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How can I juggle a family and a career?

"During my second maternity leave, in order to make my return easier, I tried to maintain more connections with my project through reading and planning the next stages of my research. I also made a couple of social visits to the Department during my time off.

After having children it can feel like you are working full-time but only getting part-time results. I try to restrict reading, writing or analysis to my evenings at home, so that I can concentrate on running experiments during the day.

We are always all at home together at 6pm, so there is some time left to play and have a family dinner. We work once the kids are sleeping.

I applied for childcare as soon as I found out I was pregnant, as I knew securing a place at nursery would be crucial for my job."

Dr Louise Couton


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"Although my experience commuting had been good practice in organisational skills, it is very different working full-time whilst also being a mother, as your nights are disrupted, and doing work in evenings and weekends is much harder. Both of my children are in full-time nursery, but this option isn’t available on weekends or Bank Holidays. As a result you need to plan things a lot more.

It’s helpful that both my husband and I are researchers, as this is inherently more flexible than a 9-5 job, and means we can share the dropping off and picking up at nursery, so that the working day isn’t reduced for just one of us.

You can’t plan for your children getting ill and disrupting your childcare plans, if you don’t have family to step in. You might need to scrap an entire week of experiments, and this can have obvious set-backs for your work!"

Dr Maria Giannakou


"Before having children I always worked at weekends, but I rarely do now, although I still work at home in the evenings where possible. I feel lucky that we had children at a time when we had the flexibility and stability to have some work/life balance, but having children was still a very difficult adjustment. It’s very draining, and no one can warn you what it’s going to be like. A good thing is that having children forces you to focus on something other than your work, and can make you more efficient when you do get back to work.

My advice is to keep things in perspective, and enjoy your children while you can. You have to work hard to make an academic career happen, but that’s just it. It is hard."

Dr Chris Jiggins


"I found that having children focused me much better on my work. I think I had been drifting a bit before that. I think it's hard having a family and an academic career. Sometimes it feels as though I'm rubbish at being a mother and rubbish at my work. But on balance, it is definitely doable, and it is very rewarding when you feel you are managing things well.

Once you have children, it's hard to find time and space for yourself. I do a lot of work on the bus to and from home and I am completely ruthless at dividing my time between work and home. It's almost as if I have two identities - one for home and one for work. If I'm with the boys then I try to completely focus on them, although it's hard to resist quickly checking emails.

One really good thing about having a family is that it keeps things in perspective. When you don't achieve much at work, or you get a paper rejected or something, you can go home, get a smile and a hug, and it suddenly doesn't matter so much."

Professor Rebecca Kilner

"Take your relationships very seriously and give your marriage and children top priority. Relationships simply do need active work to be kept alive. Pretty much everyone I know struggles with the work-life balance….it’s just that some are better at keeping a calm facade than others. It is important to take charge of it though: to make time for your partner and children, and also to look after your own needs. Having a hobby really helps."

Dr Matthias Landgraf

"With the birth of our son I had to become more efficient, as you are squeezed for time, and there is no leeway in our pattern at home. The only thing that could go in my working day was tea breaks and lunches, and this hasn’t been too detrimental as I now meet my group in my office, rather than the tea room, and we have a more focussed agenda rather than informal chats.

I now have very good organisational systems in place, which I planned 6 months before our son was born. Once you touch something, finish it. i.e. if you read something then action it straight away, don’t put it down then have to read it again later.

In the beginning it’s often difficult to prioritise as you don’t know what you can and can’t ignore, and what the consequences will be – now I don’t do the things that I know aren’t important, as you can’t do everything."

Dr Andrea Manica

"The biggest challenge is getting the balance right. When you are fully involved with your children and at the same time trying to progress in your career, you often feel that you are doing neither very well, and that you have to make sacrifices. A woman’s capacity for guilt is huge. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a compromise. Both being a mother and following an academic career are full-time jobs, and totally preoccupying. You need to accept that you are going to feel stressed and guilty, but it’s how you manage it that matters."

Professor Helen Skaer