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or their careers. “Just existing and engaging in science and engineering as a woman, as a parent, or as both is advocating for opportunity and diversity in STEM” (Lora Van Uffelen, Physical Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett).
Be Flexible and Do What Feels Right
Many early-career acousticians considering a family may worry that in the fast-paced atmosphere of STEM disci- plines, it is more challenging to step back for a period of time to raise young children. “Be creative and open to professional opportunities that will allow you the flex- ibility you want or need as a parent” (Lauren Ronsse, Architectural Acoustics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln).
Don’t Become too Attached to Plans
“The only thing certain during parenting is that things are going to change,” remarks Aran Mooney (Animal Bioacoustics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution,
Woods Hole, MA), father of two. Regarding her deci- sion not to return to her tenure-track job after the birth of her son, Lauren Ronsse recalls, “This was not the plan and was the hardest decision I had made in my profes- sional career to date. I knew I wanted more time with my son than a full-time job would allow, but this was the first time that I had not prioritized my career, and I did not know what the next steps would be for me pro- fessionally. I just knew that I had to do it for myself and for my family.” Jazmin Myres (Signal Processing, Naval Air Systems Command) had a different experience, “I grew up planning to be a full-time mother but was always incredibly driven and passionate about school and work. This resulted in serious cognitive dissonance when preg- nant with my first child as I realized that my planned path (staying home) did not align with my personality or natural talents. With my supportive husband, we sac- rificed financially to each take unpaid time off when our children were born, and I negotiated fiercely to secure a part-time schedule for the first few years. I love my family, and I love having a career.”
Try to Focus on the Present
Although uncertainty is unpleasant, the time children are young is short. Marcia Isakson (Underwater Acoustics, Applied Research Laboratories, UT at Austin), who worked part-time until her children were teenagers, reflects, “Look- ing back, I don’t think that my decision to work part-time affected my career as much as I thought it might. I believe
this is due to the forward-thinking policy at my lab coupled with my being in a nontenure track position. Now that my kids are grown, I am really glad that I had the ability to make the choices I did when they were young.”
Respect All Decisions
The needs of individual children and parents and overall family situations are different. Decisions to continue working full-time and decisions to modify your sched- ule should both be supported; all paths come with difficulties. “It is difficult to scratch the surface on the tactical reality of this topic (maternity leave, pumping breast milk, childcare costs, spousal support, schedul- ing, and on and on) let alone the emotional depth. My husband and I have prayed and wept and cheered and grown and loved because of our decision to both work after our children were born” (Jazmin Myres). “Despite initially planning to return to work full-time after three months, I have continued on four years later in a soft- money position part-time because I wanted more time with my son. This is despite the massive challenge it has been to maintain soft-money cash flow, complete administrative tasks, mentor students, and do research in the hours that I manage to piecemeal together when my son is in some form of childcare or sleeping” (Alison Stimpert, Animal Bioacoustics, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, Moss Landing, CA).
Encourage Family Friendly Practices
Everyone can encourage family friendly practices that rec- ognize the benefits of investing in our children. “Maternity, as well as paternity leave, should be made more accessi- ble and not be seen as a hindrance towards success in a scientific career” (Zhenia Zabolotskaya). In addition to institutional policies, Ilene Busch-Vishniac recommends that “some concrete steps for improving things for working parents are to set a more reasonable expectation than the work 24/7 model. Make it more expected that it is OK to preserve family time, and train managers and bosses to be more careful about when they send emails to respect time that employees don’t have to be working.”
Many ASA members over the years have worked hard to formalize family friendly policies at different institutions, but more can be done. “Don’t be afraid to be that squeaky wheel at your institution or university. Speak up for your needs, and when you become that mentor (no longer the mentee), it’s probably even more important to speak up
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