I hope you’re fortunate enough to work in an institution that supports new parents, but I know from my previous career in research how demanding lab culture can be, and how difficult new parents can find it. Balancing the practical and intellectual sides of these two very different parts of your life (not to mention balancing a researcher salary with the costs of childcare) isn’t easy. During my time in the lab, I witnessed many friends and colleagues struggle, but until now I never fully understood the magnitude of the changes you cope with and the challenges you face:
Parenthood has already affected my professional life in ways I never expected
I was one of those who couldn't even imagine giving up work in favour of nappies, feeding and baby-talk. NeuroEdit was my first “baby”. My work was everything to me, much like it is for many researchers. I even returned a translation, booked a new client and liaised with another client about an ongoing project while in labour. (I remember a friend of mine telling me about her lab colleague who continued pipetting until 45 minutes before giving birth!) I was convinced I’d be able to continue running my business after a couple of weeks’ recovery <hysterical laughter>.
Unsurprisingly (to everyone else), energy and brainpower became a distant memory as soon as my son was born. But mainly, all I wanted to do was spend time with him. I couldn't believe I'd found something I loved even more than my work. So although I did dip my toes into a few projects while on leave, and sent out several jobs to my brilliant team members who kept the company ticking over while I was away, the over-optimistically short leave I’d intended to take turned into a wonderful eight months. During this time, I allowed myself to focus almost entirely on a part of my life that seemed to be the polar opposite of my career – with surprising results.
For a while, I lost confidence in my professional abilities
This threw me, but it seems to be a common experience during parental leave – there comes a point where you start doubting whether you can actually do your job or if your brain has turned into baby purée. This doubt loomed over me for a while, until last month, when I met up with local editor colleagues (at a SfEP meeting - my happy place!). As soon as I started talking shop again, my passion and drive for work began to emerge from the mists of baby-brain. Relieved doesn’t even begin to describe it! I love my job. It was all finally falling back into place.
And now that I’m getting things back up and running, rather than new-parenthood being a distraction from work as I expected it would be, in many ways I’ve found the opposite.
Becoming a parent has improved my work
I’d love to hear your stories of how you're balancing research and new parenthood, or how your new life has influenced your work (for better or worse). Please share them in the comments below!
Do you want to spend more time with your family instead of writing that paper or grant application? Feel free to send us your draft. We'll polish it up, make it concise and error-free, sort out the references, reformat it for resubmitting to another journal, reduce the word count - in fact, anything you need to improve your chances of fast acceptance - allowing you to spend your time on the things you love. Contact us.
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