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Having It All: Managing Family and Work for Women in STEM

After fully committing ourselves to our work, no rx check deciding to have a family can feel like throwing a wrench into the machine we have been sweating to get up and running smoothly. The amount of planning, check dedication, and organization it takes to establish a career is overwhelming. Piling the responsibility of having a family on top of that can create madness. Women can really have it all, no rx though, with some careful planning, support, and flexibility.


Before you make the decision to start a family, talk or read about other women who have lived through it successfully. Reach out to your mentor and a trusted colleague and seek their advice and council. It can be very helpful to hear from someone who has experienced firsthand what you are about to embark on.


A key component to balancing family and work is a supportive relationship with your spouse. It is imperative that you both have the same ideas on how things will work once a child comes into the picture. This particularly relates to the big issues such as maintaining a full-time job and arranging childcare while you are working.


You need to discuss in advance what your desires and plans are and see that they align. You need to ask yourselves, for example, who will stay home with the child when it is ill, how much time each of you will take for maternity and paternity leave, and what child care arrangements you are both comfortable with when you go back to work. If you and your spouse are on the same page and he supports your decisions, you will find stability among the chaos that comes with juggling a full-time career and family.


Once the baby arrives you will find that your needs are being pushed more and more to the bottom of the list. As a working mom, you may feel as though there simply is not enough time in the day or week to engage in an activity that is just for your own well-being. The problem with that thinking is that if you don’t take care of yourself, you will be unfit for taking care of others. You have to find ways to keep yourself in tune physically and mentally if you are going to take on such a chaotic schedule.


To take care of myself I trained and started competing in half-marathons. Now I travel all over the United States and even to Germany to compete. As a family, we’ve even turned my passion into a reason to take vacations.


Finally, remember that flexibility will be the key to your ability to continue being successful in all of your endeavors, at home and at work. As children age, their needs and schedules change, which inevitably changes the parents’ schedules. The only skill that can combat their ever-changing demands is the ability to be flexible.


Karen Purcell

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