Those of us who inhabit the science geek reaches of the interchoobs would see the title of this post making more sense if it were "Self k3rn1ng" - Dr. Kern gained some notoriety in the blogosphere and twitterverse last year when he published an exhortation to young scientists in a major cancer research journal. Dr. Kern reviled the slackers and slapdashers of today's professional scientific youth - apparently we're not working hard enough and have the temerity to ask to limit our work week to 50 or 60 hours and maybe even spend time with our families on the weekend.
I know right!
Around the same time as Dr. Kern's ill-considered and out-dated rant the journal Nature blessed us lowly wannabe's with the tales of two scientists who had "made it" in the big time despite their relative youth. They had markedly different styles of managing their labs. Although it was clear that hard work and excellence were requisite of both PIs, one made the comment that a side-effect of his success was missing out on raising his children and being a family dad. He missed their youth because he was working 27 hours/day, 370 days/year at his research. A comment left by DrugMonkey on his blog at Scientopia really stuck with me:
"Then, my friend, you have failed utterly."
I, like most of my peers, put my long hours in at the bench and I am determined to enjoy the fruits of my labors now I am "the boss". Although I will never sherk or slack off and I am still incredibly driven as a scientist (and especially that the salaries and careers of a half dozen others depend on me now), I will be an active father to my child and husband to my wife.
Right now my son is sleeping in his swing/rocker across the room from me. His mom is returning to work and I'm allowed to use paternity leave to work "part time" for a couple of weeks. My stomach is in knots because of the amount of work I (feel I) need to do. We have a major clinical trial going live in a couple weeks and there is a last minnute glich in one of the data collection systems we're supporting...I missed those meetings this morning. I have two grants I'm supposed to be helping out with, as well as a publication waiting for my attention. I'm off to the NIH this week too and I need to send a bunch of emails and connect with folks up there before I arrive. I have an IRB meeting tomorrow and I have a horrible, nagging doubt that I'm supposed to have to reviewed one of the applications being submitted (IRB approves or disapproves human subjects research. THe meetings are akin to a grant funding study section meeting, but less fun). All these things make me want to call my wife and hurry her home, make me want to open my email and study my notes. Make me consider putting the kid in the car and taking him into the office with me so I can work. Seriously...
But if I do these things, I will begin the slippery slide into failure as a father. My son needs hugs and lunch when he wakes up (any minute now from the gurgling coming from that side of the room). My wife needs the support of her husband and the freedom to keep her own career alive.
So, a blog post. Catharsis. Lunchtime!