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Long hours, families

Linnea Ista lkista at unm.edu
Fri Apr 21 18:09:18 EST 2000

Please reread carefully what I wrote. I specifically took issue with the
idea that getting a violin getting restrung isn't something that you
would miss work for.  If you were part of the string quartet, and had a
performance coming up, you may just see that as enough of a priority to
skip work for.

My issue is with the idea that comes mostly from people-- women and
men-- with children that the rest of us do not have personal obligations
to meet because we do not have kids.  To quote you directly "Family
obligations are different than "wanting a life"."  My life MAY not
include my own children, but it does include close friends (and
increasingly their children) and a husband.  For me the major part of
wanting a life is NOT the freedom to go home and watch "Judging Amy" --
which I could videotape.  It does involve having a good relationship
with my husband, which means that a 90 hour work week is out of the
question for me as well.  It means having good friends, which means
spending time with them that I COULD be spending running that next
bacterial attachment experiment after a 10 hour day.

My point is that we ALL, parents or not, if we have any sort of "life"
outside the lab have personal obligations to fulfill. The conflict
between work and people obligations is not one unique to those with
children.  I am NOT saying that Paula specifically does not get that, or
that parents in general do.  I think in discussions like this where
statements are made that "having a family" and "having a life" are two
different things does imply that the writer thinks there is something
special, and perhaps a little more difficult/tricky because her
priorities are different from mine.  Those of us who are childless are
expected to understand and support those with children in their decision
to do so.  The need for the opposite to be true is not always

I would also like to add that the person who TOLD me I had to use the
evaporator after hours was not my boss, but Joe HIMSELF with the excuse
"I have to get my daughter from daycare. You can stay as long as you


Paula Jean Schlax wrote:

> 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
> important
> and personal decision- and I respect all choices. The thread started
> (way
> 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
> who
> 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
> had
> 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 do
> any of those things anymore- but I could when I ran, and when I made
> hiking
> 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
> group
> meetings shouldn't be scheduled for 8. In a large group, sometimes
> people
> 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, but
> 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 make
> 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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