Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Link to article in Molecular Cell: "How to Survive and Thirve in the Mother-Mentor Marathon."

How did I miss this?

Oh, I guess because I don't scan through the contents of Molecular Cell on a regular basis (although I should, just as I should scan through the table of contents of, oh, a dozen more journals in my field.)

But a grad student in my lab found this article and forwarded it on to a number of women at our institute. I forwarded it on to a few more. I sense this article will pass in this way through many e-mail boxes.

There are number of things to say about Dr. Galit Lahav's piece, "How To Survive and Thrive in the Mother-Mentor Marathon." My favorite part comes at the end: the reminder that it is a marathon, not a sprint. The reminder that although it is hard, there is also flexbility and joy in the academic lifestyle. I'll let the authors's last words speak for themselves:

"...Yes, it is a marathon, and clearly a long and exhausting one. Remind yourself the things that brought you here; celebrate your achievements and don't beat yourself up for not running fast enough. Remember your values and make your choices according to them. Remember to breathe, to live and to smile. After all, if you run without joy, it really doesn't matter if you are the first to get to the finish line."


chall said...

I might have read it when I was upset about things in gerenal but I remember being la little angry when I had finished the article.

I guess it could be since the whole article exsudes "family life will only affect women and their roles as mothers and mentors", and even if I know that this might be "more" true at the moment, it still makes me tired all the time.

If we all assumed that men would be involved with their children and families and that women would do the same, this would not be as much of a thing.

ah well, sorry. It's not all bad since there are a lot of good pointers in there. Sometimes I just wish that there could be an easier way about this life and work balance. sigh.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

I didn't read it (limited time and I'm not a marathon runner in any sense of the word!), but it's great to see this kind of article being published by the big journals, thereby reaching those parts of the academic community who don't read blogs!

The bean-mom said...

Chall, I get your point; in fact, I thought about it too--especially in light of the science-blogosphere storm that erupted after a similar article in ScienceCareers that focused on motoherhood/work balance while similarly ignoring the fact that fathers also face these same struggles. Indeed, EVERYTHING the author wrote about in the Molecular Cell article could apply equally to fathers. I agree completely that by continuing to see this as a "mother"-issue only, we both minimize fathers and reinforce the idea that family responsibilites are the primary responsiblity of women.

But as I said... I just didn't want to get into that in my post, as there is also much else to say about the article. *Sigh*. And it is women who seem to worry more about these issues, or who more openly discuss these worries. Oh, heck, I'll say it: it DOES affect mothers disproportionately. Study after study has shown that women's careers are negatively affected by motherhood, while for *men*, career success is actually positively correlated with fatherhood (see studies by Mary Ann Mason among others).

Okay, enough ranting.

There are some good tips in that article. And yeah, Cath, I'm glad to see an article like this published in the big-time mainstream journals!

Aurora said...

Thanks Bean Mom for this article. I read it carefully. I liked it. I have to do a better job of compartmentalizing things. In fact it is summer again and my blog urges are resurfacing. I'm thinking maybe I'll start a new blog where I focus more on being a mother.

The bean-mom said...

Aurora, I hope that you do!

Cloud said...

I came across this article, too, and added it to my big "scientists who are mothers" post.

I've got mixed feelings about it, for reasons that have nothing to do with the article itself, which does have some reasonable advice. I hope it makes some more young women willing to go ahead and dare to think they can combine the career they want with motherhood.

As @chall mentioned (and you expand upon in your comment)- it is tiring that there is all this fuss about how to balance motherhood with career (and it is not just with a career in science- this is a more general phenomenon) and not much at all about how to balance fatherhood with career. I have ranted on that at length at my blog and in other people's comments, so I'll spare you that here!

But I also read the article from the standpoint of someone who works outside of academic science, and gets a little tired of the assumption that there is something uniquely difficult about combining motherhood with an academic career, and the accompanying refusal to make common cause with or learn from mothers in other fields- even other science fields.

The (admittedly limited) data I've seen on hours worked (an average of 55 per week for academics, both women and men) make me think that there would actually be a lot of things academic women have in common with women working in other demanding careers. But every time I read one of these articles or come across a blog discussion on this, that possibility seems to be rejected.

The bean-mom said...

Hi Cloud,

I know enough (though not much) about other fields to know that academia does not have a lock on demanding careers. My sister is in business, and compared to her job my position in academia is actually much more flexible and accomodating to parenthood (I don't have to travel out of town 3-4 days a week the way she does!)

I think maybe many academics live in a bubble and don't know much about other demanding fields? Or we just like to imagine that we are oh-so-very-special? Of course there are peculiarities very specifc to our career (e.g. the "up-or-out" of tenure), but yes, I think we could well stand to make common cause with other women in other demanding careers.

Cloud said...

I hope it didn't come across that I thought YOU were discounting the chance that there might be some ideas on work-life balance from other careers that are relevant in academia. I didn't get that at all from what you wrote. My post was more a mini-rant on some of the other things on this topic that I've come across.

I've been thinking about it, and I think that perhaps the thing that is really different in academia is that there is no one to help you set boundaries. In industry, there is HR, and there are people whose job it is to manage projects and try to make sure that timelines can be met without crazy hours. In academia there is just you.

Of course, people work stupidly long hours in industry, too. But if you don't want to do that, there is a little more structure there to help you avoid it.

The bean-mom said...

I work at a very unusual non-profit institute which combines the (seemingly) best of both academia and industry. My current supervisor has a background in industry, and he has arranged for a professional project manager to meet with all of us to help set and manage our goals. The project manager is some business person at our institue. I think I've overheard some people grumbling about this, but I'm curious to see how it works out!