Archive for the 'work-life balance' category

The ever-returning dilemma on work-life balance

Feb 03 2017 Published by under Decisions, work-life balance

Yesterday I was chatting with a colleague who has 2 small children. We started around the same time and have both been evaluated pretty positively since we joined the company. At the end of the year I got the opportunity to do a new work thing and I accepted this even though I'm now realizing that I am really working at the limits of how much work I can do. She got the same offer and declined. With a heavy heart because it was something that she wanted but with kids that are smaller than mine (and sleeping very unpredictably) she was afraid she would disappoint people because of not being able to deliver what people expected. And because she was afraid she would be exhausted literally all the time.

I've made similar choices when my kids were babies (and am actually still making this choice by officially working 4 days a week instead of 5). But I also realize that declining such an offer before even trying means that perhaps you're missing out on something that could have worked out. But I can also definitely see that the prospect of being exhausted/underperforming makes you opt out. And I'm guessing there's probably a gender difference here. And a bit of perfectionism?

Have you declined opportunities because you were afraid they would be too taxing?

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The hardest thing I do each week

It is not often that a post sits in my drafts folder for such a long time as this one. I realize the privilege that my biggest worry is the change of pace in a day at home with my kids versus a day at work. It is a major first world problem post. But I'll post it anyway:

I work four days a week, and so does my husband.*  This is very common in my company, and many parents (men and women) do this. Compared to both working five days a week (which we did when we lived in the US), working four and being home with my kids by myself one day very much highlights the difference between those days. And switching from one to the other -to me- is the hardest thing in the week.

At work, I can be focused on my own things, be in the flow and quickly get things finished. It seems like the more I love my work because it a day is so full of energy, the harder it is to be home the day after. At work, there is a totally different mindset than at home, where I need to be patient, and I can only quite vaguely plan the day because generally toddlers have different ideas about priorities than me.

And while I was doubting whether to post this, because I can see it is rather whiny and can definitely be filed under first world problems, I came across this article about a new book that says that the kids - and therefore their parents - from where I live are the happiest in the world:

You won’t find a Dutch mother expressing guilt about the amount of time she spends with her children – she will make a point of finding time for herself outside motherhood and work.

I indeed don't express guilt about the time spent with my kids but I do feel guilty on days where I quietly think to myself that I would rather go to work and be there with my own thoughts than to spend a day trying to get groceries with a 3 year old. And actually, most days at the end of the day I've had a good (and sometimes even relaxing days), but on other days I'm stressing over work emails that continue to come in while my kids are being bored and beating each other over a toy that nobody had looked at for a year but now is the most wonderful thing in the world.

And like with many things, I realize that when it's almost over is when I finally come to enjoy it on most days. Is it because it is easier now that my kids are a bit older? Or have I finally learned how to be patient and how to appreciate the little things...?

 

* In reality, this means that I go into the office 4 days a week, but I generally keep track of my email on my day off, and occasionally call into meetings on that day. The same goes for my husband, who also works at night, which I rarely ever do.

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Happy new year!

Happy new year, dear readers! I hope the new year will bring you lots of whatever it is that you wish for! I’ve had a great start of the new year because my parents took us on a nice, warm, week-long vacation to celebrate their wedding anniversary. It was also a nice space to think about what my resolutions would be for this year. Here they go:

Work: In the first half of the year I’ll be doing a new work thing, as I’ll be taking over from somebody on maternity leave part-time and do my own job in the rest of the time. I’ve been debating how much to share here but wanting to remain pseudonymous I’ll just say that I’m moving a little more to the commercial side of the company. I’m really excited about seeing and learning new things and am actually currently* on the train back from my induction meeting with the person I’m replacing. People have asked me what my plans are after that, and if I would want to stay at the new place. To be honest: I have no idea and I’m perfectly fine with not knowing and just seeing what will happen and what will come on my path. I’m actually quite surprised to find myself thinking this because for the past couple years I’ve been trying to plan my career or at least I was in the illusion that this was possible.

