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Long hours, families

Paula Jean Schlax pschlax at abacus.bates.edu
Fri Apr 21 15:32:40 EST 2000

I recieved an email that interpreted this post as one in which "families
trump everything else" and that I must believe that people with families
need to be given special priorities over people without.  I do not
believe that, and here are some parts of my response to the email:

A few things: Whether someone decides to have children is a very
and personal decision- and I respect all choices. The thread started
back when) when a person asked if it is possible to have children and an

academic career. I think it is, and I think that it is difficult. I also

think that it is difficult to be a marathon runner and have an academic
career, or to play jazz occassionally and have an academic career, but I

know people who do all of those things and more. I respect the people
make the choices to be more well rounded than someone who lives, eats,
breaths etc. work.

Do I think that the choice to have kids trumps the other priorities?
Certainly not.  Do I think it is different? Yes- When I ran, before I
kids, I could do it whenever I wanted.  I could choose to work 10 til 9
instead of 8 to 5:30, or to work on weekends and take occasional 3 day
weekends, or to work 80-90 hours a week before a grant was due.  I can't
any of those things anymore- but I could when I ran, and when I made
a priority.  My schedule is less flexible because of choices I made.

Should my choice have prioritiy over yours?, No. If Joe always gets the
prime equipment because he has to leave at 5, that is wrong. No
question. If
Jim has a regular session with the racquetball courts at 8 am, then
meetings shouldn't be scheduled for 8. In a large group, sometimes
have to give- how those decisions are made is not always fair.

I don't think having kids should be a higher priority than other things,
it is different than a lot of things. I can't schedule when daycare
ends, or
when my kids get sick- but I can schedule when there check-ups are, and
arrangements for vacation days.

I hope people will respond to the newsgroup. Maybe I am the only one
with youngsters (my oldest is in
Kidnergarten), but I doubt it. It's hard to get everything done, and to
me, it seems harder than before I had children.
I think that making the daily choices is hard, but I think that if
someone wants more in their life than work it can be done.

I know mentors who do give priority for equipment with people with kids
or other activities, I also know mentors who give priority to the people
who have the best preliminary data, or who work the longest hours, or
who just happen to be the favorites.  I don't know how to make this
fair, but signup sheets worked almost everywhere I went when equipment
was a limiting resource- and we followed the first come first serve
policy- exceptions needed to ask everyone before them on the list. It
mostly worked.

Paula Jean Schlax wrote:

> I agree with a lot of what Paul is saying. You can do top notch work
> in places other than Harvard/Yale, Wisconsin, etc, and you can get
> published, get grants and have a life too.  Julia's comment that
> sometimes more is expected at less prestigious schools also seems to
> be true, but not universally. I agree- choosing where you work can
> make a huge difference.
> Another recent thread is that everyone should be allowed a life- I
> agree with that- however, I think a family has special obligations-
> you don't have to miss work to restring your violin- but you do when
> your child is ill. When daycare ends at 5 or 5:30- you have to be done
> with your day at work (and take it home if necessary). Family
> obligations are different than "wanting a life". I think people need
> to choose their priorities- this is a daily task- 10 minutes reading
> this newsgroup vs. 10 minutes pouring the next gel, 30 minutes for
> Lunch with colleagues or a sandwich in the office with the door closed
> grading papers- every day people need to prioritize time, and if you
> want to leave at 5 or 5:30 every day, you make some different
> decisions than if you can stay til 7 or 8. (Sometimes, you have to
> read the newsgroup, go to lunch with your colleagues- but not every
> day...)
> Paula
> "Paul S. Brookes." wrote:
>> Have been following this thread for a while, and noticed a few place
>> names and phrases coming up frequently.... Harvard, Pennsylvania,
>> California, New York e.t.c.    It strikes me that the severity of
>> the problems that are being described is correlated to the
>> underlying degree of cempetition at these institutions.  From
>> speaking with friends at "old" universities, it seems that
>> competition is not just an issue for women, and exists at several
>> levels.  For example, regional grant awarding bodies are
>> oversubscribed in the Northeast and California compared to other
>> areas of the country with fewer people fighting for the same pot of
>> money - the Southeast affilliate of the AHA was funding fellowships
>> last year at the 50th percentile!   Tales also abound of lack of
>> collaboration between labs working on the same projects, and even
>> direct competition on hot topics within the same institution.Compare
>> this with the situation in the majority of universities less than 50
>> years old, in the remainder of the US.  Funding is easier to
>> secure.  New posts are always being created so promotion is more
>> likely.  There are less "old farts" holding onto top jobs and
>> preventing younger people from climbing the ladder.  There is far
>> more collaboration between labs and with individuals at other local
>> universities.It would appear that the problems being described WRT
>> families, long hours, and discrimination against women are
>> symptomatic of greater problems, mainly caused by putting too many
>> people with big egos in a small space and not providing them with
>> enough money - is it any wonder they get paranoid.  Maybe not having
>> a life is just the price to be paid for wanting to further oneself
>> by subscribing to the perception that the name of the place you work
>> is what matters.  If you want a better life, choose your institution
>> more carefully.
>> _________________________________________
>> Dr. Paul S. Brookes.            (brookes at uab.edu)
>> UAB Department of Pathology,   G004 Volker Hall
>> 1670 University Blvd., Birmingham AL 35294 USA
>> Tel (001) 205 934 1915     Fax (001) 205 934 1775
>> http://peir.path.uab.edu/brookes
>> The quality of e-mails can go down as well as up
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