Years ago, before I was a mommy, I asked a professor lady at a "women in science careers" panel if building and effectively managing a strong lab group could help compensate for having a baby pre-tenure and going on maternity leave. She said to me, dismissively:
"They work as hard as you do, honey, they work as hard as you do."
The very strong implication, in the context of the discussion going on and the height of her eyebrows was that dealing with your family meant you were not 'working hard'. Apparently, in her opinion, the following does not qualify as 'working hard'--the process of having a baby, dealing with a newborn and really wacked out hormones, preceded and followed by:
- participating in faculty search interviews and lab meetings via skype
- communicating with the lab group multiple times a week via email
- preparing for and participating in NIH study section
- critiquing poster drafts/practice talks and attending a conference with the whole group
- submitting to grant proposals within two months of returning from maternity leave
My lab group worked pretty hard while I was on maternity leave. They each made their own, personal exponential jumps in their understanding and ability to think independently. They each kept largely on track with their research goals. Some of them planted the seeds for new research directions for the lab while I was gone, and they all kept their hands in the dirt cultivating our collective efforts to move our science forward.
This isn't a "pat me on the back, I did so much! I must be superwoman" post. I am not superwoman, and all these things were possible because of the support network I have in place. This is a post to show how, as an aspect of that support network, building and managing a strong group, and providing a good practical example of "making it work" can keep your emergent research enterprise from floundering while you take time to have a child. Because, indeed, they work as hard as you do.