So, of course, I've been thinking about this some more. Events have conspired to leave me with no chance of a decent (i.e., more than 20 minute) nap today (its a long story, involving the final H1N1 vaccination in my family, some of which I may tell in a post later tonight or tomorrow). But I do have time for a little blogging, so I'm going to write some more of my thoughts on combining motherhood and science down. Long time readers may remember that I've written on this topic before, as well.
The people who say they don't have kids have given three main types of reasons:
1. They don't like/want kids.
2. They think having kids is irresponsible due to environmental concerns.
3. They don't think they can combine their chosen career with kids.
I've got absolutely no argument with people in the first category. You should only have children if you want them, and I don't think there is anything wrong with not wanting them.
I disagree with the people in the second category, but that is a topic for another day. I'll just say that last week's Economist had an interesting lead article about population trends that would probably figure into any argument I might make on this topic.
I don't fault anyone in the third group, either- who am I to tell anyone else what challenges to undertake or what they can or cannot manage to do? However, I think some of the women in this group might be scared off from science and/or motherhood unnecessarily.
When I was in graduate school, I was deeply ambivalent about motherhood. I was dating someone who didn't want kids, and I didn't really know whether that mattered. I had heard how hard it was to have a career in science and have children, and I was concerned by what I had heard. There were few positive role models of women with children in my field. One night, I had a dream in which I learned that I was unable to have kids for some medical reason. In my dream, I felt relief.
Now here I am, 10 years later (has it really been 10 years????) and things look very different. I am married to the man who helped me pick up the pieces when that graduate school relationship fell apart. He wanted children, and so, I realized, did I. So, we had them. First, we enjoyed our SoCal lifestyle and a lot of international travel for several years. We both achieved a reasonable amount of success in our careers. But then, when I was 34, we decided it was time to get moving on the kids thing. Almost a year later, Pumpkin was born.
I won't pretend that it has been easy. As Dr. Isis notes in her post, it is exhausting. There have been many challenges along the way. I definitely want more sleep than I get. But here's the thing- I think motherhood is difficult and exhausting no matter what your job is. I know, in real life and online, mothers who stay at home, mothers who work part time outside the home, and mothers like me, who work fulltime outside the home. We're all exhausted.
I actually found staying home with a baby or a toddler to be much more tiring than my regular job- and no, I don't have some sort of easy, kick my feet up sort of job. Staying home with both a baby and a toddler is unbelievably exhausting, and so far, I've only done that with my husband at home, too. Caring for a child is hard work. I love the fact that some anthropologists are now arguing that we always relied on the wider community for help in doing this work.
I'm also a little confused by the people who say that having children will necessarily decrease the quality and/or quantity of any work you do. Do these people currently spend every waking hour working? I certainly didn't before I had kids. I had hobbies. I read, I baked, I played fiddle, I kayaked, I rollerbladed, I kickboxed, I did yoga, I hung out at our local pub with Hubby. We traveled a lot. Those were the things that having kids cut into. I still read and bake, but not as much. I look at my fiddle and think that some day soon, I'll get it out and play again. It took me almost a year after Pumpkin was born to really get back into my yoga practice. I'm sure I'll pick it up again, or maybe I'll get back into kickboxing. If Petunia sleeps better than Pumpkin, I might make it out to play fiddle before too long. The trips to the local pub have been replaced by Friday night beers at home, and I'm looking forward to starting those up again once Petunia's sleep patterns and nursing schedule allows it.
My work productivity hasn't dropped noticeably- at least not consistently. It goes down when we're sick or when sleep is particularly bad. But overall, I'm still getting stuff done and keeping my career on track. Sure, I'm not shooting for a big promotion or looking for the next big thing to do, but that's OK. That's not where I'm at in my life right now, and I'm not sure I'd be there even if I didn't have kids.
Now, I'm just one woman, in a slightly non-traditional science-related job. But there are others out there who are combining motherhood and a career in science. I'm going to make the rest of this post a running list of scientist who are also mothers. It will definitely not be complete, but I'll keep adding to it and I'll put a link to this post on my sidebar. Send me your suggestions for additions- including yourself. Let's use the power of the internet to make a community of role models for the women who are where I was in grad school: looking ahead to an uncertain future and hearing over and over again how what they want to do can't be done.
I decided it might be helpful to know the stage of career and high level field for the people on my list, so where I can easily find that, I'm including it. Let me know if I get anything wrong.
