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Author Topic: When you need to travel to do research, but you have young children?  (Read 12966 times)
drspouse
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« Reply #30 on: October 07, 2011, 12:26:55 PM »

Can you pay the nursery workers to do some evenings/weekends? They are unlikely to be as expensive as a "proper" short term nanny.  My friend found this indispensable with her son when he was younger, and indeed when he needed afternoon/evening care more recently.

I think britdad might just have to get used to the broken nights, though. But time to go to an archive for 2-3 weeks is not going to come up again for another year, by which time your younger one might be better at sleeping.

I'm not 100% clear on how it would help if you took weeks of time off if britdad was away (or vice versa). I can see that finishing early each day would help a lot - less tired, can pick up from school, more time to do peripheral stuff. Can he take some hours of annual leave? There's a legal requirement in the UK to allow all parents a certain number of days off over the years, which isn't annual leave, this sounds like the ideal situation to use that in quarter-day increments.
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niceday
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« Reply #31 on: October 07, 2011, 10:39:55 PM »

Part bookmarking, part offering sympathies without an answer. I also face this issue, somewhat. No solutions except I keep reminding myself that this is only for a few years. It does really seem to get easier when they are older.
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britmom
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« Reply #32 on: October 08, 2011, 6:53:36 AM »

Can you pay the nursery workers to do some evenings/weekends? They are unlikely to be as expensive as a "proper" short term nanny.  My friend found this indispensable with her son when he was younger, and indeed when he needed afternoon/evening care more recently.

The idea of hiring nursery workers is a great one. I'll definitely keep that in mind.

One thing that I didn't explain is that I've been in poor health since my second was born. It's put enormous pressure on my husband, who has done a wonderful job of holding everything together. Much of this problem of not wanting to leave him to cope on his own derives from my feeling that the really deserves a break. He's very supportive of my work. (Such as, right now, he's looking after the kids so I can get some work done.)


I think britdad might just have to get used to the broken nights, though. But time to go to an archive for 2-3 weeks is not going to come up again for another year, by which time your younger one might be better at sleeping.

I've got a sabbatical starting in January; I'm really hoping to do at least one trip during that time.


I'm not 100% clear on how it would help if you took weeks of time off if britdad was away (or vice versa). I can see that finishing early each day would help a lot - less tired, can pick up from school, more time to do peripheral stuff. Can he take some hours of annual leave? There's a legal requirement in the UK to allow all parents a certain number of days off over the years, which isn't annual leave, this sounds like the ideal situation to use that in quarter-day increments.
I would take time off so that I could go down to stay with my parents. They couldn't manage to look after the kids on their own, but they'd be a big help if I was with them.

My husband works long days Mon-Thurs so it's impossible for him to do nursery/childminder drop-off and collection on his own. (The oldest goes to nursery 3 days a week, whilst the youngest goes to a childminder full time.) Actually, another option would be to see if my parents could manage to come up to us and help out, rather than them looking after a kid/kids on their own. It's just a case of whether dealing with my Mum is actually harder work for my husband than being on his own.

This isn't an impossible situation, but it does feel very difficult, and -- in terms of getting on with research as a whole --I feel like I'm banging my head against a brick wall.

Niceday - my sympathies in return. Like you, I try to focus on the fact that this will get easier in a few years.
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niceday
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« Reply #33 on: October 08, 2011, 2:46:55 PM »

Yes, make friends with workers in your daycare. I've hired workers from the daycare and it has many advantages. One, they already know your kid and your kid knows them. Two, you know them. Three, they are more likely to do it partly as a favor, i.e. accept weird hours that just happen to be necessary that week, to get you out of a pickle.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2011, 2:47:33 PM by niceday » Logged
polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #34 on: October 08, 2011, 7:18:13 PM »

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.

