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.