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Is anyone else an academic who has not produced enough research while having kids and is now in the s***?

(754 Posts)
Kathyis6incheshigh Thu 28-May-09 12:27:40

There are lots of academics on MN, just wondering if there is anyone else in my position.

Am pg with 3rd dc in 5 years. Have had hyperemesis and other problems in all 3 pgs, which on top of 2 maternity leaves means heaps of time off work. In the meantime I have completely lost research momentum and produced sod all apart from a few book reviews. I was not submitted for RAE (though fortunately my dept did very well without me so none of my colleagues are holding it against me personally.)
Every time I come back it takes me all my time to get back up to speed with teaching and admin, get on top of all the changes in my field etc, and I only ever seem to make baby steps towards producing anything before I am sick or pregnant again.
Just had uncomfortable meeting with (supportive) HoD at which she broke news to me that I am about to get a scary letter from Personnel and a process is going to start which will probably include ritual disembowelling/change to a teaching only contract if I don't get something submitted before baby is due. Which would be fine as long as the foetus behaves and sickness holds off - am only just back at work after 2 months off with HG.

Serves me right for having children, doesn't it? sad

Voltaire Thu 28-May-09 12:39:00

Sorry to hear this Kathy. That's really hard. I'm not an academic but I suffered from pregbrainfog in all my pregnancies and would have hated to be under any sort of pressure to be sparkling & productive at work. Turning up felt like a major achievement for me.

Congratulations on your pregnancy though.

Can you afford to take a year off?

vonsudenfed Thu 28-May-09 12:43:26

I'm not an academic, but it strikes me that this is just the formal expression of something that happens to so many women (I hate the phrase 'mummy track', but it does describe the thing very well).

I just wondered whether this is in fact a form of sex discrimination? I mean, how much time have you actually been at work and well? So it might be worth challenging what they say, rather than just taking it...

BonsoirAnna Thu 28-May-09 12:45:58

It sounds to me as if your reasons for not completing research are very valid and could form the basis of a sex discrimination case. Though of course you might not want to kill your career that way.

phdlife Thu 28-May-09 12:50:41

I'm in a similar boat. It's complicated but 2 babies + an international move since finishing my last short-term contract in 2006. Oh and a bout of depression. Caused by realising how badly having babies was going to fuck my career. Have had 2 male mentors advise me to spend this year publishing if I want to try getting back in the game in 2010. Quite how I'm supposed to do that - with a 2yo and baby (dd is 6 wks and sleeping in my left arm, as usual) and no income to pay for childcare - has not been made cleat. hmm Sucks, doesn't it? sad

dustbuster Thu 28-May-09 12:54:34

Hi Kathy,

I feel for you. Am just trying to get back into things after birth of DD and it is very hard. I had very bad MS and found that my (all male or childless colleagues) could not get their heads round it at all.

Things are grim at my place too, and there are lots of threats of 'processes' etc. Bascially anyone who is not submitted for next RAE will get chop (we did badly last time!). There are no teaching only contracts anymore so it is real publish or perish time.

All this pressure makes me want to curl up and do nothing, in fact I have just been researching retraining as a primary school teacher!

My advice would be to get signed off again if you feel remotely unwell. They cannot possibly take action against you if you have been off sick. Also agree that there is potential sex discrim here. Are your union any good? (Our local branch are fairly feeble....)

Good luck with it all. It is not a terrific time to be an academic, I think...

Libra Thu 28-May-09 12:54:39

Do you have anything at all lying around unpublished? Anything left over from the PhD?

Is there anything going on in the department tthat you can get involved in?

Can you publish on something related to your teaching - innovative teaching methods? Teaching to international students? Using computer-mediated communication?

There is a reason why there are fewer female professors than male ones in this country.

dustbuster Thu 28-May-09 12:57:56

PS Kathy and PhdLife and anyone else with little time, I can really recommend this book:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Professors-As-Writers-Robert-Boice/dp/091350713X

It is a bit eccentric, but he has a great idea of how you can get lots of writing done in short periods of time (even just 30 minutes a day). I was very sceptical, but it really is very effective, although you have to actually put it into practice, which is what I am not doing at the moment.

phdlife Thu 28-May-09 13:03:40

thanks dustbuster. I could probably find a half an hour most days, but doubt I could find my brain in that time...

ArcticLemming Thu 28-May-09 13:05:36

I'm sorry you're having such a bad time. My situation isn't so bad, but I can identify - I had 2 DDs while doing a PhD, and took a short term 2 day contract immediately after. The two days work takes longer than 2 days, and I just haven't got the time to sit down and sort out publications from my thesis etc. Obviously if I don't this will limit me going forward. There is this assumption with academic work that you'll spend your free time doing "unpaid" stuff like publications, but I find I jsut really don't have the time. By the time I've got the girls to bed (sometimes no mean feat), had dinner with DH who comes home late and then caught up a bit on my paid work I really find it hard to fir in the other stuff which is so important.

In some ways an academic job is ideal as it's fairly flexible, but there is a huge expectation of out-of-hours work.

Kathyis6incheshigh Thu 28-May-09 13:07:48

Thanks all.

I am luckier than PhDLife in that I do at least have a permanent contract so they would have a hell of a fight to get rid of me. LOL at Anna's suggestion - quite! If the choice was between two different ways of killing one's career it would be nobler to go out fighting, of course, but hopefully it will not come to that.