Personal: Basically being in two jobs at the same time plus having to move somewhere in the next six months (because our newly build house will be finished then) plus having a family will be busy. The way I deal best with busy is to schedule time for self-care, because I know otherwise that might fall by the wayside. I’m running another half-marathon in March so I’ll be running 3 times a week. Also, I’ve been trying to build a consistent meditation practice. I’ve meditated before but was never able to sustain some kind of routine. This time, I’ve bought a year subscription to Headspace** and that has work really well in making me sit down to meditate for 10 minutes each day.

Blogging: I want to be more consistent in posting, so I’m going to post twice a week. Riding the train twice a week might help in writing down all the posts that are in my head but don’t always get transferred to words on paper.  And I am going to try to include more link love posts. I really enjoy other people’s link posts and I’m going to compile whatever I tweet/read/listen to also here.

What are your new year’s resolutions - if you have them?

 

*That was actually 'currently' earlier - am posting this now at home

**This is not a sponsored post. I wish it was 😉

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The mixed success of 2016's new year's resolutions

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:

  1. Change my face moisturizer
  2. Figure out my career path and next steps
  3. 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.

 

 

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On being happy (or not) in your job

The other day I wrote about being a disgruntled post-doc and how that becoming disgruntled as a post-doc seems to serve the purpose of forcing you to move to another job, which is exactly what you’re supposed to do after x years of being a post-doc.

However, after finding what I thought was my dreamjob, this past year I felt the same kind of disgruntle on some days that I did when I was in the last phase of my post-doc. With the difference that this is not a temporary job, it could be my job for the rest of my life if I wanted it to be. And, for those of you thinking: “what a whiny post!” keep in mind that our HR department reminds us on a frequent basis of the fact that they believe there is a job for everyone in which you will feel satisfied and ecstatic with happiness. I think I can admit that I don’t feel like that every day. Some of the reasons for this feeling, in order of importance:

- comparing myself to others and feeling that I should be appreciated more, either in terms of money or in terms of praise. This –to me- is really the key reason for being disgruntled and a really annoying one, both to others and to myself. When I think about it in a rational way, I realize that I don’t see everything others do: it is impossible to compare yourself to others in an objective way. But on the other hand, I have been discussing a promotion for 2 years now, since after I good a really good evaluation when I had been there for a relatively short period of time, but for some reason it just doesn’t happen.

-having very little influence on decisions. In this big company, I am a microscopically tiny little wheel in a gigantic scheme. Unlike as a postdoc, where there were a few people who needed to agree with things like where and when to publish a paper, here there is a huge decision tree before something can get done. It took me a while to understand that however much energy I would spend convincing people, there would always be decisions outside of my circle of influence.

- having to do work that I don’t like. Obviously, every job has aspects that you dislike (I assume ). For me, they are filling out administrative forms. However, my job does involve setting up contracts with people and being the in-between person between the legal department and the external partner, which involves administrative stuff. At some point this year, it seemed like ALL I was doing was filling out forms and that whenever I had completed one, 2 would pop up somewhere else.

And as I said, at the same time HR makes us believe that for every single person there is a job that makes them run/cycle/drive to work in excitement every single day. Is that really true? Or instead of frantically trying to figure out what makes you most happy and excited is it better to be satisfied with a job you don’t hate and that even pays pretty well? And most importantly: nobody likes someone who whines and complains all day, and it will definitely not lead to favors and promotions and things like that (I have actually witnessed that happening to a colleague quite literally recently). More on how I think I deal with that soon, first more forms and powerpoints here!

10 responses so far

A detailed observation of the disgruntled postdoc

The disgruntled postdoc – or disgruntledoc - is a specific species of the academic family, first discovered in the wild and described by DrugMonkey. Its body is often found in a particular non-ergonomic posture that is intended to entirely devote itself to academic science, for example bent over to stare into a microscope, crouching on the floor to put a laboratory animal into an operant box or crawling behind a rig to fix the wiring. Its brain however is mostly occupied with online conversations on twitter or blogs discussing fair pay, the difficulty to obtain grant money and general unfairness of the academic system. This behavior has been observed consistently since the early history of social media.

At the end of the day, the disgruntled postdoc either indulges in cheap beer and free cookies – when these are left over from other occasions – or scrambles to be in time to pick up its offspring from their daycare that the disgruntled postdoc’s salary can barely pay for. In unique situations, the disgruntled postdoc will try to combine these two activities often with mixed success.

