Category Archives: parenting

Why it annoys me if people say academics should work hard

I am annoyed and I think it is not because I can’t figure out how to hang our curtains that I just picked up from the store. It’s also not because our internet is very slow because the cable that goes into our apartment hasn’t been put in place correctly. (Sorry to my husband who I just called being annoyed with the things mentioned above, I found out I’m not annoyed because of that). I’m actually annoyed because of this blog post I read this morning. It’s about how you need to be the best post-doc in order to become an academic PI.  (it does actually have a bunch of good points about how to write efficiently and don’t waste too much time trying to get things to be perfect).

Sure, it should be possible for someone to work 37.5 hours per week and still get senior positions in academic science;  it should be the case.  However, I fear it is not.  And what incentive does the academic science have to change?  What universities have are a workforce who happily work their 37.5 hours per week and then stick an extra 10-20 hours per week on top voluntarily.  A workforce who don’t take their entire annual leave allowance.  A workforce who work when they are sick and rarely take time off.

So yeah, you need to work hard. I don’t think this is unique to academia. As I tweeted in response to this, I think academics aren’t special snowflakes who work for love instead of money. They are people too. And I think in every profession, the best people are at the top. The best soccer players probably are the ones who practice while others sit in front of the TV. The best garbage men are those who walk those extra two steps to get the garbage that people put a bit further away from the street. And the best academics are perhaps the ones that work 80 hours a week and never take vacation. But does it help anyone to keep repeating that? To keep saying that if you don’t work hard you won’t succeed? As someone who just took a month off in order to make sure our new place gets organized and our kids are supported while moving to another continent, I can so: No, this is not helpful at all. It just makes me feel like everyone is passing me left and right while I am busy being a mom and a wife and a very proficient IKEA-furniture-builder. I think we need to hear more of that: of how to be more than just a scientist and be very successful at it too.

So I’d much rather read things like this: You don’t need to work 80 hours a week to succeed in academia!

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Filed under absurd, academia, disgruntled postdoc, efficiency, leaving academia, life in the lab, parenting, postdoc, role models, science, women in science, work-life balance

So is breast truly NOT best on the long-term?

Yesterday, a new study came out on the long-term effects of breastfeeding. The major limitation of this kind of research is that sociodemographic factors are so intertwined with breastfeeding behavior and long-term outcomes that it is nearly impossible to correct for this statistically. So Cynthia Colen did something smart: she looked at families in which one sibling was breastfed while the other wasn’t and in this way was able to circumvent all the unknown confounding factors. Her results have been highlighted on many news websites because they show that there are virtually no long-term benefits of breastfeeding. The most important findings are explained here by The Skeptical OB.

However, when I read the paper I couldn’t find one important piece of information: how long did these mothers breastfeed for? In this news article it says an average of six months, but those data (and the standard deviation) are nowhere to be found in the paper (or is it me and did someone else find them?!). The authors of the paper do report that there is no correlation between the long-term outcomes and the duration of breastfeeding, but since an average of six months is a lot less than the AAP recommended year, I still wonder if we can draw these conclusions from this study. Another piece of information that I missed is if in the discordant sibling sample, the first sibling was more likely to be breastfed than the second or the other way around. I want to know these things so I can judge this paper better!

An important factor that I’m missing in the current news reporting on this paper is that breastfeeding does seem to have short-term benefits for children and both short- and long-term benefits for mothers (well of course journalists aren’t known for their nuance, but still).

So don’t get me wrong: I think it is super important to have real and reliable data in order to create recommendations for breastfeeding and whether or not we should encourage women to do so. I recognize that starting to breastfeed can be a huge struggle and it is important to have the right information. But I feel that the societal debate that is happening following the publication of this article misses these points A LOT.

 

Reference:

Is Breast Truly Best? Estimating the Effects of Breastfeeding on Long-term Child Health and Wellbeing in the United States Using Sibling Comparisons. Cynthia G Colen, David M Ramey. 2014 Social Science & Medicine, available online Jan 29 2014

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Filed under attachment parenting, baby, breastfeeding, maternity leave, parenting, pumping milk

On reproduction

You know how in science there’s this fine line between needing to reproduce previous results and not wanting to do something that someone else already did? I recently reproduced part of this work from Prof-like Substance and all I can say is:”WHY DIDN’T I BELIEVE HIM IN THE FIRST PLACE?!?” Because OMG 2 children is definitely more than twice as much work as one. And I am in the luxury position that when I’m home by myself with Little Brother, BlueEyes is usually at daycare and when both of them are home Dr. BrownEyes is also home. Because I honestly don’t understand how people do this by themselves or have more than 2 children… And I don’t think I want to reproduce the rest of that graph from Prof-like Substance, because it seems that has already been done by others.

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Filed under baby, parenting, science, toddler

When do you stop pumping milk at work?