The problem you are missing, DrSpouse, is that caring for a child or two is nothing like just picking up a bit of slack for something like a wedding.  The statement of "getting used to a couple of nights of broken sleep" so grossly misses the difficulty of caring for active children after putting in a full day's/week's worth of work that I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

While Brimom's family could probably survive her being gone three weeks, the probability is high that her marriage would be damaged by doing so, especially after having done some short-term single-parenting and saying, "Not again".  Pulling a "oh, I have to do this and you have to suck it up and deal" is not healthy for things that are definitely voluntary (a research trip is voluntary, unlike a lengthy hospital stay). 

This isn't about women seeming more competent than men so push on it, as your post implied.  The problem is having a working system and disrupting it without putting in place another working system.  Dealing with all the bugs of putting in place new working systems can be horrendous, particularly for a short-term thing when people would prefer a long-term job.  Being a single parent temporarily can be worse than being a single parent permanently precisely because the support mechanisms aren't in place.   You don't have the routines that help you manage far too much work.  You are mentally overwhelmed trying to remember what the "new" plan is and getting that plan in place.  In addition, well-meaning, but clueless, people minimize the pain as "you'll live" instead of saying, "Sure, I'll help.  What do you need?"
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britmom
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« Reply #35 on: October 09, 2011, 3:39:27 PM »

Thank you for that clarification, polly-mer. I was starting to question why I find this so difficult. You're absolutely spot on with regard to the messing up of routines. Although I know the kids will be fine without me, I also know that they will miss me. This is particularly the case with my oldest as she struggles to deal with any change and, therefore, my husband would also have to deal with the fall-out of that, on top of everything else.


While Brimom's family could probably survive her being gone three weeks, the probability is high that her marriage would be damaged by doing so, especially after having done some short-term single-parenting and saying, "Not again".  Pulling a "oh, I have to do this and you have to suck it up and deal" is not healthy for things that are definitely voluntary (a research trip is voluntary, unlike a lengthy hospital stay). 


My husband is very supportive of my work, but - as you said - there are limits. He stays in his job (in a place that is full of b*tchiness and back-stabbing), despite the fact that he could be working somewhere much nicer and earn more, because those jobs would require him to travel on a regular basis. (Mixture of being away for a night or two, through to 2+ weeks away). He's not prepared to do that whilst the children are so young as he believes it would be unfair on both the children and me. He appreciates that I have to travel to do my research, but there is a strong element of choice in terms of when I go, and for how long. If I'm going to travel for more than a week, I believe I have an obligation to ensure that I minimise the negative impact upon him/the children/our marriage. 

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drspouse
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« Reply #36 on: October 10, 2011, 6:39:26 AM »

I apologise for coming across unsympathetically - I think this is partly because I have just been reading Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender, partly because I do, in fact, find that people assume I will pick up slack for mrspouse if he's travelling but express admiration and surprise if it's vice versa, but also because I have a lot of colleagues who are female, travel extensively for work and manage to arrange childcare.

I have a PhD student at the moment who spends up to 4 or 5 months at a time here leaving her husband and three young children at home. She does have full time live in care (and the oldest has just started boarding school) and both of these options are cheaper and more available in her home country - but I know it's been a huge wrench, her husband has been incredibly (and, given their culture, highly non-traditionally) supportive and hands-on, and I know she's left both her second youngest and her youngest at a point when they will have disturbed everyone's sleep many times (not just the nanny!). I also know that her husband will be doing absolutely everything relating to preschool/school for the younger two and most of it for the oldest, since he's the only driver, they need to be ferried to school, and he's the one on hand to do all the paperwork, buying uniform, arranging playdates etc. etc.

And yes, I hear what people are saying about long-term lone parenting being harder long-term than short-term, and her nanny has stayed on while she's been at home. But in many ways their situation is so much more challenging than any of my other colleagues' so I tend to compare other people's situations to hers and say "nah, doesn't sound as difficult".
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tmeao
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« Reply #37 on: October 11, 2011, 1:15:59 AM »

I agree with much that has been said here.  Everything from daycamps to a "helper" around home could certainly make it easier on your spouse when you leave.  Mine are junior high age now, but when they were younger I did indeed have to leave for longish periods of time for research.  My particular type of research was more field research (not archives) and in many instances, I just took them with me (without my spouse, as he had to continue working) and we made do with various types of childcare arrangements (flew in a relative from a not-to-far away country once, worked interviews around nap schedules, etc.). In hindsight, I realize that probably sounds terribly hectic and stressful, but I actually rather enjoyed it and they did too I think.  Hindsight might be extra-rosy, but we still laugh/bond over some of those adventures. 

