Posts Tagged ‘balance’

On International Women’s Day, free me from ‘should’

In March 2016 on March 8, 2016 at 1:03 pm


Sarah: ‘Should’. What a terrible word, huh.

You should be eating more greens.

You should get more sleep.

You should exercise more.

All these ‘shoulds’ haunt me! And maybe you as well. Many of us aim to live a life shaped by evidence and best practise.

Research tells us that a healthy body needs regular exercise, plenty of vegetables and fruit, minimal processed carbohydrates and 8 hours sleep a night.

Psychological and pedagogical studies report on best approaches for guiding literacy, optimal amounts of exercise and screen time for children, improving resilience, and managing homework and chores.

Mental health resources compile evidence on juggling the demands of family, work and other commitments, and the need for downtime.

All up, sometimes life feels like a constant battle between all the shoulds.

It would actually be a hell of a lot easier to eat fish and chips every night. To have the TV on from sun-up ’til sun-down. To dump gym memberships and early morning sports practises. To let the kids order their lunch every day.

We all know that’s not ideal. But for goodness sake, let’s also feel OK about offloading a few ‘shoulds’ every now and again.

So today is International Woman’s Day. To celebrate, I’m having a break from a few ‘shoulds’.

You should too.

[image thanks to]


The real reason paleo irks me

In March 2015 on March 16, 2015 at 9:53 pm


Sarah: You know, I’ve just worked out the real reason Pete Evan’s paleo movement irks me.

It’s not the failed release of his book which apparently recommends bone broth as a formula-substitute for babies who aren’t able to breast-feed. It’s not the endless stories of reformed lives and diet-induced rescue from every manner of illness that appear on his Facebook page. It’s not his switch to eating and raving about sugary desserts with each new well-paid season of MKR.

What really bugs me is that it’s making me feel inadequate.

Inadequate because on the odd occasion that I cook Italian, I don’t make almond pizza dough. Inadequate because I’d rather eat a piece of French brie every fortnight or so, as opposed to cheese made from macadamia, lemon juice and Himalayan sea salt. Inadequate because I don’t skip gleefully down a sun-drenched beach and revel in ‘moving my body everyday’. Inadequate because I actually enjoy eating raw, hand-ground organic grains for breakfast. They’re raw and hand-ground and organic, for goodness sake!

I eat lots of veges. I avoid junk food most of the time. I do lots of exercise. I know sugar is bad for me, but I still eat it occasionally. I’m happy with that.

So bugger off Pete. You can have your paleo. I’ll just stick with eating and living like a well-informed and slightly flawed 21st century Homo sapien.

Part time everything

In March 2014 on March 6, 2014 at 9:04 am

kirsti ants in vial text

Kirsti: All that talk of time hasn’t left me. In fact, that Sarah blogged about time and then revisited her blogging every day for AN ENTIRE YEAR (a feat that I think is super-human by the way) reminded me of so many discussions I’ve had with friends and colleagues (mostly female, but not all) about choosing to work PART TIME. Whether it was after we’d had kids, or just because there are other things in our lives we want to pursue (unpaid – I know, crazy), choosing to work part time comes with both joys and curses.

I’m a passionate women in science advocate.

But I’m actually not talking about just scientists or related to science jobs here either. I’m talking generally. Because going part time has similar drawbacks and benefits in nearly every job, it’s just that in science the drawbacks seemed to be magnified by what feels like 2000 times, and often have serious consequences for future employment.

I decided to work part time after having my daughter, nearly 7 years ago. Before motherhood, I was a fairly ambitious researcher and assumed I would return to part time, then probably full time research within a year of giving birth, and naturally go on to have a spectacularly productive research career and adventure all around the world doing ant ecology on magnificent tropical islands……


When missy moo arrived, apart from all the normal REALLY HARD parts of having a baby and trying to juggle that with RIDICULOUS commitments to an academic world I would return to, my priorities changed so monumentally, so utterly profoundly that going back to full time work made me feel like I would be neglecting the most important thing that had just been given to me. My new family.

I was unprepared for my change of feeling about family. Like, totally unprepared.  And it took me quite a few years to completely honour it; to feel satisfied with ‘leaving’ research and academia per se, to live by my newfound life-balancing philosophy.

In that time however, I have fought hard alongside women for flexibility, acknowledgement and creative spaces where women can be full time, part time, any time, and for that to be recognised as VALUABLE, REAL and SUSTAINABLE in academic institutions and other careers. I have learnt to be persistent and consistent in my message over time. I have cried over time for the injustices that happen to brilliant women in the face of linear and traditional expectations.

And I have smiled, admired and celebrated the amazing successes where they exist.

Right now though, I am proud to be a part time everything. I want my life to be full with things that fulfil me, that connect my family and heal others and the world. I’ve discovered that doesn’t happen so well when you work full time on one thing. So here I am, part time researcher, pat time teachers, part time communicator, part time gymnast, part time photographer…….(here’s not where you bring up that I’m a part time mum)…

But you know what? I REEAALLLYY want to go look at those ants under the microscope, but I won’t’ be back at work until next week. CURSES.

If you’re interested in the part time thing in science/academia, I’d recommend you read this great article by Kate O’Brien and Karen Hapgood. They used ecosystem modelling to show how women are driven out of research. Brilliant!

Day 342. Playing on the see-saw

In July 2013 on July 19, 2013 at 10:58 am


I like to play on the see-saw.

I sit on one end, and encourage others to join me. We mess about, adding and subtracting children and toys, varying the ends at which we sit, and our positions along the axis.

It wobbles up and down, occasionally hitting the ground hard, sometimes sending us sky high but usually hovering at or around the horizontal position.

My life feels like that.

Having learnt that I operate best mentally and intellectually when I’m busy, I have loaded up my life see-saw. Three  children, part-time work, various unpaid work-like activities (which I love), exercise, other hobbies, a social life and shoe shopping.

It’s a precarious balance that works most of the time. We wobble around parallel to the ground and are happy.

Sometimes a big fat monster climbs onto one end of our see saw. The creature is an illness, an extra work deadline or an emotional challenge for a parent or child.


We hit the ground. We try not to panic. We rearrange the various weights at each end of the see-saw. Sometimes, the balance tips the other way.

But eventually, we’re back on even ground again.

I’m scared what might happen when a really big challenge rocks my world. But I’ll deal with that when it comes, I guess.

[image thanks to kIdonnelly on flickr]

Day 21. Fathers Day

In September 2012 on September 2, 2012 at 4:15 pm

On a beautiful spring, Fathers’ Day Sunday, is it appropriate to talk about work/life balance?

It’s something we all grapple with on a constant basis. A recent study showed that research scientists in particular find it hard to delineate the work and leisure times in their lives – scientists in America, Germany and China were all found to regularly work late into weekday nights, and on weekends. The authors concluded that in order to meet the intense pressure and competitive demands put on them, scientists are,

“Deprioritizing their hobbies, leisure activities, and regular exercises, which negatively influenced their mental and physical health.”

Presumably family time also suffers.

Blogger and scientist Samuel Arbesman at Wired thinks we need to create new structures that can allow for a more balanced life for scientists, including the creation of careers that are not attached to a specific institute, or which allow scholars to contribute less than a full working week to a research dilemma.

Kind of like freelancing, but in research science.

The thing I like about freelancing is that I control how I prioritise my time. Some weeks, when there’s a big deadline, work steals the majority of my daylight (and sometimes night time) hours. Other periods I focus on family and household chores.

It doesn’t make the chores any less tedious. But at least everyone has clean underwear.

[photo credit to pussinboots on flickr]