A while back I wrote about pumping milk at work and the other day I got an email from a reader asking me the following:

Hi Babyattachmode,
I came across your blog while looking for some guides to breastfeeding and pumping at work. I am about to go back to work as a postdoc, and I’m wondering whether it is possible to not pump at work at all and will my milk supply go down if I skip my work pump. Any advice is appreciated!
Best [anonymous]

Even though I’m not a lactation consultant, I do have some experience and heard a lot of advice and experiences from women around me, so I told her this:

It really depends on the age of your baby and on your supply. For most women, their milk supply starts to be stable between 9 months and a year. So if you baby is older than 9 months, I think you should be okay not pumping at work and just nursing him at home. However, if your baby is younger than that, I think not pumping will affect your supply and it’s up to you how much you don’t want that. If you’re okay with your supply dropping and slowly moving over to formula, then you can do it and any breastmilk he gets from you is something of course! However, if you plan to nurse longer and your baby is younger than 9 months, I wouldn’t advice not pumping at work.
Another thing to consider is your own comfort. When I stopped pumping when my son was 1 year, I still got pretty engorged at the end of a workday and had my handpump in my office to relieve the pressure on days when it got too bad. I’m sure my breasts could not have handled an 8+ hour workday without pumping in the first year, but I know this is different for different women too.
A last thing to add is that for me, pumping was not that much work. It’s another thing to add to your routine, but I was usually done within 15 minutes per session, and I pumped twice a day. I had an extra set of tubing and breastshields so that I didn’t have to wash those in between pumping sessions for example.

To which she replied that her baby was 9 months and that she had pumped twice daily since she went back to work when her baby was 2 months.
So I told her:

When your baby is already nine months, you’re likely going to be okay not pumping and continuing to nurse. I dropped one pumping session at 9 months and the other at 12, but you might be okay just not pumping during the day. Just see how it goes and if your supply drops dramatically you can always decide to continue pumping for a couple more weeks/months and then try again. For a while I pumped during breakfast to have an extra bottle and leave home with empty breasts for the day (especially when BlueEyes decided not to nurse a lot in the morning).

I thought I’d post this conversation on my blog too, as it might be helpful to others too!

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Filed under breastfeeding, parenting, pumping milk, working mom

#PubScience #scimom edition


Yesterday I stayed up past my normal bedtime to participate in #PubScience organized by @DrIsis and @MTomasson. We talked about being a parent in science, and you can watch the episode here and below (do it! It’s a lot of fun and an interesting conversation).
I had to leave about an hour in because BlueEyes woke up and needed some comforting. And then I fell asleep, because as I said: this was past my tired-pregnant-self bedtime. Talking about being a scimom.
What I wanted to clarify is that when I talked about one of the parents stepping back to make sure the other can excel in their job, both Dr. Isis and Dr. Rubidium said that that was a very privileged situation being able to take a step back. I agree that parents that have to work double shifts at McDonalds in order to be able to support their families probably have a way harder time than us academics do. But while there are usually people that have a harder time than others in whichever aspect of their life, for me this is still an issue in my life and therefore worth discussing. I see people around me where one of the parents decide to take a step back, taking a job where you are not expected to travel to meetings, you are not expected to work late nights to make deadlines and you don’t need to be in the lab on the weekend because your experiments require that. By doing this, they give up the dream of becoming a tenure track scientist. Even though I think doing this will increase the chances for my husband (and the other way around) neither of us is ready to do this.
Also, while we were discussing all this, on twitter some people were wondering if, after hearing all this, they were ever going to want to have babies. I have this to say about that (and I may have said this before on my blog or anywhere else): For me, having a baby was an entirely different desire than wanting to be a kick-ass scientist (preferable in academia). I know I would be very sad if I would be forced to leave science because I cannot work hard enough/publish enough papers/get enough grants, but I would have been heartbroken if I didn’t have kids. So for me it’s not kids or career, it’s kids and then see how far I can get in my career.

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Filed under baby, birth, blogging, parenting, Pub-Style Science, twitter, work-life balance, working mom

On gender-neutral toys


I really appreciate that my parents tried to raise us with gender-neutral toys. My brother and I both had a doll (my brother had a boy-doll and I had a girl-doll, with actual boy and girl bodyparts!), we both had legos and we both had musical instruments. Of course this only worked up to a certain level, because my brother liked building things with legos, while I like playing stories with the lego-people (and later I really liked my barbies). But I’m really grateful for the message that you can do the same thing whether you are a boy or a girl.
I think this was easier back in the 80s, judging from the type of legos adds you had then.
I think this add is awesome, it instantly makes me want to play with legos!


Nowadays, in some stores it seems that gender-neutral toys are non-existent in some stores (check out  this post from Dr. Isis for example). However, we do try to give BlueEyes the notion that you can play with whatever you want. He has a doll, pans to cook with (but in our house cooking is not necessary a women’s job anyway), and trains and cars. 
But last weekend we went to get him a helmet for on his balance bike. At target they only have helmets with Disney princesses or with cars. And BlueEyes liked the pink one with Disney princesses the most. On the one hand I wanted him to be free to choose which one he wanted, but I was also a bit afraid about the judgment from the older kids in our neighborhood and the kids at his daycare. So in the end I persuaded him into thinking that the blue helmet with a car on it was more comfortable than the pink one with the Disney princesses and he happily agreed. But I still feel a bit bad about forcing him into society’s strait-jacket of gender-marketed toys. Where are the gender-neutral helmets, Target??!

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Filed under feminism, parenting, toddler, toys

A little person


Last weekend, Dr. BrownEyes was away to a conference and BlueEyes and I were home by ourselves. When he was very little, those days would feel kinda lonely: being by yourself with a little baby to me feels like being by myself, but constantly being busy taking care of the little baby. You’re talking to the baby, but the baby doesn’t respond, or even acknowledges that you say something.

Now that BlueEyes just turned two, those days when it’s just us feel so much different. By now he’s a little person, and even though he hasn’t mastered the art of putting two words together to form a sentence, he can talk about many things (and even joke!) just using one word at the time. So now those days feel like I’m hanging out with someone: going to the park or the pool or just the grocery store, while chatting about the things around us. And that little person is not just someone; he’s one of my favorite people in the world. It’s crazy and weird how fast that has changed.

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Filed under parenting, toddler