• October 31, 2014
October 31, 2014, 10:24:16 AM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with your Chronicle username and password
News: Talk about how to cope with chronic illness, disability, and other health issues in the academic workplace.
 
Pages: [1] 2 3
  Print  
Author Topic: When you need to travel to do research, but you have young children?  (Read 12964 times)
britmom
I'm a grant getting
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 1,223


« on: October 04, 2011, 9:01:38 AM »

I'm looking for practical tips on how best to get research done when it involves international travel and you've got young children to accommodate. I've got a 20 month old and a 4.5 year old. My husband works full time and we have no family nearby. (Thankfully, we have fantastic childcare for them.) Our days involve leaving the house at 7.30am, and returning at around 5.30pm. (On a Friday my husband is back with the kids by 1pm.) The oldest is lovely, but very demanding, and the youngest still hasn't got the hang of sleeping through the night.

Going away to a conference isn't too much of a big deal, given that it only involves a couple of nights away. My research as a whole, however, is stalling as I'm struggling to figure out how to work out a domestic arrangement that won't have my husband rocking in the corner when I get back. I went away this summer for 6  nights. We managed this by me taking my oldest down to my parents on the journey out and collecting her on my return. By doing that, I managed to get a week away in the archives, but it left me tearing my hair out as I felt like I'd only just started to get in to the material before I had to head back. My parents have since told me that they found it a real (physical) struggle to care for my oldest for that week. Since then, my father has had a stroke and I think that they're just not in sufficiently good health to be able to care for the kids in the future.

I am the only person in my School (with around 50 academics) who is in this situation so I don't have anyone to go to to for advice/ to commiserate with. At the moment, it seems like my choices are:

1) Put my research on hold and wait until the children are bigger/easier for my husband to deal with them on his own. (Does this ever happen?! What age are we talking about?)
2) Have my husband take annual leave from work whilst I'm away in order to ease the burden of caring for the children. (However, he doesn't have a lot of annual leave and he's limited in terms of when he can take it.)

Erm, and that seems to be it! I'm assuming that many others are/have been in this situation: how do you manage it? How long can you get away for? Or perhaps the question should be: am I simply expecting too much to think that I will be able to get any real research done for the next few years? My husband has been incredibly supportive of me in my pursuit of an academic career and I really want to avoid adding any more pressure on to him at this point in time, even though I know he's willing to help me as much as he can.

PS I should reiterate that I'm looking for ways where I can help my husband deal with my absence, rather than how to deal with the children missing me whilst I'm away. It is certainly a problem, but it's one that I've found much easier to deal with.

Many thanks, and my apologies for the long post, Britmom.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2011, 9:03:34 AM by britmom » Logged

Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy - Girl Interrupted
polly_mer
practice makes perfect
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 37,443

Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2011, 9:11:02 AM »

Get yourself a temporary nanny or au pair for the time and go away for a month.  Your husband gets more childcare help for nights and weekends, which should help.

Be completely honest about the situation and line up a bunch of playdates (including overnights) for the time you are gone.  Make the overnight return playdates a mix of before you go and after you return.

Would the childcare burden be so great if you take the family with you to the archive, pay for some extra childcare there, and go for the summer?  By taking someone like a nanny or au pair, you could work around the archive hours and be completely at work when you are at work, but be with the kids and not pulling out your hair when you're not on.  You'd be away from your husband, but he could use some of that leave to visit you guys.
Logged

I've joined a bizarre cult called JordanCanonicalForm's Witnesses.  I have to go from door to door asking people things like, "Good evening, sir!  Do you have a moment to chat about Linear Transformations?"
larryc
Troll Proof
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 22,998

Be excellent to each other.


WWW
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2011, 9:13:28 AM »

Can you hire someone to help your husband while you are away?
Logged

Trolling for sex is not what this forum is all about.
anon99
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 3,939


« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2011, 9:14:40 AM »

I was going suggest a nanny, but polly beat me to it.  How long do you think you need to be away to get your work done?  Can you do it in a series of shorter trips?  Can your husband's parents or any of your siblings take the kids for a week to help, though your husband should be able to manage for a week on his own?
Logged
prytania3
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 44,063

Prytania, the Foracle


« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2011, 9:27:53 AM »

Just make sure the nanny's uuuuggggly.
Logged

I'm not a narcissist. I'm just angry and violent.
britmom
I'm a grant getting
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 1,223


« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2011, 9:41:20 AM »

I can see that the obvious - and perhaps only satisfactory answer - is to throw money at the problem. My problem is that we're desperately short of the stuff.

