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Balancing Your Career with Your Family Life

Finding enough time for both work and family can be one of the most challenging aspects of balancing your life. Learn about university policies, read what others have done, and find strategies that will work for you.

Jump down to Other Resources * Tips from Early Career Workshop Alums


From the American Association of University Professors

Frank Jr., Frank Sr., and Ashanti Pyrtle. Photo courtesy of Ashanti Pyrtle.

From the Balancing Act column of the Chronicle of Higher Education

  • It's All an Illusion, by Simone Schweber. In this uproariously funny look at her own efforts to balance work and family life, Simone offers two vignettes and the lessons she learned from them: "to set high standards for yourself and aim to meet them, but make sure you don't mind lowering them for the right reasons and the right occasions.... And conversely, never sacrifice what's essential to you even as the pulls of other values intrude."
  • Finding a Balance Between Family and Work, by Margaret Newhouse. Margaret describes some issues that commonly come up, in the struggle to balance family with work, and some techniques for dealing with those issues.
  • 2001: a Work-Life Space Odyssey, by Naomi Miller. Naomi describes several parallel stressful situations between family life and academia, and recommends strategies for dealing with them in both arenas.
  • Men and Mothering, by Mary Ann Mason. This article addresses the issue that most university policies and academic culture discourage men from being active parents.

Other resources

  • My liberal arts life, is a blog entry by Sarah Titus, a faculty member at Carleton College, who writes about balancing her teaching career with a new baby and provides tips on effective time management strategies.
  • Q&A: Reentering Academia - A Success Story, published in Science, features an interview with Elisabeth Pain, who discusses how her 8-year break from academia to raise her kids has informed her worldviews and the importance of work-life balance.
  • Taking Time for Baby, an article by Bob Grant (originally published in The Scientist, March 2011), from Rick Reis' Tomorrow's Professor mailing list, offers tips and advice for how to plan for taking time off as a new mother or father, and how to minimize the disruption to your research.
  • In Post-Seattle Reflections on a Different Kind of GSA, published in GSA Today (v. 14, p. 16, February 2004) Lisa Greer reflects on what it was like to take her six-month-old daughter to the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.
  • Scientists as Parents, by Crispin Taylor, provides an overview of issues related to being a working scientist and a parent, but also includes a list of dozens of articles addressing specific issues.
  • Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory: Women Scientists Speak Out, is a collection of essays by 34 women scientists (edited by Emily Monosson). From women who began their careers in the 1970s to graduate students today, the authors of the candid essays written for this groundbreaking volume reveal a range of career choices: the authors work part-time and full-time; they opt out and then opt back in; they become entrepreneurs and job share; they teach high school and have achieved tenure. The personal stories not only show the many ways in which women can successfully combine motherhood and a career in science but also address and redefine what it means to be a successful scientist.
  • Mothers on the Fast Track: How a New Generation Can Balance Family and Careers, by Mary Ann Mason and Eve Mason Ekman, provides a guide for young women who are facing the tough decision of when–and if–to start a family. It is also a guide for older women seeking a second chance to break through to the next level, as Mason herself did in academia. The book features anecdotes and strategies from the dozens of women they interviewed. The result is a roadmap of new choices for women facing the sobering question of how to balance a successful career with family.
  • Mothers in Science: 64 Ways to Have It All is a book published by the Royal Society (UK) in 2009, profiling 64 scientists who are also mothers. Each profile features a timeline, annotated with important events in the scientist's professional and family life. Each scientist has also provided a brief text explaining her research and how she has combined her career with family commitments.
  • Secrets of an unflappable working mother, an article from CNN, provides tips on how to balance work and family responsibilities.

Tips from Early Career Workshop Alums

  • Before having a family, my personal and work lives were interspersed and I liked that arrangement. With a young family, I've found that separating the two spheres (not taking work physically or mentally home and not doing family related activities at work) has been the only way to not short change my family or my job. As an added bonus, it makes me happier at home and happier at work.
  • I would advise all new faculty members with children to build a strong support network; think not of domestic perfection, and delegate, delegate, delegate.
  • Find time to talk with your spouse/partner.
  • Set a date night with your spouse/partner; treat this time as sacred.
  • Plan family events.

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