Here is the place where I hope you’ll feel free to share your own stories, experiences, comments, suggestions, cautionary tales, helpful hints.

No judgements, no negative comments (please), just sharing, discussion, ideas that just might possibly lead to change. Change in us, change in the way things are, change in the future.

My father always told me to do what I love. But he never told me what to do when the two things I love bump up against each other. In my case that was getting a career in science off the ground, and keeping my family grounded.

These are things we need to figure out for ourselves. But sometimes it helps to know we’re not alone – in whatever route we take. Be it pursuing that coveted tenure-track position while wading through piles of diapers and milk-stained bibs, or hacking your way through the underbrush of your own unique path, keeping one hand in science, and the other around your child’s shoulder.

This isn’t just for new parents or new scientists but also for those who have been at it a while, be it science or parenting. As a parent with kids just entering the teen years, I am told that those sometimes those surly, independent teens who push us away with a roll of their eyeballs – really do appreciate us – and not just when we come to the rescue.

I’d like to make this a collaborative, more wiki-like where everyone can add their own story or begin their own thread and have equal “billing.” To add your story you must be signed in (that’s just the way the site works.) Once you are, and I’ve added you to the list of users, click on Dashboard, click on Write, give your page a title, and under Page Parent – on the right hand menu – click on the drop box and highlight “Your Stories.” 

Then begin to write!

Alternatively, if you’re not ready to write and post your own story you can also comment on anyone else’s post by writing in the “comment” box below.

If you would like to add a page but are not signed in – please contact me at emonosson@verizon.net.

8 Responses to “Your stories”


  1. 1 ScientistMother August 29, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Hi there,

    I’ve recently found your blog and am excited to read future entries. I am a 30 (soon to be 31) mom of a 18month monkey. I started my PhD pregnant and have returned after a 1 year mat leave to a very different lab. The PI has many personal issues, the institute is lacking leadership and our lab was heading for trouble. On the advice of my Program Advisor, I decided to switch labs, but did the ethical thing of telling my PI first. Now I can not find a lab to work. Part of the reason is similar to what Gen says I am older, with a kid mostly likely to have another one. I love doing science but am thinking about leaving. Am so confused!

  2. 2 Emily September 2, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    I hope, if you love doing science that you don’t drop out of science. If there’s something I learned from this whole project its that there are many ways of continuing on – though it’s true most writers were post-grad – some were students and some wrote of advisers and institutes that were flexible when it came to a primary care parent.

    While 31 isn’t spanking new for a PhD student – it’s not old! Some advisers may even appreciate a more experienced and mature student who really knows what she wants. Sounds like you’ve just got to look elsewhere if at all possible.

    But maybe a PhD isn’t for you? Are there other avenues to do the kind of science that you enjoy? Or, that might help you get in position to be a student in a couple of years – maybe when the kids are a bit older? Is that an option?

    Good luck,

    Emily

  3. 3 raisingsmartgirls January 13, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    I am a lurker on a few “women in science” blogs, read some of the discussions facing women in science generated by the Scientiae Carnivals. I feel like a complete outsider, a bit of a charlatan, now that I’m no longer on the bench. In addition, most of the women in science hold academic positions and higher level educations than mine, and me, just holding a B.S. and 12 years of laboratory experience. Although, I do have something under my belt: the biology department director that hired me at Presitigious Private U told me that having the 9 years of experience in clinical laboratory work was the “equivalent” of having a master’s degree in their eyes, and they hired me for my technical strengths and my quality assurance experience. And no matter where I go next, I do have the Prestigious U’s experience to document on my CV, and no one can take that away from me.

    As I contemplate the future, I find I how I feel about re-entering a science career varies from day to day. Most days I’m thrilled to be at home, teaching my girls science and math (lately my first grader wants to know multiplication, so I’m teaching her at home). Some days I’m wistful for what I’m missing. Very rarely do I have a heartbreaking ache like I used to have.

    I’m also extremely grateful I’ve been able to leave be an advocate for my middle daughter. As the acting supervisor for my small laboratory at the last position I had, I would not have been able to take off to take my daughter to her 6 neuropsychological appointments last year to determine if she truly had selective mutism and rule out more worrisome concerns like autism. I’d also wouldn’t be able to spend the time to go observe her in her schools, monitor her progress, and bite the special needs teacher in the ass when she disregarded a significant portion of my daughter’s IEP.

    My former lab director, a mother of two herself, while understanding, would only have been able tolerate so much absence. Because our laboratory was so small, each of us was critical for the moving of samples through to completion (I wore a dual hat of acting supervisor and senior bench analyst). With the growing influx of new samples, working part time was not even an option.

    Unlike her, who lived close on the campus and could take off a couple of hours if she needed to attend to her children, I lived 45 minutes by car, 1.5 hours by train away in the suburbs (no the train ride didn’t take that long, the walk to the train, the wait for the train, then the ride home in the car took that long) . There would be no “oh, I’ll be gone for 2 hours and I’ll be back” for me.

