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Putting the kids to work

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Putting the kids to work

Postby Erica » Mon Feb 14, 2005 8:34 pm

Like most new parents, I cannot shut up about my kid. While I was on maternity leave, I took a day off from the whole parenting job to present some research at a meeting with a pharmaceutical company we were collaborating with. Normally, I am very shy, and in the presence of people I am supposed to impress, have a very hard time thinking of anything interesting to say during the informal "networking" part of the meeting. My boss had mentioned that I was there even though still on maternity leave...and bam! I had something to talk about! All these scary people were more than happy to talk about their kids. So I am wondering. Is this normal? If I talk about my kid to people who work at a pharmaceutical company that I would love to work for, even in an informal setting, am I going to be taken less seriously? Should I be talking about something else? Like the weather? The News? How my wrist hurts from so much pipetting because I work so hard?
Erica
 

Putting the kids to work

Postby Emil Chuck » Tue Feb 15, 2005 11:45 am

First, congratulations.

Second, obviously having a new kid on the block is exciting and is a landmark change for you. Whatever currently makes you happy... that's great. Is this normal??? I think so, just as it would be normal for a guy to show off the new car/boat he bought.

That being said... I am sure you have other interests that you would be glad to share with others. I know that your newborn is on your mind, especially as you are on maternity leave (and why you're attending a meeting ... well I have personal qualms about that, but I would be digressing). But don't take this too personally, but you never know how one would perceive you if it sounds like you are obsessing over your child, even if you are justified.

Last year, I wrote an article (on Next Wave) about my involvement with working parents here at Duke and our quest to get better family leave benefits, better facilities for nursing mothers, and a better climate for working parents or employees with sick parents. I'll admit the meetings I have with these people are extremely interesting when it comes to what they want to vent about and pursue. But there is also the informal time before our meetings when they talk about their kids, their preparations for their pregancies, their difficulties with nursing and feeding, and so forth. I'm the head of a single, not married, one furry dependent household (not to mention the only male so far), so obviously I cannot experientially relate to their conversations. I am genuinely interested and I am taking notes. :)

But I can understand how single people (since we just went through Valentine's Day) would be rather put off by those sorts of conversations, especially if that's ALL you talk about. Just as much as you might be put off if someone talked about USC football ALL THE TIME if you aren't interested in it. You never know who you're talking to, even if the person has kids. It's possible he/she wants to avoid thinking about their children for just that moment or meeting.

It's not an interview, and I wouldn't say you should treat networking opportunities as interviews, but in a way you should. You can easily make a negative impression as much as a positive impression if you are that memorable as "the researcher who couldn't stop talking about her newborn."
Emil Chuck
 
Posts: 2981
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

digressing

Postby Erica » Tue Feb 15, 2005 1:08 pm

Emil,
Thanks for your comments! I figure I should go ahead and adress this now, since other folks might be having personal qualms too. I just wanted to point out that attending this very small, local, one day meeting that my PI had organized was very optional. I love my son and am happy to have him, but after 3 weeks at home with a newborn who wakes up to feed every 2 hours and can't even smile yet I was climbing the walls with cabin fever. So when I got an email from my boss that read something to the effect of "I don't expect you to attend, but we have some visitors from ... and I don't want to exclude you either, so...." I didn't even finish reading it before agreeing to presnt some data. I figured the kid would be fine with his dad for the day. The only bad thing that happened was that I forgot my breast pump (yowch).
Erica
 

digressing

Postby Emil Chuck » Tue Feb 15, 2005 2:25 pm

Erica,

If it was clear that it was meant to be optional, that's fine. I guess I'd be surprised if you actually decided to present data, but if you weren't pressured to do it, that's great. I worry about people who expect their co-workers who are on maternity leave to work just because there is such a thing as email, computers, and hi-speed internet.

The situations where the nursing mother is expected to return back to work 3 days after giving birth or is misinformed of her rights to take time off for maternity leave... that's where I have some issues (i.e., workplace culture and expectations). But it sounds like your PI wanted you to be sure you were still included for a conference opportunity, even though you were technically on leave, since he may have felt it would be a good opportunity for you to advance in your career.

I also don't mean to sound too negative in my last response. I do find that a lot of parents with little ones flock together extremely quickly and can relate their stories and expectations of how their kids change from month to month. I know it can't be helped.

One thing to note on the positive end: even if you did sound like you were infatuated with your child, you do want to take note of the people who shared genuine concern about your newborn. At the very least, if you do move on to another position, you need to be sure your next working environment can give you the flexibility you need in case you have to jet out to take care of your child on a hourly/daily basis (at daycare, pre-school, school, etc) as well as slightly longer (sickness, "snow days" so you have to bring him to work, etc.). Knowing that you work in an environment that is sympathetic to the needs of working parents should be a critical factor for your next step, no matter what it is.

The other reason for this flexibility: these situations can also apply to singles without kids too. You never know when your parents becoming ill and you have to take family leave to attend to those situations. Family leave isn't just about newborns to toddlers; one should also think about it from the vantage point of ageing parents.

Okay, I'm off my soapbox on this issue for now. :)
Emil Chuck
 
Posts: 2981
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

digressing

Postby Emil Chuck » Wed Feb 16, 2005 7:36 am

Light reading: see Phil Dee\'s article on Next Wave \"Phil Dee on Daddying\": http://nextwave.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2004/01/15/3 .
Emil Chuck
 
Posts: 2981
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm


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