Today’s guest post is by Chicken_little. Chicken_little is a postdoc in clinical psychology in the midst of an existential career crisis – but officially in search of an academic position. She studies the impact of mindfulness interventions in various populations, although she very often forgets to practice mindfulness in her daily life. When she is not working or reading funny academic tweets, she is the proud mom of a baby boy.
I’m sitting at the kitchen table trying to finish a manuscript. I can hear my son yelling in his crib, refusing to take his nap. As I try to concentrate on bringing the finishing touches to my soon-to-be submitted paper, I can’t help but feel incredibly guilty of, once again, favoring my work over my son. The appeal of a tenure-track position is big, and so is the pressure to be productive and to get out several manuscripts this year, even though I am (supposed to be) on maternity leave.
Thank goodness my spouse is home and is there to soothe the baby. Being a postdoc and working from home does have benefits : I was able to transfer my maternity leave to my partner, so we can both spend some time with our son in his first year of life. But let’s be honest here : having him at home only means that I can get more work done, as he watches the baby. I am trying to make things happen for my career all the while he is putting his own on hold. This better pay off.
This is what I have learned so far on being a mom and a postdoc in search of an academic position at the same time : I don’t know how to combine both aspirations. On one hand, I know that I need to be present for my child and to care for him. And on the other hand, I know I need to write and publish during my maternity leave if I want my resume to remain competitive. All the while applying for jobs for which I will inevitably get rejected, either because I am not competent enough or because the job description doesn’t quite fit my expertise. I am also noticing a perspective shift in my career plans : I am no longer aiming to get the most prestigious job in the top-notch university. I now much rather get a job at a university where it’s ok to actually let people know you have kids and care about being present for them, and where it’s ok to aim for a somewhat decent quality of life, as opposed to publishing 10 papers per year. Although I am at ease with this choice, I have noticed that it tends to have people raising eyebrows…especially men’s. It is even possible to aim specifically and openly for a lower-pressure, less prestigious job in academia? Or do you inevitably have to sacrifice any sense of personnal and family life to get there?
I also know that I am 30, that I have been a university student for over a decade now, and that it might be time to consider getting a job, which could, for example, be helpful in buying a house. I also know that I won’t be able to make ends meet if I continue on a postdoc salary for a few years. Daycare costs alone – which would allow me to write more to get a better paying job – are huge. We are also making plans to have a second child, but much to my dismay, I am wondering whether we should put these plans on hold for a while. After all, going to job talks with a pregnancy bump is the best way to not get hired. It saddens me that women still have to consider these issues in planning to have kids.
How do I bring all of this together? Do I quit the academic circuit and « settle » for a comunity college job, or do I chose to «tough it out just another year » in the hopes of getting the dream job I’m not even sure I am dreaming of anymore? And what if « just another year » turns into two, three, four years? Am I willing to make the sacrifice then?
As I return to my beautiful baby boy, now much happier and rested from his nap, I can’t help but to continue worrying about what the future holds for me. And feel simultaneously guilty for not enjoying the present moment with him. Although as I gaze into his great big eyes, I can’t help but feel somewhat appeased and grateful. Someday, somehow, I’ll find a job that will allow me to strive as an individual and as a mom. And even if I don’t, something tells me it won’t be the end of the world…simply the beginning of a new career I hadn’t planned for!