcting for multiple comparison?" or:"did you just cut your brother's drawing in a million pieces?").
I kind of did number 2. At least I blogged a ton about it. Here, here and here for example. But just before the end of the year I found out that however much you think about what you would want, sometimes an unexpected opportunity comes up that may be just what I wanted.
I nearly forgot about number 3, even though at the beginning of the year I made a white board in our kitchen with the coming two weeks so everyone can see what events we'll have, who will take which kid to school and what other things are coming up. It's very useful and because I try to draw some of the things that are relevant for the kids, BlueEyes uses it as well to see when events are coming up. But other than that, I'm still a bit overwhelmed from time to time about all these adult-things, like special events at school, presents that need to be given to daycare teachers, mortgage stuff and choices for our new house that is being built, etc. I feel that the hard part is that because my husband and I try to be equal partners, sometimes nobody is actually the 'owner' of a thing that needs to be done, which usually results in me doing it in the end. And my husband tends to feels less guilty when we don't send Christmas cards or are late in buying treats for school. And then of course there's the fact that we probably both feel we do 50%, but you may need to feel like doing 75% to meet in the middle. Resolution for next year may need to be to outsource more things when both our work is going to be busy + moving to a new house... Stuff to think about.
In the United States, the pool of qualified postdocs has grown and postdocs have gotten longer. There's now a greater likelihood than ever that training will overlap with starting a family. The decision when and where to have children is personal and depends on many factors; there's something to be said, for example, for having your mother nearby. But in deciding where to train, postdocs should consider the whole experience of working and living, not just time spent in the lab. Add to the mix Europe's ample opportunities for professional enrichment, and the parental-leave advantages that Europe can offer postdocs are worth considering.
However, what this article doesn't mention at all: how do you go back to the US after your post-doc and how do you get a faculty position or other job back in the US? Can European PIs mentor you well enough on how to get a TT position in the US? Do they know what is important in that respect? Can you apply for the funding you will need in order to get a job? Do you have to pay your flights when going to interviews if it's a trans-Atlantic flight? Or does doing a post-doc in Europe mean you will have to do an additional post-doc in the US upon return in order to find a job? Or is it nice to have babies in Europe but does it put you at a disadvantage to your colleagues who stayed in the US? And is it better to find a PI who will give you paid maternity leave in the US (like my PI did!) than to go abroad for this reason? In the current competitive environment, these seem very important questions to consider, and this Science article fails to ask a single one.
In retrospect, I think this was the best advice that my graduate advisor gave me. I had just told him that my boyfriend - who was a graduate student in the same lab - and I were having a serious relationship, and one of the first things he said was: "Always remember that it isn't a competition". For years I have wondered how something that is so measurable in terms of papers, impact factors, grant money, etc can NOT be a competition, but now I think I understand. If you're constantly focused on competing, especially with your spouse, it will take away the fun and the joy of science. If you see it as a competition, you won't help your spouse with things, like thinking about experiments, or proofreading their grant. And if you see it as a competition, quitting academia means losing the competition, instead of gaining a new job. The fact that academia is so competitive makes the "two body problem" even more of a problem, because how can you be happy for someone if they are also your competition?
So I'm very glad my graduate advisor gave me this advise, even though it took me nearly seven years to understand its importance.