As I mentioned in my post last week, just before I headed to the airport, Terry McGlynn posted a list of topics that he wishes people would blog about. Given that I was already planning on doing some #airportblogging, this was really tempting! A couple of his ideas especially stood out to me. The first was about how graduate students can get experience that will prepare them for non-academic positions; I wrote about that last week. The second was this:
-Thoughts about parenting and doing science and academia. (I have written about being a parent and a spouse on the rare occasion, but at a very young age, my son asked for privacy about these matters, and I’ve respected this.) I realize I should be talking about being a parent-in-science more often, because this is a huge part of our lives, and keeping this sequestered just amplifies gender inequities.
I’ve written regularly about the juggling act of parenting and doing science and academia, so it wasn’t the first part that really caught my attention. It was the parenthetical bit. Something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how quite a few people I know are juggling so many big things but, for the most part, only close friends or colleagues know about what they’re dealing with. A partial list of the issues includes personal health conditions; aging parents (or death of a parent); partners who have a chronic illness or major injury; non-trivial things with children; infertility; financial struggles; harassment and/or bullying; and major work upheaval.
My own life has had some combination of those things lately, and I’ve shared a little bit (most notably about my own mental health). But there are other things that are going on, too, that I don’t want to share. This is especially true for a couple of things going on with my children, which is why Terry’s parenthetical statement stood out to me. It’s cathartic to tweet about the chaos that comes from the latest round of daycare pestilence to strike the house, and I think it’s useful as a way of giving insight into some of what science parents juggle. But Terry’s parenthetical statement stood out to me because, as my kids get older, there are things that go on that definitely lead to the same sort of juggle, but that I don’t want to share out of respect for my kids’ privacy. I don’t want them to have to worry about what I say about them on social media. And I definitely don’t want their lives made harder later because of something I tweeted or blogged about. So, for the most part, I don’t mention the parenting things that are taking up a non-trivial amount of time and emotional energy. I suspect I will post less and less about my kids as they get older, even though that won’t necessarily mean the juggle has gotten easier. The things we have going on now definitely impact me and my life and my ability to do work; based on tracking my #readinghour for the year, I realized that I made it into March – March! – before I had a normal five day work week in 2018. No wonder I feel so behind on everything!
I don’t want to sound overly dramatic – we’re fine and what we’re dealing with is nothing outside the normal things that people deal with. I don’t think I’m special. I know lots of people who are dealing with lots of things – which is part of my point. Lots of people have non-work stuff taking up lots of time and energy, but most of the people they interact with don’t know it.
In short, what Terry’s post suggestion made me think of is:
- Yes, absolutely, stories about how people juggle being a parent and a scientist and/or academic are interesting and can help, but, as Terry notes, privacy concerns will be really relevant too. There are things going on that affect my life and my ability to focus on science, but, in most cases, it is not my story to tell.
- There are lots of people with Shit Going On. It’s fair to assume that a lot of the people you interact with regularly (including parents and non-parents) are dealing with lots of things in their lives that they aren’t sharing with you for a whole variety of reasons.
This reminds me of this really excellent advice:
In short: Be mindful of others’ privacy, and be kind.