July 31, 2018, by Simon Langley-Evans

A muddled existence: Life as an early career teaching academic with 2 young children

For those who don’t know me, I am now 7 months into life as a teaching academic for Biotechnology, having made the switch from postdoc life, and can often be found in office C08 of BABs building. Having been inspired by others in the school to speak openly about our “whole” lives and to highlight the need for effective work-life balance, I have decided to share a bit (maybe too much) about myself, and to offer a little insight of my “typical” working days.

The truth is my life doesn’t really consist of “typical” days, and instead is a rather erratic and muddled existence that combines family life and work. I have two fantastic young children, a son who is 6 (Fraser) and a daughter who is 3 (Erica), and my long-suffering husband (Iain) also works full-time, not in academia. We now pretty equally share parenthood and home responsibilities, which seems to be a good recipe for us, having trialled mum-at-home, dad-at-home, mum part-time set-ups during various stages of our parenting lives so far. Iain works different shifts week to week, and my son has various after-school activities, so where possible I try to fit work around them. Some days I will rise early and race Claire Jansons to the front parking space outside BABs, and other days I won’t be seen till nearer 10 am, or even at all if I am working from home. And of course, there are many other events to frequently fit in a normal working week: dr and dentist appointments, school plays, sports day, parents evenings etc. The result is I am fairly active on my edays account (sorry Tim Foster), and it isn’t unusual for me to work at 7 am or at 11 pm. The flexibility in academia is amazing for me and my family, and I just hope that my colleagues understand and accept this way of working.

So how am I finding life as a teaching academic? Well I am very much still learning what this life is all about, and how to cope with some of the challenges that it brings. So far I’ve found this job to include a wonderful variety of tasks, from teaching design and delivery (lectures, practicals, seminars, research projects etc.), to lots of different assessments, admin duties, teaching development courses, and the list goes on. It’s fair to say I am always learning and there is no danger of me getting bored! And as a snapshot, I have learnt the following: need to develop new teaching material very quickly, mustn’t cram too much information on my slides, loads of emails, loads of deadlines, and many forms, the poorer pieces of work are the hardest to mark, and must drink water whilst lecturing to avoid embarrassing tickly coughs.

But generally, I have surprised myself at what I can achieve with limited time, and I feel inspired and motivated to develop my teaching further, and to help drive positive change within the school. And I suppose there are some things that are fairly “typical” of my working days: I hit snooze on my phone alarm for at least 30 mins, I never leave the house with the kids “calmly”, I can frequently be found making a large cup of tea and toast/teacakes in BABs, I moan about the traffic on my M1 commute, I check my email too often, I eat dinner with my children every evening (even if it is a random concoction as I havn’t got around to doing the online shop), and I read bedtime stories every night.

So, this is me – I love my family and my job, and I am one academic striving to “have it all”.

Natalie Mack
Teaching Associate, School of Biosciences

Posted in EDI