IN HINDSIGHT

IN HINDSIGHT.

“How did you decide who does what when? And how do you know that you made the right decisions? I mean, it’s much easier in hindsight, when you look back and see that everything worked out. But what do I do now?!” Thus spoke a young man who settled by my side at a conference reception. This happens regularly at any event. My own adult children joke that I have two things written in block letters on my forehead, “I am a mother. I speak English”. As I am an educator, I also have the patience to listen to young people’s talks, and to share my own experiences. So, this young man got married recently. He got a much coveted post-doc position in the USA, and his wife has her own job and a career to think about at home in the UK. What do they do? Who sacrifices what? Naturally I know that they believe we older generation know all the answers; we also have “hindsight”. Duh. There is no such thing as hindsight. We don’t make decisions and then look back into the past to see if we were right or wrong. In real life, the past, the present and the future all blend together into one continuous flow. Once you get married you are not alone, there are always two of you in any given or sudden situation. You have to learn how to discuss stuff, and how to make compromises. When you have children, you have to weigh lots of factors before you take a step – or not. Stage one is discussion, conversation. Suppose one of you gets a position which is clearly the dream of a lifetime, while the other seems to be all settled, or get the same kind of opportunity but it is to happen in a different place. What you really need to decide is whether you should take it a step at a time, that is first go to one place then to another. Or maybe you can arrange it so that the one who gets a better option work-wise and financially takes the lead while the other one follows. Lots of research and actual work today can be done with the help of ICT. For instance, I can do my writing from anywhere and anytime. My space-time continuum is all in my iPad. When my husband got a post-doc position at Columbia University in New York and I got a similar offer from a less renowned institution, there was no question in my mind as to what we should do as a family. We went to New York with our three kids, and I have never regretted it. True, I was well aware of the fact that there would not be any coming back for me. But then, I already had my Ph.D. And there is only so much a family person can do. If I had tried to pursue an academic career simultaneously with my husband, the kid would have suffered. No, it is not always the woman who has to make such hard choices. As chance would have it, the first person I ran into at the latest Euromar conference in Aarhus, Denmark happened to be a young father who accompanied his wife. She was getting her Young Scientist Award while he took care of their eight-month-old boy. He is also a researcher, but they have arranged their schedules so that the family would not suffer. I have also seen two little girls running around; when I saw their parents I realized that I have met them a few years ago when they were pushing a stroller with those same little girls in it. Every year, there are more and more young faces at any conference, more and more women and families. It is a very beneficial experience for the children, they run around freely unconsciously imbibing the whole unique academic atmosphere; they feel at home among the posters, they are not bothered by the abundance of scientific talk above their heads. These families are a great example for those young scientists who cannot envision the family, babies and career in their nearest future. When they see that many other people in their field manage it, they start thinking that they can do it too. Where there is a will there is a way!

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