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Author Topic: When you need to travel to do research, but you have young children?  (Read 12965 times)
hegemony
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« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2011, 2:34:18 PM »

Britmom, I've been in your shoes, thought only with one child -- but I'm a single mother, so perhaps the complications come out even.

Here are my experiences:

1) It seems as if it will take forever, but it will get a lot easier, and by that time the difficult period will seem as if it went by in a flash.  You just have to trust that that's true.  (But it is.) By the time both kids are four, things will be much easier.  By the time both kids are in school, it will seem comparatively easy-peasy.  So you just need to get through 3-4 years, not umpteen years of limited archive work.

2) What you need is to cultivate an extensive support system, and this requires deliberate action and doesn't happen overnight.  I practically stalked parents at my kid's daycare.  (Not as creepily as that sounds, though.)  Remember that parents of small children are overwhelmed.  Therefore if they don't approach you, it doesn't mean they can't be friendly.  They've just been too overwhelmed to think straight.  Start setting up playdates, especially for your older child. Invite the other child around, initially for around two hours.  Make it clear that the other parents can stay and have coffee with you or whatever.  Most likely the other mom will stay the first time or two, and then when she sees that all's well, she'll drop her child off.  Make it clear that she's welcome to do that: "I know you must need to do some shopping or something -- feel free if you want to."  Your child will be happily amused while the other child is there (a win for you), and double-win, you get to send your child over to their house for some afternoon.  Then you move on to sleepovers.  Some people start sleepovers late, but my son was having friends sleep over when he was three.  Everyone was nervous the first few times.  Now sleepovers happen every week and we are practically members of his best friend's family.  Sometimes they take all the kids for a weekend, sometimes I do. When I go to conferences, he just goes and lives with them for three days.  This is not possible without the history of trust and friendship going back a number of years now.  So start now and build up.  It will be a lot easier on your husband if one of the kids spends a night or two at a best friend's house while you're gone.

3) Cultivate multiple supports, because you never know who will be available.  Your kids might have one or two best friends, but do what you can to welcome other kids (and their families) into the mix.  Try out a variety of babysitters and helpers, and have several you can call upon.  Do favors for friends.  Extend yourself and get owed lots of favors.  It does makes a big difference.

It is doable.  It develops little by little.  And it will get easier.
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concordancia
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« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2011, 2:39:48 PM »

Building on what others have said, I want to point out that you originally said that you do not have enough of a relationship with any of the families to arrange a playdate: playdates are how relationships are built. Who does your kid like to hang out with? Approach that family about a playdate. If you are not comfortable having them in your home, ask if they would like to hang out with you at the park on Saturday or if their child could come to park with you so that the kids could play together.
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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2011, 6:16:14 PM »

To follow up with Concordancia's comments, we were desperate enough one week that I called a woman I had met at new faculty orientation six months earlier and said, "Look, I barely know you, but I seem to remember that you have a stay-at-home husband.  Could I possibly do anything to have him watch Blocky for these two hours for the mandatory dean's meeting?  I'll watch all the kids later, pay through the nose, clean your house, whatever, but I have to find somewhere for Blocky to be for those two hours and I'm running out of time.  All my babysitters are busy and Mr. Mer has an unavoidable appointment during this time."

Blocky has yet to forgive me for taking him on his first car trip in mama's car to be left with a near stranger (we met as two families for a couple hours prior to the sitting so see if we could at least pretend to be sane for a reasonable length of time) for those couple of hours, but Blocky was safe during that time and Mr. Mer was pretty happy to meet another stay-at-home dad with a similar sense of humor.

Do reach out.  You need a network and so does everyone else.
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bromeliad
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« Reply #18 on: October 05, 2011, 12:12:52 PM »

Is it possible for you to do "armchair" research and publishing for a few years (this is what I am doing until my children are older)? I am in a field where it is not uncommon to go back and forth between fieldwork and library work. In my case, the region where fieldwork is done is strife with violent armed conflict, so few people have been able to do fieldwork. There is little harm in working on the theory side of things, as well as working with data sets previously collected. Or, you might want to consider working and publishing collaboratively with others who have data collected from fieldwork.

Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and a few years of not doing fieldwork should not necessarily impact your career.

Good luck!
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lotsoquestions
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« Reply #19 on: October 05, 2011, 12:28:39 PM »

If you're going to DC, you might want to post on Craigslist as well as sittercity that you're looking for a college student/SAHM, etc. to watch your kids while you do archive research.  I did that a few years ago and got these amazing resumes from:
1.  the wife of an international academic who was working in DC who didn't have legal permission to work, but loved children and wanted to work someplace she could get to using public transportation
2.  assorted college and grad students
3.  assorted SAHM's, etc.
4.  a couple of older retired people with pretty amazing credentials, etc.

You'd have to ask for references and make sure you were comfortable with the person, but it might be worth a shot. 
I've taken kids with me on research trips twice but I waited until they were at least 10 years old.  They've had amazing experiences. 
Another thought:  any chance you could convince grandma to visit DC at the same time, and to take the kids sightseeing?  I've also contemplated 'borrowing' one of my sister's kids (who are about ten years older than ours), taking her/him along to watch my kids and to enjoy some family time with cousins.
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fearless_winnower
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« Reply #20 on: October 05, 2011, 1:04:38 PM »

While in the US, you may also be able to get reasonably priced short-term care from a center. My husband & I had to spend 3 weeks in a place other than my normal home in the US, and was able to find a place in a center for my then-1.5 year old.  It wasn't the kind of place I'd want him in forever, but it was nationally accredited (NAECY), had good child-to-adult ratios and was safe and affordable.  For what its worth, it was a national chain as well.  You may be able to find something similar.  My son is really flexible/outgoing and deals with change well (we've moved a lot in his short life), so that worked in our favor.

Have you considered taking one kid with you and leaving the other one home, thus sharing the care between your husband and you?
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bluesocks
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« Reply #21 on: October 05, 2011, 1:50:36 PM »

There is a website here called care.com.  I imagine it includes DC.  You can arrange childcare, etc.  The great thing is that they can do background checks for you.  So, you could possibly interview candidates over the phone or through skype or something like that and then do a background check on your first choice.

Just a thought--gotta run to class.

blue
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britmom
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« Reply #22 on: October 06, 2011, 8:44:59 AM »

Sorry to have only just got back here; it's been hectic. Thank you all for so many useful suggestions. I'll try to provide responses below:

- I'm in the UK (really should have pointed that out before!) so the question of tenure isn't really relevant here. I certainly can not pull back on my research for a while.

Reneer It's not so much that my husband is refusing to look after the children. It's just that he's stressed to hell with his work (there's a horrible bullying culture) and I don't want to place any extra pressure on him if I can help it.

larryc I've considered using a research assistant to do some of the archival work, but the grants I've got so far won't cover that cost. The best solution to this problem would be to secure a large grant that would allow me to employ a research assistant. I'll just have to wait and see if my grant application(s) are successful.

Building on what others have said, I want to point out that you originally said that you do not have enough of a relationship with any of the families to arrange a playdate: playdates are how relationships are built. Who does your kid like to hang out with? Approach that family about a playdate. If you are not comfortable having them in your home, ask if they would like to hang out with you at the park on Saturday or if their child could come to park with you so that the kids could play together.

This is definitely something I'm going to have to work on. My oldest has developed quite a few strong friendships at nursery, but reaching out to their parents feels difficult. There is already a well-established friendship between a number of them because many of the mothers grew up together in this area. I am an outsider (which is very obvious to everyone from my accent). They're pleasant enough, but I've always got a 'back off' vibe from them. I was hoping that I might be able to develop a network once my oldest starts school next August. There will be a different set of children/families at her school.

Is it possible for you to do "armchair" research and publishing for a few years (this is what I am doing until my children are older)? I am in a field where it is not uncommon to go back and forth between fieldwork and library work. In my case, the region where fieldwork is done is strife with violent armed conflict, so few people have been able to do fieldwork. There is little harm in working on the theory side of things, as well as working with data sets previously collected. Or, you might want to consider working and publishing collaboratively with others who have data collected from fieldwork.

Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and a few years of not doing fieldwork should not necessarily impact your career.

Good luck!


Unfortunately, my research just doesn't work that way. I have an article in mind that would work on the theoretical (historiographical) side of things, but the only way my research is going to move forward is by getting in to the archives. (And it has to move forward as, in the UK, we are sadly forced to adopt a 'sprint' approach to our research. I won't whinge any more about the sodding government assessment of research or I may not stop.)

Thanks for the suggestions on how to find childcare. I'm really looking forward to taking the kids to the US. I think my oldest would probably cope with being put in to a short-term care situation and would love the adventure of travelling with me. The cost is still prohibitive at the moment, but once she's in school we'll be saving on childcare.

Although we love the two girls to bits, I think my husband and I are just hanging on until things calm down a bit and the youngest grows out of the non-sleeping/teething/kamikaze stage. We can already see how much easier things are once they hit the 4/5 year mark.
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onelime
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« Reply #23 on: October 06, 2011, 9:27:15 AM »

Dear Britmom,

I suspect (not for the first time) that you might live where I live! Certainly I've gotten the same vibe at my older kid's school (where my younger is now in nursery). I spent a year feeling frozen out by all the mums who had grown up locally, and who were heading off for a collective jog after dropoff, and not to work. I watched them chat with each other and ignore me before the bell rang, or walk away in the middle of (rare) conversations with me when people they knew came up. I did not learn any names or the names of their children - and, being British, they never introduced themselves. When my kid chose 6 classmates to come for a birthday party, we didn't know who they were. And schools here seem to be much less communicative with parents in general. I felt absolutely awful, and knowing that my accent isn't going away made it that much worse.

This year is much better. We live near some other families in the school and the constant proximity has made us friendlier. People I didn't like I have come to like enough to leave my kids with, though we would never, ever have formed a real friendship on our own. I've found some other expats and one local mum who is unusually talkative and friendly. New people will show up and you will be a veteran who can help them. I agree with the other posters who suggest making this a priority. Even if your daughter is switching schools next year, try playdates with the nursery kids she's closest to... and have patience. Also, not like you have time, PTA?

Good luck!
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pathogen
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« Reply #24 on: October 06, 2011, 12:27:42 PM »

second care.com. My sister, a experienced child care provider, was on there between jobs picking up short term work.
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onelime
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« Reply #25 on: October 07, 2011, 5:52:47 AM »

Oh, and btw, the thing about "being British" was totally tongue in cheek.
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drspouse
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« Reply #26 on: October 07, 2011, 6:49:12 AM »

Some thoughts from a non-parent, but one who's hoping to face this issue in the future, and who knows a reasonable amount about the British system. (So, any recommendations here for US websites - not so helpful).

I'm not sure if your toddler is in a nursery or with a childminder (you probably said but I skim read).  Childminders are a heck of a lot more flexible than nurseries - some of them do overnight care (a doctor friend has used this extensively when on call - she's been a single parent since her child was about 6 months old).

A colleague who does have a child, and has similar issues, says that she has found fellow parents are excellent resources, and she's generally quite a shy and non-pushy person, who would if asking for a favour phrase it in about 17 layers of "do you mind".  For example, she's dropped her son early at the house of another parent with a child in the same nursery, then both children go to nursery together, when she's had travel with an early start. I am not sure she'd really be "friends" with the other parents but she would at least chat to them.  She's also used the nursery workers for evening care.

I have to ask, though - would you cope with 6 days of solo child care? If so, there is nothing to prevent your husband from doing this (though I can see your parents might have some limitations). Some kids are really hard to care for one-to-one, but frankly, single parents manage, and with a bit of extended day care, your husband should manage.

