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Advice on forming a local 'Postdoc Mums Group'

(26 Posts)
DrMamaCake Thu 05-Oct-17 15:13:50

Hello everyone,
I'm new here. I am expecting my first child and I work as a postdoc researcher. I know how important it is to create networks around you as a new parent in order to preserve sanity, so I've signed up to NCT classes and I have couple of other activities in mind to meet local mums. However, I have to be honest: the prospect of singing along people I've just met, with whom the only thing I have in common is the fact we've just had a baby... is not the most appealing to me. Maybe I'm being judgmental and I'll love it... but I just can't imagine that I will. I think it will make me angry and feel disconnected from other mums, and that I will crave for interesting adult conversations.

I had the idea to try to get in touch with other postdoc mums in my institution, and form our own little group (maybe I'm not alone in feeling this way?). It seems to me that postdoc researchers have a lot in common, as they are usually (a) living away from their home country so no immediate family around, (b) in a precarious post and concerned about their next career step, (c) likely to care a great deal about their work which is intellectually challenging. So I figured I am way more likely to develop meaningful friendships and find support among like-minded people...

I could really use your help to define the group better and create a flyer to invite people. This is what I've thought so far...

[Uni name] Postdoc New Mums Group
The no-signing mummy group with adult conversation guaranteed

If you are a Postdoc currently expecting a child, on maternity leave, or returning to work after having a child…
If you are a bit geeky and cringe at prospect of sing-along playgroups...
If you think the purpose of a bouncer to put the baby down while you work on your next paper...
If you don’t think that motherhood means to put your intellect on ‘pause’...

...this group is for you!

Join us for a weekly meeting on XXXX at XXXX from 11am-12pm to share some coffee, adult conversation, career tips, and copying strategies to survive as an academic mum.

My questions for you are:
1. Would a group like this be attractive to you?
2. Should I propose the group to meet weekly or fortnightly? (I have no sense of what time will feel like while on maternity leave... I think that a regular weekly meeting is less chaotic that figuring out if something is happening this week or the next).
3. As a venue, should I offer my own house, a local cafe, or a University room (I have gained approval for this)? I want to keep the group chatty and informal but people should feel comfortable to show up.
4. Should I use the kind-of-humorous version of the flyer above (which expresses my own motivations but might put some people off) or create a more neutral, softer version with the practical info only?

Thank you all in advance!!!

user918273645 Thu 05-Oct-17 18:04:33

My main thought is would there be enough postdocs on maternity leave to make this viable? Particularly as some might not want to go to an "academics" group during their leave - going to an "academics" group might make people feel more stressed that they were not managing to get any research done.

The kind of humorous version of the flyer would put me off - a more neutral version would be better for me. (But I also never attended any mother and baby groups, and didn't take much maternity leave, so my opinions probably shouldn't count for much.)

Vonklump Thu 05-Oct-17 18:11:20

I think you have a fairly narrow field to make "mum friends" with.
You'll only be able to meet up and have an outside chance of chatting until the children are mobile. You'll then only have half of any conversation until they start school.

Consider your ability to have any kind of an intellectual conversation when your brain is hormonal soup and sleep is a fond memory.

Consider also if you want to be responsible for organising this post partum and especially in your home.

Having said all that, why not give it a go.
Non humorous.
Weekly, easier to remember, in a large café with space for buggies.

University room becomes your responsibility.

PolkadotsAndMoonbeams Thu 05-Oct-17 18:15:30

Do you mean "no-signing" or "no-singing"?

And just because you're a post-doc doesn't mean you wouldn't enjoy a couple of choruses of wind-the-bobbin up!

But I do understand what you're saying about away from family, precarious position etc. You could always give it a go and see how it works out smile

Summerswallow Thu 05-Oct-17 20:17:06

I would leave out the remarks about singing groups etc- I used to go to them and it was fine.

I think that everyone is right, the problem is your pool may be very small unless you are at a very large institution, or perhaps in London and could pull from lots of institutions. If you only have 3/4 members, and 2 are up in the night with crying babies, it's all going to collapse in. I have lots of friends who are academics but quite often at different life stages than myself- so women with no children, older children and now mine are older, with much younger children -it actually works better in many ways.

That said, you never know til you try, and if you are open to just having a coffee in a local cafe for mums doing PhDs/post-docs and early career researchers (why not keep it really wide?) then you might meet a few like-minded individuals and be able to form a friendship group from them anyway.

Don't be disparaging about other mums or how they aren't going to be interesting enough for you, that's not cool.

try2hard Thu 05-Oct-17 20:50:31

I think you should be more open minded. The people in my nct group came from such a wide range of backgrounds and I've made solid friends and it's actually nice to talk to people that aren't passive aggressively comparing publication rates!

GiantSteps Thu 05-Oct-17 21:18:01

Not "mummy" pleeeeeease

StealthPolarBear Thu 05-Oct-17 21:21:20

Socialise with the plebs. You have judged a whole group of women in advance and without giving them a chance.

FaFoutis Thu 05-Oct-17 21:37:53

I would join.
I was lucky enough to meet another academic mother in the park when I had my first baby, we were both writing while looking after babies. Thank god for her, I hated baby groups. We used to walk and talk for hours.
Once a week, taking turns to host, would work best.
I don't think you should just invite postdocs either, but I don't know how you would word it.

