Monday, April 28, 2008

Science does not run on a parents schedule...

A few weeks ago I was setting up a restriction digest and found, to my shock and horror, that we did not have the enzyme I needed. Undeterred, I set out to roam the building in an attempt to find someone who could spare just a microliter of enzyme.

But, it was 8:00 in the morning. I found the labs on every floor empty. At 8:00 in the morning I could only find 4 people at the bench, myself included. Who were those 4 people? All of them were parents of young children.

In my experience, the flexible schedule that academic science so proudly boasts tends to mean that the workday starts around 10:00 a.m. I don't think this is the norm in other professions, but in the lab I have always been the "early" person when getting into lab at 8:30. Now that my hours are set according to the hours of Bean's daycare, I am a very early person indeed, hitting the bench around 7:30 (traffic permitting).

In general, I like this. I like having a couple of hours to myself in the morning (though I'm not entirely alone, as our technician is mother to a 2-year-old). I can get things started without distraction, I get first dibs on the PCR machine, and I don't have to talk to much of anyone before my second cup of coffee. But there's a down side to working the early schedule.

Again, since my hours are set by Bean's daycare, I leave lab around 4:00. The departmental seminars and the departments research reports are all scheduled for 3:30. So I can never attend. This SUCKS. In addition, since my bosses adhere to the "real scientists don't work before 10:00" schedule, I often end up feeling like a slacker when I walk out of lab at 4:00.

I also work with an undergraduate student, and as you might imagine, my early schedule isn't exactly her cup of tea. So we end up pressed for time as I try to work with her in the limited hours that our schedules overlap.

Though in theory we'll have a little more freedom with our schedules once Bean moves up to the toddler room next week (the toddler room is open for longer hours), I'm not sure I'm really willing to change. The early schedule also means less time wasted sitting in traffic, and I like having daylight to enjoy some outdoor time with Bean after work.

Maybe everyone else should start getting up at 5:00 like me. Yes, that seems like a better solution.

7 comments:

Amanda said...

It seems strange to me that your undergrad dictates her own schedule. When I was an undergrad (and we had to walk uphill both ways), I was told that it was impolite to expect a more senior scientist (grad student, post-doc, PI) to work around my schedule-- especially if I had the option of coming in earlier. But then again, my undergrad PI got into work at around 6:30am.

EcoGeoFemme said...

I also get in and leave earlier than almost everyone else in my lab, mostly to miss traffic and also because of my carpool buddy's childcare. But I really, really like having my free time in one big block in the evening. If you go in late, your free time is split between before work and after work.

Candid Engineer said...

In my lab, too, nobody else shows up until maybe 10:30. Like you, I can get so much done before anyone else shows up. It's hard for me to get up before 7 or 7:30 though. I can't imagine how productive I would be if I got up at 5 and got into the lab by 6:30 (I don't have a baby to prepare)! But you know what... I wouldn't want everyone else up with me. No extra enzymes, but the peace and quiet is nice.

Jenn said...

I was the first in the lab for a long time, getting up by 5:30, and I also loved it. The thing I didn't love is that husband (a postdoc) didn't get up with me, so he still got home around 8pm and I was ready for bed by 9:30... sure didn't leave much time to actually see each other... still, now that the sun rise is so early I'm tempted to go back to it...

Nicole said...

I hear ya on this one loud and clear. It's hard to not feel like a slacker when you leave earlier than everyone else, even though you were there and working before everyone else even got out of bed.

Amelie said...

In my lab, it works the other way round: the boss starts around 7 and leaves at 4-5. The rest of the lab arrives between 9 and 10. Seminars are usually scheduled between 9 and 12, perhaps because everything between 1 and 5 could be considered Spanish lunch time... To be honest, I have to admit I never realized it had this advantages.

TachaShaw said...

I hear you! I too arrive in the lab around 8-9 and leave every day at around 5pm. Got to get the kids by 6pm. I too feel like a slacker when I duck out the door at 5. I am currently in job search mode and am wondering if this will be detrimental in an industry job.