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 Figure 2. Ethan Vishniac, Ilene Busch-Vishniac, and their dog.
Now, Ilene is grateful to work with talented people at a small business to create a device that detects pneumonia and tuber- culosis early enough to save patients’ lives. Her team recently won the MIT Solve-Tiger Challenge prize in Bangladesh for the development of a respiratory device that can moni- tor, record, upload, and classify lung sounds and that is now being used worldwide.
Work-Parenting Harmony
Zhenia and Ilene were honored by the WIA Committee because of their contributions to acoustics, but instead of just including a regular biography in this column, we asked them to share their experiences as parents to begin our discussion about work-parenting harmony.
Zhenia and Yura have two daughters, both of whom were born once Zhenia’s degrees had been completed. Zhenia credits her very supportive husband as well as her mother in raising her daughters (and her first daughter in raising the second after Zhenia’s mother passed away). Zhenia remembers, “In Russia at this time, women were often discriminated against when working in science, and having children certainly didn't help. Nonetheless, I persevered, continuing my work through the scrutiny I faced. A pressure that was certainly relevant through the years of having children and working was the difficulty of balancing both. This is never easy and can’t be made easy. It is made doable only through the support of your partner, employer, family, and friends.”
Ilene was granted tenure three days before her first child was born and right after the end of the fall term. At the
time, no process existed at UT at Austin for dealing with child-bearing women professors. To allow time off, she worked out a deal to split her next semester’s class with a colleague, where he took the first half of the semester and she took the second. This arrangement gave Ilene a few months of unofficial (and much appreciated) “maternity leave.” She and Ethan then hired a full-time caregiver five days/week so she could work. Ilene’s second daughter was born during the summer when she was not teaching class and so she took the time to be with her family, meeting occasionally with her research students. She also credits her extremely supportive husband for making this work.
As their daughters got older, scheduling became easier because of daycare and then after-school programs. Ilene recalls, “The stress when kids are young is all the energy you must devote”; however, the most stressful period with her children was during the preteen and teen years. Ilene, who was a dean at the time, found it difficult to be expected to be out of the house 3-4 nights/week during dinner, knowing that her daughters would have benefited from her presence.
“I stuck [the deanship] out as long as I could,” she recalls. “I didn’t sleep a lot and had a wonky schedule. I finally stepped out of the deanship to have more time.”
Zhenia’s and Ilene’s stories represent those of many parents at that time. To explore how things have changed, we polled several ASA members about their paths as parent scientists/ acousticians. With permission, we have shared their sto- ries on the WIA webpage. (We invite others to contribute their stories as well by emailing to From the stories we collected, several main themes emerge. We share some quotes that represent these themes but refer readers to the full stories for context and examples of different ways parents have tried to find harmony at dif- ferent stages of their children’s lives.
Accept Support from Others
As a parent, the demands on your time and energy can be immense. Almost all of our contributors expressed this sentiment and credited understanding employers and advisors for supporting them to find workable solutions for their situation as well as life partners, friends, and family members who helped to shoulder the load.
Give Yourself Credit
Working parents often feel that they are not able to devote enough time and energy to either their families
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