Dad in academia

On September 5th, my wife gave birth to a beautiful girl. On that day, our lifes went into a new, happier, fuller and much muore complicated phase: that of parenthood.


Me and the little thing that turned my life upside down

From one day to the next, I became a ‘dad in academia’. And from that day, the search was one: how to balance the sometimes more-than-full-time job that is being a postdoctoral researcher with the more-than-full-time job of being a loving dad. But there I am lucky, as my job as a postdoc – and my colleagues – allow me that one wonderful thing: flexibility.

Thanks to this, I could shift around my working hours, keeping in mind what the baby wanted, needed and deserved. That is a privilege, it truly is, but also one of the greatest things about a job in academia: most of the time it doesn’t matter too much when and where you work, as long as the work gets done.

So I dove into the data to see how that looks, the working life of a dad in academia.

Figure 1

My work schedule (minutiously tracked using the Timeular app) from September 5th, Zoyla’s birthday, till today, with each day a column. Pink colors indicate work that I did during working hours (of a ‘normal’ 9 to 5). The blue boxes are for work done outside these hours. Grey zones represent the weekends, horizontal black lines delineate the lunch break (often with colleagues).  Graph made with ggplot and (due to time limitations, I’m a working dad after all) some cheating in Inkscape. 

It looks like I did get the job done. Even though the first two weeks of her little life where spend in the hospital (she had to recover from a bacterial infection), the last two weeks were mostly spend moving into our own house, and I invested a great deal of time lowering the workload of the mother, I did still manage to be a fulltime scientist.


Explaining the magic of R to the baby. She prefers ArcGIS, it’s more colorfull.

It required quite some creativity, ranging from explaining the magic of R to a – relatively – interested 3-months-old to working standing straight with a sleeping baby in a sling. There was catching up of lost working hours in the evenings and the weekends, and profiting maximally from the early rising. There were moments of processing emails when nothing else could be done, like the boring times in the hospital when baby was kept in a different room, or in the darkest moments of the nights when the baby really really didn’t want to be in her bed.


Got the baby to sleep, so room for late night paper submission

In return, I got to experience so many precious moments of that baby growing up. Help ensuring that her mother doesn’t have to take the burden all alone, and being there with so many of the ‘firsts’ that make a parent happy.

Thanks to this academic flexibility, I never felt things getting out of control. Now, the new balance of life as a dad in academia has been found. What does remain challenging? The international travel that inevitably comes with my job. Leaving mum and baby alone for more than a day will every time tear me apart. For my next conference in Iceland, we’ll at least all go together, but many more heartbraking goodbyes will come.

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2 Responses to Dad in academia

  1. I love the photos of you and your beautiful baby. Having a baby is a second job, but we parents manage to get through it. My three babies are all graduated and working. Enjoy every moment.

  2. Pam says:

    Beautiful loving photos! Great! Best wishes to you and your family.

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