    I am a content for the moment to live vicariously through other scientific mamas and read their trials and tribulations of finding work/life balance as I sip my coffee and consider whether I should get started on making a doll blanket for my girls like I made for my niece over the weekend, and how I should stop blogging/reading blogs and go make the zucchini nut bread I’ve been wanting to make the past two days with my 3.5 year old to help me and seriously considering running to the dollar store to pick up some workbooks on multiplication (my oldest daughter loves workbooks) before we have to pick up my 5 year old and 7 year old from school.

    I am in the thick of parenting right now, and have no screaming desire to go back to the bench, but perhaps I will. I like reading about other women in science who face some of the same decisions I faced and see how they are dealing with the complexity of feelings that are placed upon their hearts and minds.

    I feel some day I will get to the place I want to be, and I feel I will know it when I get there which is why I haven’t had a strong commitment to returning to work or school at the moment. Until then I am enjoying my time at home with my girls. I’m at a point where I crave quantity time with them, not just quality time. They are teaching me a lot about what I value at this point in my life. And that’s everything that they have to teach me about themselves (and about me as well) and passing onto them a love of science and discovery.

  4. 4 KC January 13, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    just wanted to add if anyone was interested in what I do at home to teach my girls about science, they could see at http://growinginpeace.wordpress.com.

  5. 5 Emily January 19, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Hi KC,

    Thank you for adding your experiences to the the list.

    One of the “lessons” I learned from putting the Motherhood book together and reading and rereading all those essays is that most of us do eventually get where we want to be.

    Some of that may be a result of changing our ultimate “targets and goals” but, it may also be a result of patience, confidence and maturation.

    As one of the contributors to the book wrote, “you can have it all, just not at the same time.”

  6. 6 Jeanne April 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Hi there!

    Just wanted to say that I am glad that there are more of us out there than I originally thought. I, too, have started chronicling my life as a mom scientist in the series On Nature and Nurture (a part of The Incubator). If you have time, check it out: http://incubator.rockefeller.edu/?cat=9

    My story can be found there.

    Thanks!
    Jeanne

  7. 7 Shiau Jen October 17, 2011 at 4:08 am

    Just what I’ve been looking for!

    I never thought I would say this, but my postdoc experience has taught me that one major problem of being a woman in science is the women who are already in science. I found I was pregnant for the 2nd time this summer (the first while I was finishing up grad school). At first my advisor seemed supportive and even said she would give me a pay raise in accordance with the number of years I had been a postdoc. But as the months wore on and I went through major fatigue during my first trimester and a couple of setbacks in my project, her attitude has changed. Now she tells me that there’s no way I can get a raise unless I prove to her that I can be even more productive that I have been in the last few years after I have the baby and I shouldn’t have expected otherwise. While to me this was clearly a form of pregnancy discrimination, like so many postdocs my hand are tied because I’m depending on getting a good letter from her.

    From the time I have been in this lab there has been this undercurrent that I should work longer hours and weekends. as she does. My advisor is married but her spouse lives in another state and she no children. She went through the typical hazing protocol to get to where she was and I think for her situation it was fine. But me for, like so many moms, who have to share the responsibilites of picking up and dropping off kids for daycare, let alone a household, this is an unreasonable expectation. More to the point, it does not allow for people to have family as a top priority, which is a hard pill to swallow for most parents.

    It’s upsetting to me that she is propagating the same exploitation of a highly trained employee as the rest of the scientific community. And while I don’t expect special treatment, I think it is reasonable to pay people what they are worth and not to expect them to sacrifice other things that are equally, if not more important. Given the timeline of when people are postdocs and the slim chances of it leading to a highly paid faculty or industry position, we need to start treating postdocs as what they are- the vital and most productive employees at a research university. it’s reasonable to start treating them like other employees at the university and give them a decent salary, access to a reasonable amount of paid maternity leave, and benefits such as a health and flex spending plan, and retirement fund.

    That was my two cents

    Shiau Jen

  8. 8 Emily October 17, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Shiau Jen,

    I am sorry to hear you’ve had such a difficult time with your adviser. I think it is true that post-docs are in the most difficult of positions (compared with students or faculty, it seems post-docs often fall through any cracks in insurance or job protection.)

    I do know that some women who have given up a lot in terms of parenthood to get where they are in science (and I would hope some who, like your advisor don’t have kids) are working to change things. (See the recent Science article about NSF’s newest efforts to create family friendly lab — http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6051/1811.citation.) One writer for the Motherhood the Elephant book in particular, Gina, did change things when she ran into pregnancy discrimination as a post-doc.

    As well one another writer noted that as a young scientist and mother she returned to lab soon after childbirth, but as an adviser or young women scientists hopes to provide better opportunities for her own students.

    Unfortunately, as you’ve experienced, not all feel this way.

    Good luck,

    Best,

    Emily


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