Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

On this Mother's Day, the women who are able to balance motherhood and a career in science deserve special recognition. Most scientists work long hours for relatively low pay and rarely have access to affordable child care. There is an expectation that your personal life will come second to your research. Despite that, women are still expected to be be the primary care givers of their children. Back when I was a graduate student, I felt like I barely had time to take care of myself, let alone anyone else. I can't imagine how they do it other than being super organized, very smart, and strong enough to take the time they need with their kids, despite the fact that might be met with disapproval from their non-parent and non-caregiver colleagues. Is that a cape I see peeking out from under their lab coats?

Janet Stemwedel has a fantastic three-part interview with her mom, Sally Stemwedel, who went back to college in her mid-30s to study astronomy.

Her mom is one of those women who was able to create a science career that fit her family life:
I believe that persisting to the goal firmly established in my mind that my stubbornness was really one of my gifts (when used properly). That has been exceedingly important in my work AND personal life since then.

It also taught me this lesson: If you can figure out an accommodation that can make things work, you'll only get it if you ask (and fight) for it. No one is going to volunteer to do it the way you need to get the job done. You have to make your case. That gave me the gall to ask to work mostly from New Jersey at an astronomy job in Washington, D.C., once I had had a year being away from home 5 days a week while your younger brothers were 12 and 14. I figured out a solution, made my case (and backed it up by interviewing for other jobs closer to home), and got the accommodation.

There are a number of scientist-moms who have been willing to share their experiences on their blogs, including (in no special order): Janet Stemwedel, Professing Mama, Addy N., ScienceWoman, PhDMom, Female Science Professor, SciMom, Alethea, Karmen, Absinthe, Wildvineyard, Michelle, Rebecca, MVidya, new mama Jane, the women who contribute to Mums in Science, and anyone else I've missed.

Special thanks also go to the moms out there who encouraged and supported their daughters' interests in science and engineering, including my own. Thanks mom!

Happy Mother's Day!

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