StealthPolarBear Thu 05-Oct-17 21:40:42

"thickos need not apply"

windowSong Thu 05-Oct-17 21:55:38

I would have loved this when I was a postdoc. Those sing-along groups made me want to blow my brains out. Can’t people talk about anything other than their offspring?! It’s embarrassing how completely some people lost their identity.

DrMamaCake Fri 06-Oct-17 00:28:39

Thank you all so much for taking the time to read and give your honest feedback! It’s great to receive this input anonymously instead of sending a signed message to all the postdocs of my institution without realising how obnoxious it could come across to some people. So thank you!

I work in large institution with over 3500 postdocs so I think it is plausible that a big-enough group could be formed. However, your input has made me think more about the logistics and you’re right… this wouldn’t be sustainable as a group if I’m the only one organising it. I am now shifting towards sending a more neutral open call to a one-off gathering at a local café and take it from there with whoever shows up (maybe create a whatsapp group, arrange to meet for a second coffee, who knows – a bit like a collective blind date). It’s easier to target only postdocs because it’s a single newsletter/email list. For confidentiality issues, there is no email list of students/staff on maternity leave, so communication would have to be necessarily open to everyone.

I am just very afraid of feeling isolated during my maternity leave. I will be going to activities in my local Children’s centre, as well as hospital and NCT classes because I do want to mix up with people from different backgrounds. And I will do my best to enjoy the singing AND the signing! Didn´t mean to be disparaging with people who go to and enjoy these activities, so I apologise if it came across like that. I just want to maximise the chances of coming across people I can connect with, wherever they may be.

Thanks again!

Summerswallow Fri 06-Oct-17 12:34:39

Sounds great, and like you have a big pool of people to work with. If numbers are an issue, lots of slightly older women (as in not 20!) do have children and do their PhDs at the same time, I did, quite a few on this board did and I have students doing the same, so a PhD and postdoc maternity club could also work. But you sound open to suggestion- let us know how it goes!

StealthPolarBear Fri 06-Oct-17 13:28:03

OK best of luck

GiantSteps Fri 06-Oct-17 14:01:52

I have friends who are academics and also mothers, who meet up semi-regularly, semi-formally. Not just post-docs, but lecturers etc, who meet up to offer mutual support. So don't limit your call to just post-docs or women on ML - there are a lot of academics who are also mothers with a lot of common experience & need to give & receive mutual support.

user1471134011 Fri 06-Oct-17 16:13:31

Don't be disparaging about other mums or how they aren't going to be interesting enough for you, that's not cool.

This. In spades. Your opening post reeks of condescension.

HouseworkIsAPain Fri 06-Oct-17 16:21:28

Super condescending - can you really not imagine that there could be ANY mums who you might have something in common with at a baby singing group?

You might not even make friends even with the post-doc mums. They might actually enjoy baby signing. They won’t enjoy hanging out with you if your attitude implies that any baby talk, or making an effort to attend baby groups, means the mum must be intellectually inferior to you hmm

BarchesterFlowers Fri 06-Oct-17 16:35:37

I read this yesterday when you had two replies and was shock.

It does come across as very condescending OP. I agree with everyone saying you need to broaden your outlook.

If DH thought like you we wouldn’t be married (and I am relatively well educated). Similarly one of my best friends would not be my best friend.

I think it is a really really bad idea, and, if you happened to copy DH in to your round robin he would come home and tell me in disbelief.

Best will in the world and all that, no, just no.

GiantSteps Fri 06-Oct-17 16:46:12

Oh to be fair to the OP - I assumed she's looking for other new mothers who are also academics, because they'll understand without explanation about the kind of work academics do, and the particular pressures. Just like a group of doctors, or lawyers, or hairdressers might.

And also, I'm often made very aware that not everyone finds my profession as fascinating as I do grin . And if I'm struggling to adjust to motherhood, and thinking through how that will affect my professional identity - and even a bit scared that my professional standing will disappear (I hear that from STEM colleagues) or melt away - then I might seek the company of those in much the same boat as me, who understand when I say "I'm worried I won't be REFable"

I mean, what normal sane person would ever say something like that? grin grin grin grin

MrsFezziwig Fri 06-Oct-17 16:58:12

It's always good when people are willing to start ventures like this, but I would definitely review the way you express yourself as it comes across as rather patronising, and as such might put people off you personally even if they qualify for your group. Just drop the stuff criticising the groups you don't want to join and email your chosen group in more general terms.

DrMamaCake Fri 06-Oct-17 17:37:41

Thank you all again for the feedback.

I have heard you. And I apologise again. I am truly glad that I used this space as a sounding board. I will not be using that text of course.

I think I have a plan of action now, and hopefully something good will come out of that.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 06-Oct-17 20:47:11

Oh, well, being one of those thicko academics, I find my NCT group and my online Mumsnet March Mums group plenty stimulating. Funnily enough a lot of them come across as more intelligent and interesting than a lot of postdocs I've met.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 06-Oct-17 20:51:00

Oh, and I love baby singalong. I have a terrible voice. I sung to my baby in Middle English on the postnatal ward and it was pretentious as fuck. smile

user1471134011 Fri 06-Oct-17 23:12:48

DrMamaCake best of luck with it. The people I made the truest friendships with on maternity leave were people who had nothing in common other than a baby the same age. It does expose you to all kinds of new people.

herewecomeawassailing Mon 09-Oct-17 20:40:54

I really hope that 'no signing' was a typo.

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