Women in Science
Balancing home and work life
Video clip: Alison finds her work exciting but sometimes feels a bit ‘burnt out’. She spends time with her children, sings in a choir on Fridays and tries to keep weekends work free. She also takes regular holidays.
So what about your work-life balance now? We talked a bit about how difficult it was when you had little children, babies.
And you’ve said a little bit, you’ve touched a little bit about how difficult it is now. Do you want to say any more about that?
It’s still difficult. In some ways it’s exciting. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie I think so I quite like this sort of, ‘Oh I’ve got to do this, and then I’ve got to do this, and then I’ve got to do that.’ I’m never bored. It’s not boring. But it’s exhausting. And I do feel burnt out sometimes.
I do just feel totally exhausted because I have a very full day. I drop my youngest daughter at school on the way to work, so I always get here about 9, on the dot of 9 almost. If there’s a meeting at 8.30 that’s troublesome for me because it means I have to make an alternative arrangement. So that’s not, that’s not straightforward.
I’m very focussed these days. When I was a post-doc and a graduate student I used to spend time chatting with people, and actually also doing some good things, talking about science, spending a lot more time reading. I don’t really have time for that in the way I would like to now. I work through the day. If I’m picking my youngest daughter up from after-school club I leave at 5.40 so I can pick her up. I cycle home, reaching home about 6. By which time my eldest daughter is home and between 6 and 9 it’s all about eating, chatting to the children, doing homework, making sure they’re okay, making sure they’re ready for the next day.
And then most evenings at 9 I will then think, ‘Right what was I in the middle of when I left work?’ And I will on average spend an hour and a half at that point in the day on catching up with an email conversation I was in the middle of, a bit of admin that just really needs doing, you know, often it’s teaching things that get done then. I’ll mark. I’ll organise tutorials. I’ll fill in tutorial reports. I’ll do that kind of stuff that I don’t find intellectually so demanding. I’ll arrange meetings. I’ll do that kind of thing at that time of the evening. And I would do that between Monday and Thursday. Friday I, I go and sing in a choir, that’s my ‘Me’ time for the week. And I try to keep the weekends work free. So I really try hard not to spend time checking my email and, and doing things at the weekend, although this is not always successful.
A busy life though.
It’s a very busy life. And the weekend is all about swimming lessons and ballet lessons, and the children do get very upset if I am obviously doing email on my computer at the weekend. So I really try not to do that. And we do take regular holidays, that’s very important. So we try to go away at half terms and I try to take you know a good chunk of time off at Christmas and in the summer I’ll usually take three weeks off.