Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Balancing Work and Life: Dual-Career Couples.

How, and when, are you supposed to do everything? Does it get any easier?  At what cost?  Couples representing different institutions, academic rank, and family status discussed the challenges and strategies of balancing dual careers with everything else important to them.   Sponsored by the ESF Women's Caucus and the Women in Science and Engineering Future Professoriate Program. 

Panelists:  empty nesters Dr. Gina Lee-Glauser, Vice President for Research, SU, and Dr. Mark Glauser, Associate Dean for Research and Doctoral Programs and Associate Director for Research, SU; Dr. Eleanor Maine and Dr. Doug Frank, both Professors of Biology at SU and the parents of middle schoolers; and Assistant Professors of Chemistry, Dr. Kelley Donaghy, ESF, and Dr. DJ Robinson, Ithaca College, the parents of 3 elementary schoolers.  The panel was facilitated by Dr. Suzanne Baldwin, Professor in SU’s Earth Science department.  Dr. Baldwin’s husband, Paul Fitzgerald, is in the same department; he was unable to participate today due to a prior  commitment at the Geology Society meeting. 

Who commutes?  Have tried to live where the one with the strictest schedule has shortest commute, although this has meant up to a 3 hour commute for the other.  As academics, they do have some flexibility in class scheduling and where work occurs—try to alternate days that they HAVE to be on campus.  Two of the panelists were formerly in industry and they had strictly set schedules, so living close to job was very helpful; DJ noted unlike now when he regularly brings work home, he left work at work.  Gina pointed out that much of your personal control over your schedule and work load are much more restricted and industry often requires frequent travel on schedules made by the company.  In academia, they juggle deadlines, rather than their supervisors.  In contrast, work associated with academia can often be performed in a variety of settings, for example Mark would bring a laptop to daughter’s skating practice.
How did you negotiate the job for your partner?  Eleanor was already faculty at SU when Doug came on soft-money.  When they started their family, Eleanor went on 50% leave and Doug was hired to fill the 50% position.  The only thing that was really half-time was their teaching loads—which considerably lightened their stress level.  They were lucky that the base salary was sufficient to live on. In addition, Eleanor was well respected and they had the chair’s and dean’s support.  Both jobs eventually reverted to full time.
They try to schedule sabbaticals together; Suzanne took a ‘leave’ once to accompany husband on his, and independently studied geology of region in that locale.  This turned out to be a great work opportunity for both of them.
As a couple, need to define the boundaries, career goals, and find a place that works with you.  Compromise is critical and couples may have to alternate whose career or options to follow at each juncture.  From audience:  compromise is important to all couples.  You also must not resent sacrifices that you’ve made for your partner, or take for granted those made for you.  Give each other space.  Communication is also key.
All of the panelists happen to be in same general field as partner—does that help?  Baldwin and husband made conscious decision to work together; otherwise they wouldn’t ever see one another (their work was previously on different continents).  It was acknowledged that you have to be conscious of the dynamics among your peers and the politics that result from a couple working in the same department.  You may be seen as a ‘voting block’ at faculty meetings, for example.  Or feel that you are a co-between for your partner.  Can you tell spouse that….? (They’ll try, but you know, they do have other things to remember, too!)  For the Glauser’s, at their original institution where Mark worked and Gina pursued her doctorate and then also was hired, there was an early perception that she got her degree, positions and perks because of her husband.  Conversely, when he later followed her to SU, no one cared. 
Day to day workaholics vs family?
  1. Houses not as clean as they could be (all concur) and you hire help as much as possible.
  2. Stay organized, central domestic calendar and superimpose work calendars several weeks out. 
  3. Daycare, before and after school programs at schools or private (they like the Jewish Community Center and Rothschild Early Childhood Center at Temple Adath Yeshrun—note:   both facilities welcome non-Jewish participants), and reliable babysitters. Always have a back up plan.
  4. Dedicated family time. For one family, it’s Sundays, for another, daily dinners together.  For all, between dinner and kids bedtimes, and they write later.
  5. Make your daily life circumstances work for you.  For example the Glausers installed an antennae to allow internet access at their wilderness cabin so that Gina could be apprised of emergent problems at the office—this gives her the peace of mind she needs to enjoy time at the cabin.  Set aside space at home that you can work well in.
  6. Flexibility.  Work at home?  May be easier at times to keep home separate, but for these families, working at home has less interruptions.  Much of their writing gets done 9pm-3am.
  7.  Toys in their offices for when kids do come in with them.
Give up job for a few years?  Bio—would be difficult.  Kelley intended to take a year off after youngest was born, but so many good job announcements came out that she applied and interviewed for a number of them.  One of those led her here.
What stage of your career did you have children?  Mark and Gina while she was in grad school.  Eleanor and Doug were older, she already had tenure.  They did encounter the problem that SU did not yet have a parental leave policy in place following adoptions.  Kelly and DJ waited until they thought they were in established positions.   Did they take breaks?  Sort of, but still wrote papers and proposals.  
Slow tenure clock?  Eleanor was already tenured when she went half-time; Doug did not take an extension.  Kelley’s previous institution had a stop clock policy BUT chair and dean had to be on board for this to work as intended, otherwise the reduction in teaching would result in higher expectation for writing.  Also, she notes that a teaching reduction wasn’t really what she needed—it was physically uncomfortable working at the lab bench during the later parts of her pregnancies.
Is your experience typical for non-hard science?  They think so.
Gina volunteered that there are gender differences.  She never displayed family photos for fear of “There she goes again” vs “What a great dad!”  She also never felt that she could say that she had a family obligation, or to say ‘no’ to a work related request to review a paper, etc.  Kelley noted that despite being in an open and responsive department, she feels the same way now.  As a result, both have missed more of their children’s events than their spouses.
They asked of each other:  would you do it differently?  No.  Through every sacrifice, we are a stronger couple and family.
Comments compiled by Heather Engelman, ESF Women’s Caucus and Sharon Alestalo, WISE FPP

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