Perspective: Dr Sarah Mohammad-Qureshi, FLS
The daily stresses of being an early career researcher will be familiar to most of you and common amongst your peers; for researchers that are parents, those demands are just part of the pressure faced on a daily basis. However, as the majority of us take on postdoctoral positions during our child-bearing years, the urge to start a family can be as strong as the determination to attain permanent status. Making the decision to have children can be tough; in the competitive world of making a name in research, the very real fear of taking yourself out of the game by starting a family is ever present.
Whilst some researchers prefer to put off having a family until they are in a more stable position professionally, there are many researchers who successfully combine their career progression alongside raising children. Despite academic research not being a typical 9-5 job, a work-life balance for parents is possible but not always easy. In addition to the guilt and pressure felt during maternity/paternity leave, there is the strain of having to catch up upon your return, the financial burden of expensive childcare, the unexpected time off with unwell children and the constant feeling that you are failing at everything! The usual coping mechanisms and advice that work for stressed staff who don’t have children aren’t always applicable – mainly as there is no time to ‘switch off’.
The University prides itself on being a family-friendly employer and recognises these extra demands on its staff, as such there are a number of support groups set up to facilitate staff balancing this type of work-life commitment. Combining multiple work-life stresses can be isolating especially if your immediate colleagues are not experiencing the same kind of pressure. Discussing these issues with peers who are working under similar strains can help reassure you that you are not alone and it can be done! EPS and FLS both have peer support groups which encourage discussion on subjects such as combining raising a family with a career in science.
For other information on assistance that the University offers, such as on-site child-care, visit http://www.staffnet.manchester.ac.uk/employment/benefits-rewards/family-friendly/