Get yourself a temporary nanny or au pair for the time and go away for a month.  Your husband gets more childcare help for nights and weekends, which should help.
This would be great, although I know that temporary nannies tend to cost a fortune. (An au pair wouldn't work in this situation, due to the specific rules governing au pairs in the UK.) However, it might be possible to hire a student (not in my department, but someone doing primary education, for example) to help out on a weekend at the very least.

Be completely honest about the situation and line up a bunch of playdates (including overnights) for the time you are gone.  Make the overnight return playdates a mix of before you go and after you return.


Unfortunately, we, erm, don't really have any friends with children in the surrounding area. My oldest has friends from nursery, but we don't know their parents well enough for a sleepover (or even a playdate, if I'm honest.)


Would the childcare burden be so great if you take the family with you to the archive, pay for some extra childcare there, and go for the summer?  By taking someone like a nanny or au pair, you could work around the archive hours and be completely at work when you are at work, but be with the kids and not pulling out your hair when you're not on.  You'd be away from your husband, but he could use some of that leave to visit you guys.

Now this would be great, at least in the future. I don't think that we could afford a nanny, but something along this lines might work. I'd be limited to going in the school holidays as my oldest is starting school next year, which means that my husband couldn't come with us due to restrictions on when he can take annual leave. I've wondered in the past whether it would be possible to access some kind of childcare for the kids so that I can take them with me and work in the archives and leave my husband at home. As it happens, my research requires me to travel to the US. What's the chance of finding some childcare? In particular, I'm thinking of a summer club type of arrangement. My research generally involves being in large cities, especially Washington DC. I'm guessing that this wouldn't work for now, but perhaps when they're at school?

My dream is to get research leave and move out to the States for 6 -12 months with the kids. (I'm currently applying for grants that would give me this time away.) My husband couldn't come as he would have to leave his job and the chances of him finding a similar job (in fact, any job) when we returned is far too slim. It would be great to have a concentrated period of time to do research, rather than the smash-and-grab approach that I usually have to take.

How long do you think you need to be away to get your work done?  Can you do it in a series of shorter trips? 

Three weeks would be a good start. The problem is that, the more I divide my research trips in to more trips for shorter periods of time, the less likely I am to get funding. It appears to be a frivolous approach to spending increasingly scarce research money.

« Last Edit: October 04, 2011, 9:42:56 AM by britmom » Logged

Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy - Girl Interrupted
anisogamy
Inordinately pleased to be a
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 1,735


« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2011, 9:43:19 AM »

I'm dealing with this as well.  Anitoddler is 16 months old and I haven't been away from him overnight yet.  We're going to have our first separation from each other in a few weeks when I leave for two nights for a postdoc interview.  I'm viewing this as a dry run before I take a 7-10 day research trip in January, to a location where it wouldn't be safe for me to bring him along.  I, too, am more concerned about how my husband is going to deal with being left alone with our child for a week+ than I am with my son missing me.  They had a very rough first year together and are just now settling into a pattern of being happy while I'm gone at school.  For the first two semesters, my son would scream and cry for most of the time that I was gone, and nothing that my husband did could console him.  Our pediatrician, midwife, and parent friends were all confused and said that it was the strongest case of maternal preference they'd ever seen.

If I get the postdoc, it will require more travel, which will be for longer and less predictable durations than this January's trip, so the idea of more challenging future separations is hanging over me as I prepare for these next two trips.  My family is in good health and competent, but my husband isn't comfortable with our child being left with them for a length of unsupervised time because of smoking, drinking, and general house cleanliness issues, so dropping them off at my parents' house while I leave for a month isn't an option.  Part of the reason why I'm interested in the postdoc, however, is that it is much closer to where my family lives than where I am now.  We'd be able to call my mom in for help on short notice, and I think my husband would be much more okay with her coming to stay for a week while I'm gone so that he can get some work done.