Most of the places I travel to for research have a large underemployed and underpaid labour force so financially, I'd be able to take a child and afford childcare while there, but I'm not sure I'd want to given the length of the flight in most cases.
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britmom
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« Reply #27 on: October 07, 2011, 8:31:22 AM »

I've gotten the same vibe at my older kid's school (where my younger is now in nursery). I spent a year feeling frozen out by all the mums who had grown up locally, and who were heading off for a collective jog after dropoff, and not to work. I watched them chat with each other and ignore me before the bell rang, or walk away in the middle of (rare) conversations with me when people they knew came up. I did not learn any names or the names of their children - and, being British, they never introduced themselves. When my kid chose 6 classmates to come for a birthday party, we didn't know who they were. And schools here seem to be much less communicative with parents in general. I felt absolutely awful, and knowing that my accent isn't going away made it that much worse.


This is similar to how it is for me. (Although my eldest isn't at school yet - this is the nursery crowd. Fingers crossed that school is different.)

second care.com. My sister, a experienced child care provider, was on there between jobs picking up short term work.
Hmm, you need a US address to register. I'll have to have a look at that in more depth some day.

Oh, and btw, the thing about "being British" was totally tongue in cheek.
No, you're spot on. (I'm British so I can say that. The problem with my accent is a regional one.)


I'm not sure if your toddler is in a nursery or with a childminder (you probably said but I skim read).  Childminders are a heck of a lot more flexible than nurseries - some of them do overnight care (a doctor friend has used this extensively when on call - she's been a single parent since her child was about 6 months old).

They're at a mix of childminder and nursery. The childminder is more flexible, although we're getting the sense that she's overworked and that's starting to show with our smallest having accident after accident. Sadly, it may be time to re-think our childcare arrangements - something that I could really do without.


I have to ask, though - would you cope with 6 days of solo child care? If so, there is nothing to prevent your husband from doing this (though I can see your parents might have some limitations). Some kids are really hard to care for one-to-one, but frankly, single parents manage, and with a bit of extended day care, your husband should manage.
He could manage 6 days of care. The problem is that it costs almost the same amount to go for 6 days as it does for 2 weeks. My grant money disappears quickly, whilst I make slow progress on my resarch. I need to figure out a way that I can get out to the US for 2 or 3 weeks at a time. I'm on sabbatical from January and I'm hoping to blitz the archives. This thread has been thought-provoking and raised a number of issues that I need to think about in greater depth.
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drspouse
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« Reply #28 on: October 07, 2011, 8:41:45 AM »

What would you do if he had to go somewhere distant for 2-3 weeks?

I do sympathise though as I say we don't have kids yet, because my own research trips involve fieldwork that really takes a minimum of a 10 day trip; it's often my own non-work commitments that suffer in this case. mrspouse was left with a huge number of wedding tasks (including a large amount of fabric buying, and I'm the sewist in the relationship) when I had to go on a 2 week trip, two weeks before my wedding.

My colleagues who do the same kind of fieldwork as me tend to leave their kids with their partners (but have more hours of child care to fall back on e.g. full time nanny), or take the kids (often with the partners, though a couple of people I'm thinking of have non-working wives) and hire childcare locally (but it's usually cheap, as I've said).
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britmom
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« Reply #29 on: October 07, 2011, 10:00:49 AM »

What would you do if he had to go somewhere distant for 2-3 weeks?

I do sympathise though as I say we don't have kids yet, because my own research trips involve fieldwork that really takes a minimum of a 10 day trip; it's often my own non-work commitments that suffer in this case. mrspouse was left with a huge number of wedding tasks (including a large amount of fabric buying, and I'm the sewist in the relationship) when I had to go on a 2 week trip, two weeks before my wedding.

My colleagues who do the same kind of fieldwork as me tend to leave their kids with their partners (but have more hours of child care to fall back on e.g. full time nanny), or take the kids (often with the partners, though a couple of people I'm thinking of have non-working wives) and hire childcare locally (but it's usually cheap, as I've said).
In all honesty, I wouldn't try to care for them both on my own, but I'm fortunate that I get plenty of annual leave and would therefore stay with my parents for a little while. Yes, single parents manage, but I haven't got a clue how they do it. It wouldn't be a problem if we only had the one child, but, having the two and them being so young, just makes it too difficult. I'm sure I could manage - just the same as my husband could - it's just that I would try very, very hard to avoid it. I can see that it will get easier as the children get older, but - for now - it's not something I would like to do.
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