Thursday, February 01, 2007

back to work?

I got an email yesterday from chem guy - a post doc with a 2 year old and another on the way. He wanted to know if I was ready to go back to work yet?


He went back to work on his PhD 3 days after his son was born.

That's beyond the realm of possibility for me and it seems to typify the inherent disparities that form hurdles for women in science/academia/the workplace.

3 days after I gave birth, I was bleeding, unable to sit on chairs without pillows below me, trying to figure out breastfeeding with engorged breasts, trying to figure out what clothes would fit my newly oddly shaped body, trying to figure out what clothes would fit my itty bitty baby, sleeping in <2 hour intervals, etc. And all of that is true today (6 days postpartum). And all of it will be true for weeks (well, hopefully not the engorgement part of it).

And that isn't even considering that I am spending hours holding my baby, lost in the beauty of her face, learning to read her wiggles and cries, trying to fathom the miracle that brought her to me.

Am I ready to go back to work? Hell no.

And I'm not sure when I will be. But I am making time for email each day, checking my voice mail, corresponding with a potential post-doc mentor, and thinking about my upcoming interview. Wish I didn't have to do those things, but they are all necessary evils of this game I'm trying to play - the one where we all pretend that just because I'm a woman and a new mom, things are no different in the job market and in science.

Because in order to succeed at this game, I've got to make that deception.

But the truth is, things are different. I've got to appear to be just as good as the boys, but I've got to do while bleeding, engorged, and enthralled with this new life sleeping in my lap.

and that sucks.


DRD said...

I've been meaning to make it over here from bloglines and say congrats!

Yes, as reasonable as it might be for a new dad to go back to work (and even enjoy the peace and quiet of it), it is not realistic for a new mom! The whole situation bothers me as well. I am impressed you've made time for email though!

Sicilian said...

Gal. . . you just had a baby. I don't think he has any of the post baby issues. . . so yeah. . . he can go back to work.
The best trick I learned to help with the pain of your breast swelling was hot hot showers. I would stand in the shower and let the hot shower run on my chest. It relieved when baby did not eat as much as I produced.
Best wishes. Enjoy each moment.

Addy N. said...

Well, I'm impressed that you are blogging this regularly! Hang in there with the all the excess fluids you're producing- things should calm down! (be sure you drink lots of water!) I know what you mean about the professional/family issue. I took my daughter to her first conference when she was not quite 6 months old! (and I was still nursing). She was born when I still had almost 3 years left of PhD work and was 2 when I went for interviews. It's frustrating that we (women) have to struggle more than men with these things. You'll be fine- just enjoy these early days with your little one because they change SO FAST!

phd me said...

It isn't that woman can't manage the many responsibilities that come with motherhood, academics, relationships, life - as you demonstrate so well! It's that the interaction of those responsibilities creates a very different reality for women than it does for men. Why can't we accept that difference without seeing it as somehow "less"?

Can I just say, I think you're amazing for keeping up with the blog. My last friend to have a baby hasn't even returned my phone call yet (it's been six months).

K said...

You are awesome for even blogging! I was way too worn out to do it in the first 6 weeks.
I had to make a poster and present it when my babe was 6 weeks old, then I had to go give a talk when she was 2.5 months old (her first overnight stay away from home). Then the thesis writing and the defense. I thought it sucked the whole time I had to be away from my baby. Yet it is still expected of women in academia.

Anonymous said...

I have a female colleague who loves to tell the story about how she taught her class the day after giving birth to her first child. I hate this story. I admire her, but it's so sad that she felt she had to do that. I had a C-section, so even if it had been my fondest wish to teach my class the day after giving birth (i.e., if I were insane), I couldn't have.

Maccanena said...

Congratulations on your baby!
I am new to your blog, but I am happy for you. I am finishing my PhD in engineering, just got married, and I am looking ahead at what I want to do. The academic career attracts me in the long run, but right now, wanting to be a mother and all that, I am not sure I want to cope with it. I still haven't made up my mind, though.
But I admire you for trying, I really do.
Congratulations again, your little girl is beautiful!

Amelie said...

ScienceWoman, you are amazing! And you are right, it sucks that we have to pretend we're like the boys even though there are some tremendous physiological differences not to our favor. Enjoy your baby!

RageyOne said...

WTH?!? Ready to go back to work already? Goodness, how insensitive. Yeah, he can go back to work after 3 days due to the fact that he didn't have an 6-8 lb human being emerge from his body 3 days prior. Sheesh!

Like the others, I think it is good of you to agree to check and e-mail and respond to message as you have thus far. Quite impressive.

Enjoy this time with your newborn and let chem guy handle what needs to handled.

Jenny F. Scientist said...

I know a male postdoc who left his wife in the L&D room to go set up a gel. And then the lab manager beat him with a pipette and told him to go back already, but that's not the point.

This is such a huge issue: the way we're supposed to pretend biology doesn't matter. Sometimes it DOES!

sab said...

Oh for heaven's sakes!

No, of course you're not ready to go back to work. We all learn in grade school that "girls and boys are different"... sometimes those physical differences just DO matter. It bugs me when people try to pretend differently. Ugh.

What truely amazes me is how these men must have NO CLUE what their wives went through for them!? Otherwise they wouldn't expect you to be back.

Enjoy your baby. How wonderful. :)

PhD Mom said...

Don't listen to that yahoo. I took off two months with my first and five weeks with my second. Your no use in the lab if you are still recovering mind and body. Just ignore him.

Interestingly, I just read an article that France's birthrate has increased significantly since they instituted family friendly policies that permit mothers to balance work and home. Who would've thunk it?

Don't let this guy taken ANYTHING away from you. You are totally doing the right thing.

Patti said...

I think you're amazing. I remember engorged breasts, bleeding, no sleep, crying baby. You'll know when you're ready to get back out there. Fiona Wood, Australian of the year - doctor, scientist, top in her field - has five kids, jogs every morning etc. You can be there too, when you're ready, you can be top of your field too. Don't rush though, babies are wonderful, enjoy every moment.

Lab Lemming said...

Um, maybe he was being sarcastic?
(sipping from my half-full glass...)

Reluctant Chemist said...

The guys have no clue how easy they have it. My DF has no clue as to why I'm so hesitant about ever having kids. He can't even fathom how it differently a woman's career timeline is affected. "Are you ready to go back to work?" Ummm...would he be ready to go back to work the day after pushing a watermelon out of his anus?

I have no idea where the idea of the superdad came from. There's no such thing as a superdad- only supermoms.

Congratulations on all the juggling. I'm rooting for you!

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