Because I haven't done it yet, I don't have any words of advice, but I wanted to let you know that you're not alone.
Logged

A little compassion is better than kicking people when they are down, regardless of who has suffered more and longer or whose bad job market has the biggest dick.
britmom
I'm a grant getting
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 1,223


« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2011, 9:53:30 AM »

I hope it all works out for you, anisogamy. I've realised how helpful it is to have family close by.

One thing that I've realised lately is how having a second child makes everything so much harder. I'm very happy that we chose to have a second child, but I feel that it at least doubles, if not trebles, the work. If my oldest was an only child, I think that my husband would probably be able to handle me being away for at least a couple of weeks, and perhaps a month or so. At 4 years old, she sleeps well, is fairly independent and can be entertained by trips to the cinema or to the local soft play area. Having a toddler to deal with at the same time is what makes things so hard. She's in to everything; the two are starting to squabble and fight and it seems that just as soon as you've got one fixed to leave the house, you turn around and the other one's causing some kind of trouble.

I suppose the answer to my question might be that it will get easier once the youngest gets to 3 or 4?
Logged

Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy - Girl Interrupted
aprilmay
Senior member
****
Posts: 761


« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2011, 10:06:36 AM »

Unfortunately, the best solutions are going to cost money, and a lot of it. Nannies or babysitters can work evenings and weekends when you are away. There are nannies who will travel with you, but that will be expensive. When you take the kids with you to the US, there are professional services through which you can hire a temporary nanny, but this is really expensive. I do not have much to make you feel better, except that your situation could be much worse. You have the advantage of a partner who is supportive, does not need to travel much for work, and can be home at 5:30 most days and then 1pm on Friday. You are actually significantly better off than the majority of dual couples I know, so at least you have many things going for you. I think your options are to severely cut back on anything that is not essential (e.g., vacations, restaurants, cable) to pay for childcare, or to cut back on your career. Are you tenured? Maybe you could try the least costly option, such as a babysitter a few weekday nights while you are away, and see how much that helps your partner.
Logged
polly_mer
practice makes perfect
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 37,443

Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2011, 11:47:24 AM »

Be completely honest about the situation and line up a bunch of playdates (including overnights) for the time you are gone.  Make the overnight return playdates a mix of before you go and after you return.


Unfortunately, we, erm, don't really have any friends with children in the surrounding area. My oldest has friends from nursery, but we don't know their parents well enough for a sleepover (or even a playdate, if I'm honest.)

This is the easiest problem to fix.  Purposely set your mind to getting to know other parents.  Everyone needs help with those kids and exchanging childcare via playdates is the cheapest way to do it.  Make this a priority.

As it happens, my research requires me to travel to the US. What's the chance of finding some childcare? In particular, I'm thinking of a summer club type of arrangement. My research generally involves being in large cities, especially Washington DC. I'm guessing that this wouldn't work for now, but perhaps when they're at school?

Cultivate contacts in the places you plan to be.  You write about archive work so I'm assuming you aren't a member of something like the Society of Women Engineers or the American Physical Society Committee on the Status of Women.  However, I guarantee you that you are not the only person in the entire Western World who has this problem.  Reach out to colleagues who are in any way associated with your major professional societies who have similar problems.  Purposely join professional societies if you have to do so to get the contacts you need. 

While one person may not be able to swing the childcare for two or three kids, two or three people with a combination of 3-5 kids may be able to make the finances work.  Who is near where you want to visit?  Who could make a trip that overlaps yours?  Who knows the local scoop and may be able to point you to good enough care at reasonable prices?
Logged

I've joined a bizarre cult called JordanCanonicalForm's Witnesses.  I have to go from door to door asking people things like, "Good evening, sir!  Do you have a moment to chat about Linear Transformations?"
concordancia
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 13,889


« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2011, 11:54:09 AM »

So, your youngest will be two by next summer? You could also look into day camps for the summer instead of more traditional childcare. Also, there is no reason such young children couldn't miss school for a few weeks or a months if you are going someplace where they could attend school and learn a foreign language in the deal.

