You’re managing your research programme, trying to publish, writing grants, and, depending on your career stage, looking for a postdoc or permanent position or supervising and mentoring junior lab members. Plus you likely have teaching obligations, are serving on a committee or three and have to give a big talk soon.
How do you cope with all of that when you have a family? You can’t just put baby in the corner as you race off to the lab in the morning, or rely on the babysitter every single night for three weeks straight because of that thing that keeps happening with your cell culture.
It isn’t easy. But we’ve rounded up a few ideas for you from other parent-researchers that might help smooth your way. One possibility, if you’re about to do a postdoc or are doing one, is to ask your principal investigator (PI) about shared postdocs. While this idea hasn’t taken off (yet) like wildfire, it’s worth bringing to the table, especially if your PI knows that you have young children at home or are planning for one. The risk is minimal, and you might be pleasantly surprised. Remember: no ask, no get.Organisation, as you already know from your work, is key to handling a research career and family life. One postgraduate who took on a PhD programme whilst raising two young children unveils a few other secrets that helped her keep it all together. Tip: Many hands make light work. Similarly, another scientist mother, a faculty member at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, discusses how she manages her research with a baby strapped to her torso. It helps, she says, when institutions are supportive and family friendly.
But what happens if your institution doesn’t let you bring your child to the lab, or when there are other restrictions? It goes back then, say another group of scientist-parents, to being highly organised and keeping detailed schedules. That’s crucial to not having a meltdown (whether that’s you or your child). In case you wondered, it is highly beneficial, they acknowledge, to have a supportive spouse or partner.
Still, there are many researchers who are single parents and can’t rely on anyone but themselves. How do they handle all there is to do? As you might have guessed, they don’t do it all themselves: they ask for help. And they nurture themselves as they can.
As should you, whether you’re partnered or not. So don’t just give yourself a pat on the back. Get a hot-stone massage. You deserve it.