At a snail’s pace

Last week I hit rock bottom. This week is much better. I spent a nice weekend with Hubby and Monkey (who I’ll have to share some stories about soon – he’s driving us absolutely nuts, but only because he’s inherited both of our unruly, stubborn streaks). We took some deep breaths and enjoyed a weekend of minimal activity, just enough to keep Monkey entertained.

I spent some time last night reading papers on my iPad and looking over the applications from a couple of very promising technician candidates. This morning, I walked into my lab and reminded myself of how far I’ve come in just a couple of months. It’s not a bustling center of scientific discovery – yet – but it’s almost functional, just in time for hiring some lab peeps.

I’ve gotten a couple of grants and a manuscript submitted. I’ve met most of the administrative staff and identified the people who “get shit done”. I’ve interacted with several awesome female scientists, and have started building my local network. I’ve even started talking to a couple of colleagues about potential collaborations. This summer, I’ll be attending a couple of international meetings, promoting myself and my new lab.

Slowly, very slowly, everything is starting to come together. As I ponder taking responsibility for the livelihood of others in my lab, I’m feeling more pressure to succeed than I ever have before. I really don’t know how the hell I ended up here, but I’ve got to admit, it’s pretty fucking cool.

Now that I’m “in it”, I can also see how hard this will be with a kiddo, and how difficult the decision to procreate further, while on the tenure track, will be. I have the option of tenure-clock stoppage, a seemingly supportive department with lots of involved parents (dads and moms), and the financial support I need to get shit done. But I haven’t been able to do squat in the lab without personnel – too many other items end up at the top of the to-do list, and I’m out of time for lab shenanigans by the time I have to pick Monkey up from daycare. If it weren’t for my technician funds, I’d be up shit creek. Networking is obs incredibly important, but every meeting I attend is time away from Monkey, every lunch with a colleague time away from grant-writing. Money is critical, but each grant is more time away from family. I have a supportive husband and the freedom to do just about anything I need to be successful in my career. Still, decisions will have to be made, and I’m curious to see where my decisions will get me.

One thing is for sure – I do NOT want to wake up five years from now and not recognize my son, or find out it’s too late to have a second kiddo. If that means I don’t get tenure, so be it. I’m hopeful, however, that I can find the right combination of networking, writing, lab, and family time to end up happy AND tenured. Pipe dream???? We’ll see, but I’m not nearly as optimistic as I used to be. That’s perhaps the biggest change between now and a few short months ago – a lab, money, responsibility, and a heaping portion of realism.


6 thoughts on “At a snail’s pace

  1. “One thing is for sure – I do NOT want to wake up five years from now and not recognize my son, or find out it’s too late to have a second kiddo. If that means I don’t get tenure, so be it.”

    I’m totally with you! I think I’ve echoed these sentiments during pretty much every discussion I’ve had Re:academic vs. industry. I do think it’s possible, but unfortunately also feel that all the stars have to line up just right for it to happen (including having research findings hit at the right time). Difficult, but possible. And maybe even a little lucky.

    In any case, I wanted to let you know that you’re not alone in your fears. Nor are you alone in your hopes for the future. I watch eagerly, but wish there was more I could do to be supportive…..

  2. “I walked into my lab and reminded myself of how far I’ve come in just a couple of months. ” Ok for the historian to point out that Rome wasn’t buit in a day. I’m going with the one foot in front of the other method these days

  3. Since I am not in academia, I know that I don’t fully understand the work load. But maybe it would help to define a certain set period of time as your “start up” time- and allow work to eat a little more of your life, but only for that set period of time. I do that whenever I start a new job. For me, the intense period lasts maybe about 3 months, and then I can settle into a less hectic routine. I think what happens to a lot of people is that they hit one of these crazy periods and ramp up to deal with it, and forget to ramp back down. Because there is always stuff to do.

    Good luck!

  4. @Cloud – I’m pretty much working at max capacity right now, dropping Monkey off at daycare (at my work) as early as I can after dropping Hubby off at work (one car family right now) and picking up right at daycare closing time before heading to pick up Hubby. I grab some evening and weekend hours in for literature reading and grant-writing, but haven’t ventured in to the office too much due to the one car situation. Monkey’s repeated respiratory infections, ear infections and fevers have also complicated things, especially considering the fact that Hubby is also starting a new position and trying to hit the ground running.

    But really, the most frustrating part of this period is the difficulty to make things go much faster, even if I had more time to give. So much has to happen with purchasing, administrators, contractors, and red tape before I can even do a single experiment. And much of this can only happen during the M-F, 8-6 time period. My work seems to be focused on calling these guys once a day, keeping track of what has and hasn’t been done, and trying to figure out who the hell to talk to when paperwork gets *lost*. Substantial benchwork in my field also requires quite a bit of prep time, and getting 3-4 solid days in the lab with all the other new responsibilities is seemingly impossible without another set of hands in the lab to help out.

    Things should get much better once the lab is running and I have some personnel trained and starting to get stuff done. At that point, I definitely will have to make a concerted effort to ramp back down a little bit; I cannot continue at this pace indefinitely. Monkey eats dinner and goes to bed right after we get home from work these days, and Hubby spends most of breakfast time with him while I get ready, so I barely see him during the week 😦

  5. Welcome to project management! Seriously, I used to joke that half of my job was reminding other people to do their jobs. I can tell you from experience, that you get more Zen about that part of it. Or at least I did.

    And of course you need another set of hands to do the “actual” work. Management is real work, and takes time. It frustrates the heck out of me a lot, too, but I am actually having to let go of the idea that I’ll do any significant technical work- it just makes projects get behind when I try to do that.

    I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, obviously. Hang in there. I’m sure you’re doing great.

  6. Today I found The Tightrope by googling ‘back at work just sit at my desk and cry motherhood.’ I have a 9 month old son, my first, and in 3 months I’ll start my own research lab in the ivy league. When I read your posts I feel like I am reading my own entries from sometime in the future. I can’t add anything intelligent to this comment, just wanted to say thank you for this outlet, and for forging a path just a few paces ahead of mine. I will keep reading.

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