Similar to other adolescent mammals, the disgruntled postdoc stage has a hypothesized purpose to “learn how to maximize utility of their environment and emigrate to new social groups in order to prevent inbreeding”. It is expected that the disgruntled postdoc will leave its environment at some point in time. This point will either be reached when the disgruntled postdoc is able to rise in the academic ladder, or when the disgruntled postdoc reaches a threshold where their level of dissatisfaction is higher than their level of willingness to work hard on science. Where this threshold lies is different for each individual disgruntled postdoc and depends very much on the conditions of the habitat, most notably the amount of grant money available in said habitat.

5 responses so far

Figuring out your identity outside academia

This morning, I went for a run before work and listened to this week's Recovering Academic podcast. In this episode, they talk about how a large part of being an academic in recovery means having to figure out how much of your identity is being an academic scientist, and if that is gone, what is left? I very much recognize this feeling, even though I'm still a scientist, just not in academia. I did very much have to redefine myself, not just on the outside (new outfit, different haircut), but even more on the inside. What I am mostly still struggling with, is the difference in achievements and how visible those are. In academia, I was very much motivated by getting papers published and being able to search for my name on Pubmed and finding an increasing number of hits. The output is very tangible and is celebrated with press releases and such. Now that I work for a company, the end-product that we make is even more tangible (an actual thing that can sit on the table), but my part in it is much less visible, especially to the outside world. Think about it, you can read everywhere who invented CRISPR or optogenetics, but many inventions coming out of companies are celebrated in a much less personal way (to the outside world at least). Sort of connected to that is the fact that I took pride in the things I finished (experiments, papers), whereas now it is much less clear when something is actually finished and the work leading up to that thing that can sit on the table is much longer most of the times.

On the other hand, the fact that everything was so personal was also a reason for me to leave academia. Because the downside of celebrating personal accomplishments was the fact that also criticism on papers and grants proposals felt very personal. Anyways, just some rather incoherent thoughts after listening to that episode, which you should do too!

2 responses so far

"Academia is sticky"

Fellow tweeps @IHStreet, @Doctor_PMS and @LadyScientist have started a podcast "Recovering Academic" where they talk about what it is like to leave academia and find a job outside the academic world. I think it's awesome, go check it out!

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Two stories about #everydaysexism

Two people buy a house together. The form for the mortgage is preprinted and starts with Mr. and then Mrs.. In this case, the person listed under Mrs. brings in most of the money for the mortgage. However, all the mail that these two people get for their house after that, is addressed to Mr.

Two people have a kid together. The kid goes to daycare and the two people are listed as the parents. Whenever something happens to the kid, the mom is the first to get a call. And today, the two people received an email for a course provided by the daycare center for working moms in order to re-find their balance to be a better mother, friend and partner. The sender of this email automatically assumes that the recipient of the email is the mom.

I guess I can conclude from this n=2 that we still live in a world where houses (and cars too by the way) belong to men, while the care for children belongs to women.

2 responses so far

Did you spend too much time as a post-doc?

Four years ago, I wondered "if I would ever make the decision to look for a job outside science, and if so, if I would regret all the time and effort put into trying to get data, write papers and get grants?". Before I left science, now almost two years ago, I spent more than four years as a post-doc doing slice electrophysiology mostly. Since I left academia, I've never patched a cell anymore.

Most scientists at the company I work at have done a post-doc, but many of them shorter than the 4,5 years I've spent as a post-doc. And then of course there are people around my age in more commercial jobs that have no PhD or post-doc experience at all (and probably get paid quite a bit more than me because of having more experience) So looking back, one might wonder if I've spent too much time as a post-doc?

I've given this quite some thought recently, mostly because it sometimes feels unfair that people who have an equal amount of experience-years end up in different positions. And I realize that if I had known that I would have ended up where I am now, I may have been able to get there with a shorter route. However, I also realize how much I have learned during my post-doc that is still very useful now, like writing, leading people and also just the experience of living somewhere else for a while. And of course the notion that work is also enjoyable, not just a race to get to some end-goal. So even thought I was afraid I would regret my time as a post-doc if I wouldn't be able to stay in academia four years ago, looking back I wouldn't have done it much different.

What about you? If you have left academia, do you wish you had spent less time as a post-doc?

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