People with blogs:
- Academic Ecology (tenure track, ecology)
- academomia (adjunct professor, physics)
- Adventures in Science and Ethics, by Dr. Free Ride, aka Janet Stemwedel, a scientific ethicist (associate professor)
- Astronomoms (a group blog, one member is an assistant professor, one is a postdoc, and the other doesn't say). Here is one of their posts about being a mother in science.
- Balanced Instability, by gerty-z, a "newly appointed junior prof"
- Blue Lab Coats (tenure track, biological science)
- ChemicalBiLOLogy (tenure track, chemical biology)
- Child of Mind, blog of Isabel Granic (research scientist in developmental psychology at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and author of the book Bedtiming) and Tracy
- Context and Variation, blog of Dr. Kathryn Clancy, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and the University of Illinois. She has a really interesting post about why so many women in science blog anonymously. In it she mentions that she has a three year old daughter.
- Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde (postdoc, biological science)
- Dr. Mom (tenure track)
- Female Science Professor (tenured, physical science)
- FIA (post-doc)
- Freethinker's Asylum (postdoc, biological anthropology)
- geekmommyporf (tenured, one of the STEM fields)
- Golden Thoughts, blog of Pascale Lane, MD (tenured, Helen Freytag Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics, Physiology, and Biophysics and Associate Chair for Research in Pediatrics at the University of Nebraska) (BONUS- here's her post about when to have kids)
- Janus Professor (assistant professor)
- On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess (tenure track, biological science)
- PhDMom (tenure track)
- Professional Question Asker (post-doc)
- Professor Chaos (tenure track, biological science)
- Raising Scientists (adjunct prof at a primarily undergrad institution, part-time prof at a small university)
- Scientia Matris (post-doc, transitioning to own lab)
- ScientistMother (graduate student, biological sciences)
- The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love (LabMom, a lab manager of a biosciences lab at a large research university)
- Two Body Problem (PUI Prof, a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution)
- XtalGrrl, a crystallographer. She doesn't say at what stage. She has an awesome post about going into science after becoming a teenage mother.
- Me! ( When I first wrote this, I was an associate director/department head at a small to medium sized biotech. Now I am a group leader/program manager at a slightly bigger biotech.)
- Momma, PhD, a scientist at a medium sized biotech.
Government and Non-Profit Scientists
- Apple Pie and the Universe, by Alyssa (a university outreach officer)
- Bad Mom, Good Mom (works at a congressionally-chartered federally funded research and development center- see the comments for more info)
- My Middle Years (a scientist working at a private foundation doing research on hormone signal transduction)
- Susan Niebur of Toddler Planet and Women in Planetary Science is an astrophysicist on contract for NASA.
- Stubborn as a Rock (Geologist)
People without blogs:
- Elizabeth Blackburn (tenured and a Nobel laureate)
- Lise Eliot (academic, mother, AND author of two really cool books on child development)
- Carol Greider (tenured and a Nobel laureate)
- Kate Kirby (executive officer of the American Physical Society)
- Sarah Hrdy (anthropologist, professor emeritus)
- Galit Lahav (assistant professor, who has also written an article on how to combine motherhood and academic science)
- Susan Lindquist (tenured)
- Ottoline Leyser. This interview includes some discussion about combining motherhood with a career in science.
- Maiken Nedergard (tenured, see this article, which mentions how she involved her daughter in a project in her lab
- Shirley Tilghman (tenured and a university president)
- Ada Yonath (tenured and a Nobel laureate)
Here are some other online articles/posts about combining motherhood and science:
- Some UK scientists have a nice letter to the editor at the Guardian on this subject.
- Here is an article in The Scientist about dual-academic couples, and two of their three examples have kids.
- This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education discusses the challenges of combining motherhood and a career in academic science, but is ultimately pretty upbeat.
- This is an article written by the son of scientist about having a mother who is a scientist. The author's mother is Joan Feynman, who was a senior scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (She is also the sister of Richard Feynman.)
- For those people worrying about the time commitment of an academic career and whether they will be able to combine that with motherhood, Sciencewomen's post on how many hours people really work has some relevant data (albeit from a self-selected population sample).
- A publication from the Royal Society on mothers in science: Mothers in Science: 64 Way to Have it All
- David Westcott (@dwescott1) started a #scimom Twitter/blog meme. A lot of the posts are from scientists who are mothers. He has a complete list of the #scimom posts up on his blog.
- The NY Times had an interview with four successful women scientists, which included some discussion of balancing the demands of career and kids.
- Science Careers had an article written by a scientist and mother about the benefits of combining a career in science with motherhood.