Attitude matters a lot as well, on both your side and your spouse's.  Especially early on, I think both spouse and I saw travel as a "burden."  And it is, on a certain level.  But now, we actually are pretty relaxed about it.  I actually enjoy when I have some solo time with my kids and I think my spouse feels the same.  Routines and rhythms are a little different, but it is kind of nice. 

Also, I cannot agree more that a network of friends - really close friends - can be an absolute lifesaver.  Even now, we have one very dear set of a friends that we can literally call to help with anything, anytime and we do the same for them.  Have a kid hospitalized and need to have both parents by the hospital bedside 24/7?  No problem, drop sick kid's sibling off with us.  At 3am.  With no clothes or backpack for school the next day.  And we will get them tucked in and swing by the house in the morning to get everything for school and get them their on time.  For 2 weeks if need be.  Literally.  Between both sets of parents we all have demanding, yet not terribly lucrative careers and we help each other out with this kind of stuff - as well as just occasional childfree vacations - all the time. 

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britmom
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« Reply #38 on: October 13, 2011, 9:15:12 AM »

I just wanted to finish up and thank people for their suggestions.

Just some final comments - Drspouse - I'm really not sure what to think about the situation you described in your last post. I think it's made me realise that I hold some fairly traditional values, in that I was initially horrified that a mother would leave her young children for that length in time. I don't think I could sacrifice that kind of family time for a job, no matter how much I loved it. (And, yes, I realise that's highly judgemental of me, but that was my initial reaction.)

Also, I've started the process of trying to build up a network of fellow working mothers. My oldest was at a party last weekend and I was able to have a long chat with a couple of the other mothers. We spoke about strategies for balancing work/home and one of them suggested that we all come over to her house for a play-date one weekend. I'm also going to arrange a small Halloween party at our house for some of my oldest daughter's closest friends & invite the mums/parents over for a cup of tea and bite to eat. Hopefully it will provide the beginnings of a support network.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2011, 9:16:09 AM by britmom » Logged

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drspouse
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« Reply #39 on: October 17, 2011, 6:01:00 AM »

Knowing this young woman (and many others like her) has made me realise how lucky I am that I probably would have the choice. For her, it was a stark choice of either doing a PhD or spending this time with her family. The PhD opportunity (and indeed any sort of professional career at all) will never come up again. There is just no way to put your career on hold, or work part time, or even realistically travel with her family (since given the dire economic circumstances of her country, even if her husband was willing to give up his job he might never get it back, and they rely on his income too).

She just couldn't scale back her career for this period, or not travel, without giving it up entirely. Of course this is a choice that a man in her country would never have to make, but it is also a choice that most women in the West don't have to make - there is usually something else they can do, or they can become less high powered - they do not lose their career entirely - at least, not to the same extent that she would risk.

The one thing that she is lucky in is the availability of help - and its cost - which of course is a symptom of coming from a really poor country - and the fact that it's seen to be normal to have full time help. No-one is standing around making her feel guilty for having a full time nanny, for travelling while her children are young, or for sending her oldest to boarding school. In the UK, they would be judging left right and centre.
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britmom
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« Reply #40 on: October 17, 2011, 10:10:52 AM »

Thanks for providing a bit more context about that case. It's a stark choice for her. I've actually being thinking a lot about your post and wondering what I would have done if we'd had a 'whoops' baby - how much would I have sacrificed to try to get my dream job? In all truth, I don't know. I think I would have probably fought tooth and nail. Anyway, that's just me musing on how different life might have been.
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bhosdeek
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« Reply #41 on: May 05, 2012, 8:07:53 PM »

For those of you who have worked in Rome for research can you suggest an organization/agency to find a reliable nanny who can work for about 3 months in summer?
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