News on the balancing act from the EU

I was scanning the ScienceCareers site today and came across an interesting blog entry – Career vs. Family: An ESOF Smackdown, by Katie Travis. For those (like me) who don’t know, ESOF is the European Open Science Forum.  Having no experience with work-life balance in Europe and elsewhere around the globe – I’d always assumed that motherhood was greener on the other side of the pond.  I’m not referring to wooden toys and cotton diapers – but rather I’d always assumed that the desire to combine work with family was better developed and appreciated over there.  Maybe that’s not so.

Writes Travis, “I heard something I haven’t heard expressed out loud in a while: Women do need to choose between a career and family.”  Baffled by women who suggested that women must choose, Travis kept looking until she found other perspectives, one offered up by a physician, field researcher and mother of four who she writes is “…. a “trailing spouse”–her husband’s diplomatic job takes the lead and takes them around the world. She’s got a self-described service mentality, so even though her husband’s career has been the most consistent, she’s applied her expertise in whatever region she’s in. “I believe it’s my responsibility to prepare myself to say yes to opportunity,” Tokola says. She adds that she’s managed work-life balance by having a husband who’s 100% supportive and by having outside help with childcare.”

For more of Travis’s observations, check out her entry Career vs. Family: An ESOF Smackdown.

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2 Responses to “News on the balancing act from the EU”


  1. 1 katharine owens October 21, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    I spent the last 5 years living in the Netherlands getting a PhD in Environmental Policy, and I found the system extremely flexible and supportive of mother-researchers. I had two children during my time there, and when I first told my advisor that I was planning to get pregnant he promptly told me that it was not necessary to share this information with him. For families with children younger than school age each parent can take one ‘at home’ day per week, working on a percentage of their contract time. That could mean only three days in which childcare is needed. Childcare is subsidized by the government, which in our case meant 75% of the costs were covered. In addition, women are encouraged to stay in the workforce when they have young families– maybe only working a few hours/days a week– but keeping a toe in to make a transition back to work simpler. It was a fantastic system.

  2. 2 Emily October 23, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Wow, that sounds great. I know that for many balancing work with chilcare is one of the big issues leading them sometimes to think about leaving work, at least for a period of time (especially when it’s a net financial loss.)

    It also seems like a good thing to allow scaling back of work – but with the intention of moving back in – so providing an opportunity to keep at least up to date on the science.


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