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choices (long)

Linnea Ista lkista at unm.edu
Fri Apr 28 03:53:09 EST 2000

Very good points, Julie!

I was also thinking on the way into work this morning that by arguing about who
has it worse, we are deflecting time and energy that can be spent solving
problems *together*.  And a lot of problems seen by people in both camps have
the same source: the idea that there is one right or best way that works for
everyone; e.g. there is only one right way to "be" to be a successful scientist,
or there is only one right way to "be" if you are female, or there is only one
right way to "be" if you are a parent.  I think one of the best things we can do
to change the climate for all of us is to work these things out, as Julie
suggested, and then share them.

I think it is great, for example, that the PI of the lab I am in puts such a
high priority on an outside life for everyone, no matter what that outside life
it.  And we are one of the more successful labs in the department in terms of
things like funding and publication.  Even if the only thing that accomplishes
is 20 pretty fulfilled and happy people-- and a role model for other people
coming along, it is a step toward change.


Julia Frugoli wrote:

> This whole thread has gone off on a tangent, but in some ways it's become
> more and more relevant to a bottom line issue for everyone-the choices you
> make (and those that are made for you).  I've been thinking about this a lot
> lately, as I enter the third year of my postdoc and start looking at the job
> market.  I have three grown kids (the youngest is 17) so the days of daycare
> are behind me and right now I just worry about college bills on a postdoc's
> salary.  But like many of the childless respondents, I still have a partner
> with an academic career, aging parents, community responsibilities, and
> various other pulls on my attention.  Just when all the balls are juggling
> nicely, my PI gets recruited by another university across the country, and
> everything has to be rearranged.
> My husband and I have made a lot of decisions over the years trying to keep
> the balance between our relationship, our responsibilities, and our careers,
> and for the second time in 6 years, it will require living on opposite sides
> of the country.  It is a choice we could make because we've done it before
> and we know what's involved, but we also know that for us there are times
> when career comes first and times when family comes first, and we balance
> those.  For us, it wouldn't be possible to always put our family first
> (sacrilegious as that may sound to some) or to always put our career first.
> The point I'm aiming at is that several people we know have commented on how
> horrible our choice is, but its our choice and what works for us.  I could
> go on and on about how people shouldn't have to make such choices, but it
> won't change the fact that we have to make it.  I can work toward a future
> where my daughter doesn't have to make it, but I also come from a past where
> my mom didn't even have the chance to consider the choice, so I see
> progress.
> My parents always referred to "dealing with what's on your plate".  The
> implication was that each of us has a set of circumstances, some we've
> chosen and some we got by chance/luck/fate.  But they are ours and we need
> to deal with them.  So instead of playing "can you top this" for who has the
> "worst" set of circumstances, I think we make progress when we examine what
> led to those circumstances and how to deal with them.
> It's been noted here before that the structure of a scientific career leads
> to many of the "child problems" people have posted, and that it also leads
> to the "no life" problems irregardless of children.  I can't demand that
> universities looking to hire me for their department suddenly change the way
> science is done so that I can have a life.  So I deal with it in my own way.
>  I make a choice to do the best I can at science-to a point.  I choose the
> point at which I say, "this much and no more" and from there I fill what's
> left with my other obligations & my personal time.  It may mean I will never
> be elected to the National Academy-but it's my choice and I live with it. I
> also change the point at which I say "this much and no more" frequently, in
> either direction.  It's not static.
> I have control of some things and not others.  IMHO, the angst and anger
> comes when we feel we have NO choices-that we have to be a certain way in
> order to survive.  While that may be true of science, remember that we all
> define "survive" and even there we have a choice. If I constantly am unhappy
> with my choices, I can change the choices easier than I can change the
> world.  That being said, constantly being unhappy with one's choices can be
> a great impetus to changing the world :).
> I hope this long post doesn't come off as a flip "Just deal with it",
> because it's not meant that way.  I just want to redirect the thread toward
> solving problems instead of discussing whose are worse.
> Julia Frugoli
> Department of Plant Pathology & Microbiology
> Texas A&M University
> Norman E.Borlaug Center for Southern Crop Improvement
> 2123 TAMUS
> College Station, TX 77843
> phone 979-862-3495
> FAX 979-862-4790

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