I know things have moved on, because one of my informal mentors (a prof in another dept who also had 3 dcs in a short time) tells me that when hers were born 25 years ago she was informed by her uni that maternity leave counted as study leave. hmm However I wish they would move on a bit further. I have heard rumours that there is a mythical university somewhere where women who have been on maternity leave get an extra chunk of study leave straight after to make up for it, not sure which one it is though.
Thing is, I know they will be scrupulous about taking into account time when I was actually signed off sick and actually on maternity leave, but the problem is that through most of my pregnancies I have been struggling on through the teaching and admin (because that's the thing that lets people down if you don't do it) but letting the research slide if I wasn't feeling 100%. Clearly this was a strategic error!
I've also found it hard to get back into the whole conference paper giving habit because of missing abstract deadlines while sick/on mat leave - again, clearly I should have been keeping this going even while not working, but it's hard.

dustbuster Thu 28-May-09 13:08:29

PhDLife - he has some good tips for getting started without having to find your brain first!

I too tend to feel I need to be "ready" to write, but apparently this is one of the main reasons behind writing blocks.

Libra Thu 28-May-09 13:14:11

Kathy - I only had 6 weeks statutory maternity leave. At the time, that was all my university gave (and it was only six years ago not back in the mists of time). I was 'lucky' enough to get a chunk of research leave tacked on the end. Maybe that is where the urban myth came from?

I am lucky in that my research area is a very portable one - computer-mediated communication (ie what I am doing now), so I am not dependent on anything apart from an Internet connection. Luckily all the secondary sources are online as well in my field so I don't even need access to a library.

I find that you have to be absolutely dogmatic about having time for research carved into your timetable - and that does not just mean insisting on it with colleagues and students but also with yourself. If you have designated Tuesday morning for research, you have to be firm with yourself and ignore teaching preparation or marking or the emails and just DO it.

Kathyis6incheshigh Thu 28-May-09 13:14:52

Libra - yup. I have a lot of unfinished stuff, so I am not working from scratch. What they are demanding will be doable as long as I am not sick again.

Lemming - yes, the assumption of spending time working is there. My HoD was talking about fitting admin in round the edges while concentrating on research, which is good advice except that there are no edges (says she while MNing) - I don't have a spare couple of hours after dcs are in bed because there is still housework to do then. More domestic help may be the answer in my case. (DH is fab by the way - and has just been promoted to Reader despite doing much of the childcare etc and holding the fort at home while I'm sick - because being a man he has not had to be the one that has the babies. We were both on the same level when we met!)

Dustbuster, I'm going to check out that book. Thanks.

Kathyis6incheshigh Thu 28-May-09 13:18:40

There is lots of good advice here. Thanks all. It really helps to have sympathy and know there are other people in the same boat.

Libra - I didn't mean it was an urban myth, my 'hmm' was aimed at her old employer rather than her! I think it really was true in her case.

phdlife Thu 28-May-09 13:18:44

oh dustbuster, you are v kind. But I really can't see myself wrangling Foucaultian discourse theory when I can't even remember my darling dh's birthday blush sad!

dustbuster Thu 28-May-09 13:20:19

Kathy, re domestic help, I have just got a cleaner. It is incredible the difference that 2 hours a week can make. I would really recommend it, it is a great morale boost, esp. if you are pg and feeling crap.

Your DH sounds like a gem, btw. Most of my colleagues are married to SAHMs, so while sympathetic, don't really get it.

dustbuster Thu 28-May-09 13:22:02

I dunno, PhDLIfe, surely chronic postnatal sleep deprivation should help you get into that crazy po-mo mindset!

Kathyis6incheshigh Thu 28-May-09 13:22:05

Have just ordered book on Amazon. LOL at how many books there are available to help unproductive academics to get writing!

I don't want to be unproductive. I have always loved research and found writing relatively easy and quick, so it is daft that I am in this situation.

dustbuster Thu 28-May-09 13:25:00

Hope you find the book useful. If you are normally a productive writer, it should help you see how you can slot it into little bits of time here are there. I have been amazed how a bit of writing each day can accumulate.

Libra Thu 28-May-09 13:26:09

Cleaner and gardener here. Definitely the way to go.

I think it helps that your DH is an academic as well. He will appreciate the pressure you are under and maybe it is time to tell him that it is now your career that needs the most support if he has achieved the Readership. (We have had a similar conversation recently but it was me who got the Readership so now we are working on improving DH's research profile - a timely reminder that it's not just women under pressure in these hard times!

Kathyis6incheshigh Thu 28-May-09 13:27:46

We have cleaner for 2 hours but she's close to retirement and doesn't want to take on any more. Maybe we should just get an extra one though. Had an au pair for a while which was great as she did laundry and kept on top of tidying. My HoD is the main breadwinner in her house and has a SAH husband, so you can see why she has 'edges'!

LOL re Foucault wrangling. I def need to find an easy research direction to move in that doesn't require very complicated arguing.

Kathyis6incheshigh Thu 28-May-09 13:31:05

Yes Libra, time for that conversation with dh. I can't help feeling indebted to him for doing so much while I was ill, so I feel like it should be me that lets him have some slack atm, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
(I have this permanent sense of indebtedness to colleagues too because of them standing in so much when I've been sick - must try and make myself believe that I'll be a research star one day and the way I can pay them back is by helping the dept to ace the next RAE-thing.)

You are all fab, thanks smile

dustbuster Thu 28-May-09 13:36:00

I like the term "RAE-thing", I think I will start dropping it in departmental meetings, where we are all expected to refer pompously to "REF2014".

Kathyis6incheshigh Thu 28-May-09 13:38:58

It's proof of how out of touch I am - its new name must have been announced while I was away grin

Honestly just keeping up with the acronyms takes several days a week wink

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