For the final post of our conversations with NIH trainees about having a family during their training period we asked:
Do you have any advice for NIH trainees thinking about starting a family?
Anna: Find a daycare that you are 100% comfortable with. Accept that your child is going to get sick and you will have to miss some work. Plan ahead with your spouse what you are going to do if the child gets sick or if the child’s day care is closed for whatever reason. If you can afford to have people help you out at home (ie- a house cleaner), do it.
Natalie: The key thing is learning how to stop thinking about kids while at work and to stop thinking about work with the kids.
Michael: Surround yourself with other cooperative colleagues, and your chances of success are improved.
Mark: To keep my productivity at normal-ish levels has taken discipline. I prioritize ruthlessly—taking on only maybe 1 in 10 projects that are brought to me. I say no to bad projects even if it hurts my relationships with mentors. The way I figure it, a post-doc only has his/her time. Allocation of this scarce resource is the only determinant of whether a post-doc succeeds.
Stephanie: I was a postdoc for a little more than two years before my first son was born. This gave me time to get acclimated to the new lab and model organism, and bring one project to completion. I think it was a great decision to give myself a little while to adjust to the postdoc before bringing a baby into the mix.
Liz: I once attended a work-life balance seminar where an audience member asked the panelist how to know if when it was a “good time” to start a family since each stage of the research career track comes with obstacles. The panelist responded: “The best time to have children is when you and your partner decide it’s time to have children.” Her response resonated with me because there’s clearly no one correct answer.
What advice would you add?