The parallels of field work and parenting

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgA loyal reader of the blog sent me a copy of an article in the spring edition of the LTER Network News. In the article (

pdf here

), Laura Gough discusses how her research at the Toolik Lake field site in northern Alaska helped prepare her for the joys and challenges of parenting. Dr. Gough is a plant ecologist at the University of Texas at Arlington, who is currently serving as the NSF Program Director for Environmental Biology. In the article linked above, Gough stresses that acceptance of tedium, flexibility, preparation, and stopping to appreciate simple joys are the parallel skills that field scientists and parents draw upon. I like to think that me being a field scientist is making me a better parent and vice versa. Thanks to my reader for sending me the article.

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I agree that there are quite a few parallels between parenting and field work, but they are not very compatible... at least in my experience. If I had a stay at home husband, family that lived close, or lots of $ for a nanny, then it might be easier... but for me, it's damn hard to do field work with a yound child.

By soil mama (not verified) on 13 May 2009 #permalink

This is a very good point, and one I think missed in the upbeat LTER article (maybe Dr. Gough did her Arctic work before children?). For me, I've been trying to find a workable compromise between field work and parenting duties by choosing to work exclusively in field sites within an hour of home and by trying to recruit graduate students to carry out most of the work. This is not an ideal compromise because it limits the type of science I can do, and it wouldn't work for people who are graduate students, but its the best I've been able to come up with so far.