Being still partly on maternity leave (I work 1 day a week in the lab, husband 4 days a week so Little Brother doesn’t have to start daycare until we are in the homecountry), I do most of my work as #naptimescience. This is tricky because you never know when it ends: sometimes you get a long stretch of productive time, but other times you have just laid out everything you needed to complete a task and then the baby wakes up and you have to stop. I guess kind of the same as for faculty as you never know when the next desperate grad student or disgruntled post-doc will run into your office to show you some ugly Western blog they just did. What I try to do to be productive during these unknown amounts of time is break things up in the smallest unit possible. When I have to write something I make bullet points of all the things that I have to write and then break the bullet points up into even smaller units. This way, I can take one unit at a time instead of being right in the middle of a lengthy discussion when the baby wakes up and then not know where you wanted to go next. When I do something else, like analyze data, do stats or make figures, I try to take notes of what I have been doing so that if I start again during the next bout of naptimescience I can pick up right where I have left off.
I have been in the US for nearly four years to do my post-doctoral training, and now that we’re almost moving back, I feel that I have a lot of useful information to share with the internet. Even though 90% of my readers are in the US, I hope that there are enough people out there that can benefit from the things I’ve encountered. And maybe it’s useful for USians as well. Because with many things, I realize now that I could have done things differently, hence the title.
For this first part, I want to talk about the thing that is on my mind right now: maternity leave. In my homecountry, women get 16 weeks off around the birth of their child. This is mandated by the government, so there are no differences in policies per university like in the US (where there is no such thing as paid maternity leave mandated by the government). When I talked about this on twitter today I discovered that for many, many graduate students and post-docs, there are no regulations regarding maternity, paternity or adoption leave at all. This leaves people very vulnerable, because it is up to your advisor to determine how long your leave can be and whether it is paid or unpaid. So if you’re looking for a post-doc and you have the intention to start a family in the near future, it might be wise to VERY CAREFULLY try to find out what your future PI’s view on leave is.
Some positions, like my current position, make you eligible to apply for Family and Medical Leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, you might want to study this before starting your family, because it requires you for example to be employed for longer than a year before you have a baby and to work a certain amount of hours to be eligible. In my homecountry, there’s really not a lot you need to do to apply for this type of leave, but here in the US I found that you need to carefully follow the rules and make sure you are eligible before applying. This is especially important because if you don’t get paid during your leave, you still need to pay for your health insurance that is normally taken out of your paycheck. In my university, when applying for FMLA you first need to finish all your sick, annual and personal days before the unpaid leave starts. So when you’re considering having a baby it might be worth trying to save as many days as you can to make sure the unpaid portion of your leave is as short as possible. One might ask: but then what do you do when your baby is sick after you’ve gone back to work and you have no days left? I have no clue at all… Which brings me to the following question from twitter:
Please comment if your university or institute does, because others might be able to change this at their institute!
So as with many things my most important advice about maternity, paternity or adoption leave is: READ TEH FUCKING MANUAL!!
Hi BabyAttachmode readers, thanks for letting me guest post here. Honestly, I am hoping for some advice. I am a (senior) graduate student in a computation/electrophysiology lab and am planning to graduate in December. Everything is lined up for this to happen provided I actually write a lot in the next few months. However, I am also 5 months pregnant (baby due in July).
This pregnancy was planned, and my advisor even thinks it is good timing. She had her first child when she was finishing her Ph.D. as well, and now she has tenure (It is possible, folks
). I didn’t necessarily want to try to have a baby right after I started a new post-doc position, but I also didn’t want to wait forever. In addition, my impression is that the ‘clock’ starts ticking after
you get your Ph.D. (for early investigator status grants and so forth), so I rather delay graduation now than delay productivity later.
But here is my question: When should I apply for post-doctoral positions?
Part of me would like to apply right away and have a settled position for January as soon as possible. Or alternatively if it is really difficult for me to find a position, I would like to find that out sooner rather than later. If I apply now, I could even work on submitting an F32 NRSA grant with someone, and possibly have my own funding. The thing I am hesitant about is that I am obviously pregnant, and if I get invited to interviews any time in the next 4 months, I will be HUGE. I am worried that I might not be a sharp and quick thinking as normal. But more importantly, I am worried about implicit bias against mothers and motherhood in academia. Will a potential advisor think that I’m not serious about science or that I won’t have time to devote to the lab? Should I hold off applying for positions for this reason?
There are benefits to applying later too. I have 3 papers currently submitted (1 as first author), and it would be nice to have those accepted before sending out my CV. But I worry about applying to post-doc positions at the last minute. A recently graduated friend of mine (who had some great publications) sent out about 100 applications/letters of interest and got interviews for only 4 or 5. This is more or less terrifying to me, even though he ultimately landed a great position. Also, I won’t be pregnant ‘later’, but I will have a tiny baby… which I’m sure will present its own problems: For example maybe I won’t be well rested for my interviews.
Any pros or cons that I am not considering? Any advice from successful or unsuccessful post-doc applications?
I only discovered today that the National Postdoctoral Association
published “A Postdoc’s Guide to Pregnancy and Maternity leave
”. It’s a short guide that tells you all the things that you should keep in mind before, during and after your pregnancy as a postdoc. That’s incredibly helpful, because as a postdoc you’re not a student but regularly not a real employee either, so it’s often vague what your rights are concerning things like maternity leave.
|Click here for a larger view.
The only slight flaw that I could discover is that they list ‘looking for childcare’ as something to do after the baby is born. In our case that would have been way too late. Our university only has one childcare center with about 12 spots for babies (!), so we were smart enough to put our names on the list when I was only 8 weeks pregnant. The daycare center knew I was expecting before my close friends did, just because otherwise we would probably not have got a spot.
Anyway, go and check it out if you’re a postdoc and pregnant or considering to get pregnant.
So long and thanks for the fish, National Postdoctoral Association!
Today @Scientistmother asked the following question on twitter:
It’s been something that I have struggled with too: do you let people know you have (a) child(ren) or not? On the one hand it will explain any gaps you might have in your CV, but on the other hand it may lead some people (let’s say the gray haired male subset of people) to think that you won’t work as hard. And that maybe they should hire/fund someone who doesn’t need to leave at 5 to pick their child up from daycare, or who won’t have to stay home when said child is ill.
I remember that I went to a talk at SfN last year about work/life balance and the speaker told us that research (that I’ve been trying to cite, but haven’t been able to find yet) has shown that for men it looks good when their CV shows they have kids (for example by including that they are on the PTA of their kid’s school) but for women it doesn’t (and even looks bad).
To speak for myself: I don’t really have a gap in my CV due to BlueEyes being born (although if I hadn’t been tired, nauseous and unable to think coherently I may have got more work done…), so I generally don’t disclose this on my CV or when applying for fellowships, unless for example a fellowship allows you to submit longer after obtaining your PhD due to parental leave. What about you? Do you disclose this somewhere and if so where?