Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Perfectionism, or the lack thereof (IWD)

Let me start with a disclaimer: BlueEyes is only 7.5 months old, so I am definitely a newbie in the combining work and being a mom game. As you can read in the ‘about me’ section of my blog, both my husband Dr. BrownEyes and I are post-docs. We were both not even 30 when BlueEyes was born. I do very much hope to be a professor someday. We both work five days a week and some days I feel that Buddhist monks that have to get up at 4AM to start an eight hour meditation practice probably have a more relaxed life than me (I’m not getting a ton of sleep and we literally ate a home-cooked dinner at 6.15PM every night for the past week), but most days are a happy combination of patching a bunch of cells and receiving drooly hugs and kisses from BlueEyes. This is what makes it work for me:

I guess I am the opposite of a perfectionist. To illustrate that I will admit that I only found out recently that when I was interviewing for a post-doc position, my CV said in two different places that I was working towards a PhD in nueroscience…  Apparently a lot of PIs don’t really read your CV, because I did get a bunch of interviews and a couple of offers for a job. However, in research it is sometimes nice if you are precise and a bit of a perfectionist (although I always say that if you don’t find a difference when you do a sloppy experiment, it’s probably not biologically significant anyway). 

My lack of perfectionism has come in handy before; when I finished my thesis in four and a half years and was fine with not looking at it for the 50th time before sending it to my committee (I did discover a couple flaws later on, but nothing major).  And now that I have a baby I think it is actually one of my strong suits. Combining working and taking care of BlueEyes is only possible when I don’t worry too much (or at all) about whether I do everything perfect, like the house being clean. And no, with two post-doc salaries it is not possible to pay for someone to come and clean your house. So on the weekend, I put BlueEyes in a wrap on my back and run through the house with the vacuum cleaner, while dr. BrownEyes cleans the bathroom and kitchen. In half an hour we’re done, and everyone is satisfied. 

And in the lab it helps me too. I work from 8 am to 4 pm, and I leave early to pick BlueEyes up from daycare, so that we can spend some awake time together. Half of the time I am in the middle of doing something but I rarely ever have any problems throwing that in the corner and leaving it there for tomorrow.

These are the logistics behind it: our alarm is set for 6:30 but most of the days BlueEyes will wake me up before that. He sleeps in the bed with us so I don’t wake up fully when he wants to nurse, which is a couple times a night (but I can nurse while half asleep so I usually don’t remember how many times it was). I will nurse him while Dr. BrownEyes takes a shower, and I pump whatever milk is left while Dr. BrownEyes makes breakfast. We eat breakfast in bed (yes, every morning), and then I shower while Dr. BrownEyes dresses BlueEyes. Around 7:20 the three of us drive to the University together (we have only one car (which by the way, is the most car both of us have ever owned since we didn’t use to have a car when we lived in Europe)). Dr. BrownEyes drops BlueEyes off at daycare and I am in the lab by 7:50. Then I work a super-efficient day full of tightly planned experiments and neatly scheduled pumping sessions at 10 and 1 (total milk production in one day: ~16 oz). At 4:00 I leave the lab and pick up BlueEyes from the daycare and meet Dr. BrownEyes at the parking lot at 4:20. We drive home together and are home around 4:50. That feels very luxurious, because then we can spend time with BlueEyes until we eat dinner at 6:15. Then we’ll give BlueEyes a bath and put him to bed around 7. On really good days (which rarely happens) he’ll go to sleep immediately, but most nights it takes until 7:30 or 8 for him to go to sleep. Then we sit on the couch and talk or watch tv, and I’ll go to bed at 9.
On the weekends I usually do yoga on Saturday morning, we’ll get groceries, do laundry, clean the house and sometimes do some (or a lot of) work and we try to do something fun too.

The conclusion so far: I think you can have it all, but it sure is a lot of work!


  1. I love it. I too realized that motherhood made me a "better" scholar which is so not the story told usually

  2. Glad to hear I'm not the only one who goes to sleep early!

    When I pumped for my first, I called the pump "the twin" and pumped while she nursed. That was a huge time saver for me. Haven't been able to replicate it with Tiny Boy...need to try some different positions.

    1. I tried pumping and nursing at the same time only recently, but BlueEyes' little fingers almost dismantled my pump before I even started.

      And re sleeping: I wish I was one of those people who can survive with only a couple hours of sleep (if they really exist) but I just can't.