Logged

I like money.  I like to buy stuff and experiences with money.  
tamiam
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 3,659


« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2011, 12:25:01 PM »

1. Realize that toddlerhood is the absolute hardest age to manage physically, when the toddler is not the only child. The caregiver cannot finish a sentence with a little one that age.

2. A few months do make a big difference but in completely unpredictable ways.

3. You're going to have to look at the cash flow situation here as an investment in your future career. If your husband can't handle working and being responsible for his children alone, then you need to hire help for him. (I phrased it that way deliberately. This isn't help so that you can work...this is help because he can't handle the kids alone. It's a subtle difference but important.)

4. It gets easier, except when it doesn't. Older kids don't have as many physical care needs but their schedules are more complicated. It's completely unrealistic to think that you can do this without being part of a social network, so work at getting to know other families and reaching out to having other kids over for playdates etc.
Logged

Hey look! I have a tag line too!
reener06
Just another
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 1,425


« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2011, 12:36:09 PM »

My condolences Britmom. Lots of us have been there, and since I'm 36 weeks with number 2, will be there again.

Yes to daycamp. I did my dissertation research, which required me to be gone all week in the field, when child was old enough for summer daycamp. Spouse did not enjoy the extra work, but did it. I came home on Fridays and returned on Sunday. Hard, yes, but doable. I did two summers this way.

If you are going to DC, I suggest a lot of work starting now or in Jan. to look for daycamps in that area, or some similar situation. The Smithsonian has daycare for its employees; as a fellow there one summer I was able to use it for a few weeks. I had to ask around a lot and be persistent, but it worked. There may be a clearinghouse website that lists different options.

I'm looking at having this baby in a few weeks, and realizing that I have not been in the field in 3 years. I finished the dissertation less than a year ago, and am working on pubs from it, but after this summer I will need to return to the field. Child will be almost 2, but it will still be difficult. Somehow we will find an option. I don't know where we'll be, but we'll figure it out.

Sometimes grants allow you to put the cost of childcare in the grant. It's worth asking/looking.

Also, ask, if the position were reversed, would it be as much an issue for you to stay behind with the kids for a few weeks while spouse did research? Sometimes I need to point this out to spouse. My dad left my mom many times for overseas trips that could last multiple weeks. She worked full time and had 7 kids. We did not question this.

Chime, on edit, that it gets easier past toddlerhood and also expand your social network. A lot. I couldn't make it now without other parents helping me out. One took child for almost a week so I could crank out the end of the diss. Same person watched child when my Mom got ill. I did not reach out for a long time, but was glad when I did. And I offer the same in return, if possible. Another mom drops off child after school, and I try to bake her thank you gifts. For this to work, just set up a playdate. Call the parent you don't know well and have the kid come over. Invite parent in for coffee for a bit at first. Get to know them. I swear, it works.
Logged
msparticularity
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 18,502

Assistant Professor cum bricoleur


« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2011, 1:05:07 PM »

An additional thought for making things more manageable for your husband while you travel: find a "mother's/father's helper" to come in for 2-3 hours some evenings or weekend days to help entertain, feed and bathe children while your husband takes care of the household chores. Since he would be home, too, a younger teen or even a mature 11 or 12-year-old who enjoys children would be possible. Several of the Forumites have experimented with this solution to give them writing time, and with the right young person it can work quite well, and be less expensive than an actual nanny.

I also wonder whether, in the shorter term, it might work for you to leave the older child at home and take the toddler with you, if your destination had relatively reasonable child care available.
Logged

"Once admit that the sole verifiable or fruitful object of knowledge is the particular set of changes that generate the object of study...and no intelligible question can be asked about what, by assumption, lies outside." John Dewey

"Be particular." Jill Conner Browne
larryc
Troll Proof
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 22,998

Be excellent to each other.


WWW
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2011, 2:23:28 PM »

Can you get someone to go to the archive for you and do some copying/scanning? Have them upload their images to a password-protected Picasa or Flickr account each day and be in very regular phone contact to direct their work.
Logged

Trolling for sex is not what this forum is all about.
Pages: [1] 2 3
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.9 | SMF © 2006-2008, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!
  • 1255 Twenty-Third St., N.W.
  • Washington, D.C. 20037
subscribe today

Get the insight you need for success in academe.