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Long hours

Linnea Ista lkista at unm.edu
Tue Apr 4 13:57:59 EST 2000

phd2b at canoemail.com wrote:

> Ann Magnuson <magnuson at cem.msu.edu> wrote:
> : I think we're forgetting that there are many male scientists who aren't
> : prepared to kill for their career, and who *do* value their families and the
> : rest of their lives. Those men aren't always as successful as the barking,
> : bloodthirsty hounds that you have been using as examples, but perhaps you're
> : biased about who you want to compare yourself to... As a contrast to what
> : the rest of you have said, most women my age that *I* know, who are heading
> : for a scientific career, are actually some real geeks and goofballs who
> : don't care too much about getting a life (they're my friends and I think
> : they know that I don't mean to hurt their feelings, and I'm a geek
> : myself).  All the other (smart) girls who got a Ph.D. didn't even
> : consider a career in academia.
> OK, who says that the people who balance their career and family are not
> successful? In my opinion, success IS leading a balanced life, which is
> not easy to achieve in a scientific career. For some reason, science seems
> to value this workaholic mentality. I think it is time we started
> realizing that this isn't success, and those people who "have no life" are
> sick, not the other way around. If someone said that the key to my success
> are this little pills that keep me going when I really need to stop, would
> you still think they are successful?
> In my opinion, having a balanced life that includes time for career,
> family and self is the ultimate goal...not how many papers I have
> published in Science or how big my lab is or how much grant money I have
> or "I'm so dedicated, I forgot my kid's birthday".
> I would be interested in how other people on this group would define
> "success". I'm sure we all want to be successful, but how do you know if
> you are or not?
> Kelly.
>  --

One thing that has puzzled me about this entire thread is why it is considered
such a bad thing for women to derive a sense of success and accomplishment out of
a successful career and we are instead constantly seeking to define success on a
much broader scale, usually having to do with our families and traditional
care-taking responsibilities. Has the right wing really made us so paranoid that
if we are truly successful in traditional male fields, we will somehow lose some
of our extremely narrowly defined femininity? We must we, and not men, always have
to add the cavaet of "and is a good mother/wife/community member" to our
professional success.

The part of Ann's post that was not quoted above, would, I think, in part address

"A man is welcome at any level, super star or family man, but a woman *has* to be
a superstar, or at least try to be one. That's why you'll never win by trying to
implement the get-a-life
view. Before you go on complaining about coldhearted males, at least give some
credit to those men who don't want to buy into the hardboiled go-getter
attitude, the quiet guys who get home at 5 p.m. to be with the family. I come
from Sweden, someone said it's the most gender equal country in the world, and
we have a new motto:
True equality is when an average woman can get as far ahead as an average man."

Are we so used to being superstars that we feel compelled to be so in all areas of
our lives? Are we buying into that whole "if I am successful at my career, my
family MUST be suffering" myth.  I am NOT saying that families are not important.
I think men are starting to realize the importance of being there and taking part
as well.  However, I think it is still rare for men to get together and discuss
the relative importance of their families vs careers. But, as Ann says, there are
a good many men who manage to be successful at their careers and be good parents
and husbands. My boss is an example. The senior postdoc in the lab is another.

I must admit to being one of Ann's "geeks and goofballs". Having children is not
important to me, so I figured it is best to leave that to those for whom
parenthood seems a priority.  But people assume that I have given up having a
family in order to have a career. I am doing science because it makes me happy.
Yes, sometimes that means that I have to put in a 70 hour week to get done what
needs to be done. On the other hand, sometimes my husband has to work out of town
to complete projects (he works for a computer networking contractor). No one would
accuse him of neglecting his hypothetical family or putting career before family
to do so. They see it as it is, part of what he does to put bread on the table and
a roof over our heads.  On the other hand, what I do to accomplish the same goals
is viewed by many as some sort of selfish hobby, especially by other women.

I think for most of the women of my generation, we have no choice but to work,
based on economics.  We might as well do what we like to do. Why is it such a
crime to be GOOD at it? To derive some satisfaction and yes, even a little ego,
from doing it well and doing the work we need to do to get it done? Would it
somehow be more noble if I were a social worker or elementary school teacher or
working retail where it was clear it was JUST a job and something from which I,
personally, would get no satisfaction and would probably end up working just as
many hours?

I am not saying that long hours are always necessary. I can usually get what I
need to get done in a 10 hour day or less, but occasionally, when that grant just
needs to get out, or if by staying 2 extra hours I  will be a day ahead on a
project, why yes, I will stay. I call my husband and let him know. I sometimes
have to cancel plans. Most of my friends understand. I realize that I do not have
to juggle daycare and all that, but the way our respective schedules are now,
Scott would be the one doing the picking up anyhow because he works construction
hours and can do much of his administrative stuff at home.

Is this just too much GenX practicality or what? Am I missing something?


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