Momming While Sciencing
A day in the life of a postdoc parent.
From the editor: Thanks to the overwhelmingly positive response to my day-in-the-life post, I’ve reached out to some friends at different career/life stages to continue this series. Today is a real treat, as we get to hear from one half of the pair behind the fantastic blog, Dive for Science. This science/travel/family blog is the brainchild of married scientists, Drs. Lauren and Simon Freeman, who began cataloguing their adventures while completing their PhDs at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (which is where we became friends). They are, in my humble opinion, some pro-level multitaskers. They lead jam-packed lives that brim with international travel, diving, photography, raising children (Blake and Joey), and doing scientific research, all while navigating savvy career moves to keep the family thriving together. I couldn’t be happier to get a peek into the secrets behind their success. Today we’ll hear from Lauren, as she walks us through a day of momming while sciencing.
Momming While Sciencing
(i.e., It’s always time for me to do something else!)
Tuesday is one of my favorite days each week, because it is our family date night. Our traditional routine is to visit the rec center pool after work (the one day it isn’t crowded with lessons!) followed by Taco Tuesday at a nearby restaurant. Here’s how it plays out:
7:30am – Wake up to baby monitor. Quickly brush teeth and get dressed for work, then fetch Blake and Joey. Make breakfast for both kids and coffee for me.
8:00am – Nanny arrives and takes over breakfast. I pack up my coffee mug and lunch. I also quickly finish off any chores that are lingering (empty the dishwasher, switch/start a load of laundry, put laundry away… there’s a lot of laundry!)
8:30am – Wish the boys well. Joey chooses a car for me to bring to work, and send photos back to him throughout the day. Today it is a Hess fire truck with a telescoping ladder.
8:30am-8:45am – Actually leave the house. Joey and Blake sit on the front steps and wave goodbye. Joey laughs when I put the fire truck toy out of the window onto the rearview mirror. Place fire truck in steering wheel at a red light, take photo and send to Joey via nanny.
9:00am – Arrive at office. Answer emails. Look at yesterday’s to-do list. Copy remaining items to a new list, and add a couple more.
9:45am – Begin image processing routine to convert full hyper-spectra to simulated satellite bands
9:58am – Pose fire truck on my desk. Send photo to nanny.
10:00am – Meet with postdoc adviser to discuss edits to manuscript. Adviser suggests several additional tasks for manuscript. We negotiate his original list of 4 large tasks down to 2. Everyone feels pleased about this.
10:40am – Receive text message from nanny with cute photos of the boys at the neighborhood playground. Joey thanks me for the car photos.
10:45am – Gather data results from image processing. Copy over to other computer for MATLAB processing. Add to growing dataset and update figures for paper.
12:55pm – Receive text message from Simon suggesting we have lunch. Reply that I’ll be down in 5 minutes. Rush to finish the figure I’m currently working on.
1:10pm – Actually go downstairs for lunch. We eat outside at the picnic tables (fall in Virginia is stunning, I must say). We discuss work issues from the morning, concerns about the kids, and plans for the upcoming weekend. We love having lunch together, but it is a somewhat hurried affair because we are paying our nanny hourly so that we can both be at work. Send another photo of the fire truck with our lunch. Joey responds that the fire truck needs to be washed before I bring it home.
1:30pm – Return to my desk. Check email again. Fire off as many responses as possible. Two emails require more effort. Test out a new code before sending to a colleague. Complete another figure before sending to another colleague, along with thanks for their (crucial) help on an early portion of the image processing.
2:45pm – Update methods section of manuscript to reflect most recent coding work. Begin combing through cited articles for specifications that advisor and I agreed should be included in our paper. Slowly fill in the table that we discussed.
3:30pm – Automatic alert on my computer notifies me of the time – I’m not done, but I hurry to wrap up my current task and text Simon that it is time to pack up. Quickly answer emails again. Make more notes on my to do list from today so I’ll know where to start tomorrow.
3:45pm – Drive home.
4:00pm – Meet nanny at our house. Joey has prepared a jar of wildflowers for me. Get everyone dressed for swimming and pack the pool bag. Load into the car and drive to the pool.
4:45pm – Rec Center pool with the boys. Both are learning to swim, and I alternate playing and doing drills with them. Blake likes to roll in off the side and swim to me underwater. Joey is practicing floating on his back like a sea star and swimming without any flotation.
5:45pm – No one wants to leave yet, but I call the end of pool time so that we will be home in for bedtime. Shower the kids and get them bundled into warm clothes.
6:00pm – Drive to District Taco. It’s no San Diego taco stand, but it will do seeing as we live on the mid-Atlantic coast. This Mexican food spot is also perfect for kids with its made-to-order quick service, decent al pastor, and jovially loud atmosphere.
6:20pm – Settle the boys at a table where they can watch the cars pass on Washington St. while we gather our taco order, salsa, and water. Feed children and myself simultaneously.
6:45pm – Wipe down the kiddos, the table, and the floor. Return the high chairs and trays, and walk back to the car.
6:55pm – Drive home.
7:10pm – Unload children and pool gear. Clean up play room with Joey. Begin bedtime routine.
7:30pm – Take Blake to bed.
8:00pm – Take Joey to bed.
8:05pm – Wash swimsuits and towels, shower, answer emails, load and quick edit photos from the day.
9:30pm – TV date with Simon, pay bills, catch up on work.
11:00pm – Bedtime.
Being a working parent is a constant juggling act between spending enough time with your family and getting enough done at work. I chose to write about my favorite day of the week - when I leave work early to spend extra time with my kids. On other days I stay late to compensate for this, and I often wind up working at home in the evenings after the kids go to bed. While there is no standard day (which keeps things interesting), the one constant is that each day is very busy!
I have been asked if our schedules are especially challenging with two scientist-parents, but in fact we have been able to create an arrangement that works well. One advantage we have is the extra flexibility to, for example, leave work early every Tuesday for pool time and tacos. On the somewhat rare occasions that we both have an inflexible commitment and a child(ren) needing a parent, one of us compromises on the work requirement. There is certainly efficiency in traveling to and from work together (we can make plans for the weekend during our commute or discuss concerns with our children over lunch), and we work together enough that if one of us is pulled away for family reasons, the other is able to help out from the lab. Every life situation is unique, and we have benefitted from consciously creating an arrangement that makes sense for our lifestyle and priorities.
Top photo: Lauren's first act of momming while sciencing - conducting field research in Kona, Hawaii as a graduate student while (unknowingly) pregnant with Joey. Photo originally published at diveforscience.wordpress.com. All photos by Lauren Freeman & Simon Freeman.