Thursday, January 26, 2017

Kids and Career: the Good Stuff

  • Having kids made me braver and more willing to take on something new (after all - I have to set a good example). 
  • Having kids provides a much-needed relieve from stress at work (I can't worry about work-related stuff and play 4-in-a-row at the same time), as well as perspective (things that used to be all-consuming are just a fraction of my life). 
  • Kids also made me realize the importance of a good salary and of getting fairly compensated for the amount of work put in. 

I am a scientist by training, and back in the undergrad days, my hopes included having my own lab - preferably in a big-name research institution. I didn't really think about getting married, kids, or any such nonsense.The tenure-track jobs lost their appeal 3/4 into graduate school. But that was okay - I loved working in a lab, I loved science, I was perfectly happy and content doing research in academia as a postdoc and then as a research associate. I cut down my hours from whatever crazy schedule I kept in graduate school to relatively set work days with only occasional work on the weekend. I wanted to spend time with friends, read science-unrelated books, and enjoy science-free evenings and weekends.

Then kids happened... The one thing that became progressively more important with the birth of each child was money. I was not making all that much money. Pre-kids, I could care less - I didn't have expensive tastes/hobbies. I was living happily within my means and demanding a raise felt petty and ridiculous (I did what I loved! Money was boring!).

With 3 kids - well, it is a little different. When I go to work, I feel that my time is precious - I need to use it well and then I want to be well-paid for the hard work! Especially because I want to be able to afford good-quality childcare while I am at work (higher price tag doesn't always come with best quality, but usually there is some correlation between what you pay and what you get). Then there are all these things that are not necessary, but still nice to be able to afford - travel, theater, museums, a house cleaning service, going to the shore, a house with a big yard in a quiet neighborhood with good schools.... 

I ended up doing what we call in Russia "fint ushami" (the closest English analog I can think of: an unexpected turnaround in midair). After more than 15 years of hard-core academic research, I got out of my comfort zone and got a job as a medical writer.

So here I am... I do miss lab research and academia, but... The pay is significantly better and there is the flexibility of working from home if I need to. The job is challenging, there is constantly new stuff to learn, and I like the people I work with.

If you are in a line of work that you like well enough but that is not the best fit at present - what would be the last straw? What would make you do "fint ushami?" 

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