The second part of our series about having a family and being a trainee asks the question:
What were the challenges you faced?
Your productivity takes a sizeable hit. Everybody mentioned this one. Stephanie explains, “Expect that your productivity during the first 6-12 months post-baby may be far less than what you are used to. This is due to lots of factors: Lack of sleep, hormonal changes for mothers, adjusting to a vastly different way of life, figuring out how to use work-time more effectively because undoubtedly you will have less time to devote to work if you are participating equally with your partner in child-rearing duties.”
It’s hard to remain competitive. According to Mark, “The worst part of having kids during my postdoc is that I find myself competing against childless postdocs willing to work 55+ hours a week. At most, I am able to work 40 hours a week (with daycare pickup, then dinner, then bath, then preparing lunches for the next day, sweeping food off the floor, washing bottles—well, there’s no extra time at night to squeeze in extra work).”
The element of unpredictability. Michael, an NIH clinical fellow, explains: ”Whatever level of predictability you expect in your other life goals (clinical care, experiments, grants, etc) does not apply to children.” You never know when your child is going to wake up with a fever and need to stay home. This can wreak havoc with a well-planned schedule and leave you scrambling at the last minute.
Paying for child care on a trainee salary. Infant day care can be difficult to find and can run $1500-1800/month. The NIH day care centers have extremely long wait lists (years, even). Once you find good day care, it may take up a large chunk of your stipend. Furthermore, fellows don’t make W-2 income and are thus ineligible for the child care tax credit or a spouse’s child care flexible savings account.
Feeling guilty. Anna explains, ”What I struggle with now is the feeling of guilt that is common among a lot of working parents. I don’t feel like I’m giving 100% at home and I know I’m not giving 100% at work. I constantly feel like I should be working longer hours and weekends, and then at the same time I feel like I should be spending more time with my daughter. That’s not something that has gone away nor do I think it ever will.”
It can be done though! Join us later this week for some pieces of advice to having a family while being a trainee.