Hat tip to a reader who pointed me at this recent Chronicle article by two women scientists who tell their stories of bringing their infants along to their field research sites. And pretty hardcore stuff too. Two months in the Yukon studying snow for an assistant professor (Joan Ramage Macdonald), and peat bog research by a Ph.D. student (Maura Sullivan).
When I read the article, I felt a wave of familiarity wash over me. Minnow accompanied me in the field several times during my post-doc The story of her first field experience is here.
Below the fold, key recommendations from the Chronicle article and my own experience.
Key ingredients for a successful field experience with an infant:
- Preparedness As Ramage Macdonald told doubters: “They have babies in the Arctic, too.”
- Accommodating colleagues. My field compatriots were mostly moms themselves. Sullivan describes her advisor leading a class field trip with Sullivan’s baby on his front so that Sullivan could get some work done in the area.
- Help with childcare from a family member when it’s just not feasible to strap baby on your back. For me, it was one day of multiple short stops in miserable weather. Fish and minnow stayed in the car, while another colleague and I accomplished the field work. Sullivan’s mother accompanied her on several field excursions and took care of baby back at camp, while Sullivan waded through chest-deep muck.
- Reasonable expectations of yourself and your baby. Flexibility to change plans if needed.
- Willingness to breastfeed or pump in all sorts of strange places.Ramage Macdonald describes pumping on snow banks. Brr!
- “Evaluate the risks of potentially dangerous situations in the field. Don’t put the child or the group in danger.” (from Chronicle article, couldn’t have said it better myself)
Now, if anyone can show me a list of key ingredients for a successful field experience with a toddler, I’d be hugely grateful!