Saturday, April 28, 2012

Keeping Minutes

Friday was a Very Important Meeting for my department. The administrative assistant who usually takes notes and keeps minutes was gone. My department head asked me if I could take notes in her place. Aghast, I said, "No, I can't." He then turned to my male junior colleague, asked him to take notes, and the colleague agreed. I could just be pissed about the whole thing, or I could rationalize it like this: I was the most junior person in the room, so I was asked to do the note-taking. The fact that the head turned to next most junior person after me, supports this idea. I'm just happy I didn't have to take notes!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What I Did During My Maternity Leave

Maternity leave is not a vacation.

At least that is the message I get from employer. We do not have a maternity leave policy for faculty. We have optional "guidelines." The idea is that in lieu of teaching, the new mother would do an equivalent time-consuming activity. Examples I was given included taking on the role of ABET coordinator, planning a major symposium, chairing a university wide committee. You can see how ridiculous these guidelines can be. Instead of recovering from child birth, the new mom gets to hop right into Service! I am an officer in a national professional organization and a co-chair on a university wide committee that happens to be all women. I successfully advocated for those activities to replace my teaching. Then, I told my professional organization that I wouldn't do any service because I was on maternity leave. The other chairs on my committee gave me the time off. So I got a "real" maternity leave, but I had to manipulate the system. Even then, I had to consume all of my sick leave and half of my vacation to stay at home during this time to maintain my salary.

After having the baby, I went back to work half time 10 days after he was born. My in-laws stayed until daycare started, so the baby was being cared for quite well by family. Gradually, I came in for a few hours more, until I was full time in April. During maternity leave, I submitted two papers and I wrote no grants. My mind wasn't ready for grant writing because of the sleep-deprivation. I caught up on many little things and met with my students once in a while. Mostly, I just went in for coffee breaks with my girl-friends. I played a lot of Words with Friends, discovered Big Fish Games, and watched three seasons of Angel. Going back to work and also taking the time to relax staved off post-partum depression. I also took a lot of baths! I discovered Lush, and have been using bath bombs and bubble bars. It really helps my achy joints. I do miss my maternity leave, but I'm thrilled to being back to Prof. JP.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Managing a Group During Maternity Leave

It is hard to be a boss when you aren't there. My lab turned into the wild, wild west after two months, culminating in a glorious accident in which no one was injured.

I have a group of <10 people working on two themes. Prior to going on leave, I separated my group into sub-groups based on theme. A post-doc led each sub-group with weekly meetings and presentations. The post-doc wrote me weekly reports on the activities of each member of the sub-group. This worked very well to keep people going.

The big challenge was that no one was playing the role of enforcer. These post-docs wanted to be everybody's friend, not everybody's boss. After two months of leave, my lab became dirty and unsafe. I didn't go into my lab often enough to notice. We had an accident that required us to call EHS - an accident where someone could have been critically injured. That accident was a huge wakeup call that maternity leave was over because my lab needed me.

In the wake of the accident, I have now schedule weekly lab cleanups centered around group meeting. I use this cleanup time to scrutinize every bottle and surface. Our group meetings have a safety presentation now. I made every member of my group complete safety training, regardless whether of they were out of date or not. We had a special lecture on safety from our College's rep. I interviewed every lab member and asked them about what safety violations they saw and what was troubling them. I did not ask them to name names, just name the actions. What came out of it was pretty much everyone's desire to be safe and be clean, but no one wanting to do the work, hence the weekly cleanups. One of my lab members actually told me that they wanted me to law down the law, and that they missed me.

Monday, April 16, 2012

We're Here

He was born in January, and I was instantly bonded to him. My life is full, happy, and busy.

I was high-risk, having to get weekly sonograms. His birth-weight was low, and I was induced on my due date. Labor was painful, fast, and relatively easy compared to my first one. There was no time for an epidural. I did not breastfeed because I wanted to go on all my RA meds right away to stave off a flare-up. I do not feel guilty about that decision because I can hold my son and play with him - something I would have never been able to do otherwise. He sleeps very well, getting up only once at night. We let him cry it out at first, and it worked well. I just do not have the strength to hold my son all day, so crying it out was our solution. I do not feel guilty about that either, since the whole family is very well rested and I am presently functional.

I had such a different experience with first child. I tried to breast feed him and follow attachment parenting all while battling a debilitating flare-up. That was a disaster, and I learned from it.

My in-laws stayed with us until daycare started. When I was in pain, they could care for my son. They could hold him. They could do chores while I slowly recovered. Now that maternity leave has ended, the in-laws have left. I am learning how to manage my family, my house, and my job. I'm not saying its working well, but it is "working". All the kids are fed, clean, and in bed - at least for tonight.