On being a postdoc and a father

by Daniel

As a postdoc I have attended many conferences and workshops dealing with work and life balance, but I feel that the father’s role is sometimes overlooked. I would like to share my experiences on being a postdoc and a rookie father.

At the end of my second year of postdoctoral tenure at Boston Medical Center/ Boston University School of Medicine, the unexpected happened. After more than ten years of marriage, some of those trying to enlarge our family, my wife and I had a very beautiful baby girl called Emma.

Emma was born in the hospital where I trained as an internist and where my wife is a clinical oncologist in the outskirst of Barcelona (Spain). I arrived in Barcelona just in time to be present for the delivery and I managed to stay for four weeks, given that I had some vacation time left and I got two weeks of paternity leave from the Spanish Ministry of Education, who are funding my postdoctoral stay in Boston.

I forgot to mention that my wife had to go back to Spain at the end of her leave of absence, and during the 2012-2013 season we had been seing each other for a week or two every two or three months, but that is another story.

I cannot express in words the tremendous joy of having Emma, mixed with jet lag and an overwhelming sense of doing most of the things pretty wrong, at least from the Ob-gyn nurses point of view. The diapers I changed during Emma’s first night were the first diapers I had changed since my little cousin was born, and he is now in his early twenties.

Emma’s birth was just 3 weeks before the deadline of a competitive grant I wanted to apply for, with the unlikely prospect of funding my return to Spain. We stayed four days at the hospital, and back in our apartment I ended up spending many more hours in front of my laptop than I had initially wanted. I also had many more meetings with my former supervisors and the director of the research institute at the hospital where I have my main research appointment than I had originally envisioned.

Moreover, I had two manuscripts that had to be revised and resubmitted by that time. The two manuscripts finally got accepted, I still do not know about the grant, but I can say for sure that those first weeks of Emma in this world were not what my wife had expected, especially after going through most of the pregnancy on her own.

Somewhere in between diaper changes and visits from relatives and friends, I tried to spend as much quality time as possible with my wife and our newborn baby girl. As the time to go back to Boston approached, I was invaded by a sense of guilt of not having fulfilled my expectations as a father and as a husband. In addition, a big chunk of my time in Barcelona was wasted navigating through endless bureaucracy and civil servants’ breakfast breaks to get everything that Emma needed to have health insurance, a pediatrician, an I.D. and a passport to fly to the States as soon as possible.

Two weeks after I got back to Boston, my wife and daughter came to spend most of my wife’s maternity leave here. Now that we are the three of us together everything is much more straightforward… I try to get home a little earlier than I did before, and everyday the three of us enjoy a nice walk, and Emma is now a regular at many coffeeshops around Davis square.

My coworkers at BMC have been exteremely supportive, they organized a very nice baby shower with pink frosting on a cake, and they have allowed me to take time off to go to the pediatrician.

For now, dinners at restaurants are over, as well as going to the movies or to rock concerts, and a slower pace has been instituted in our career-driven life as a couple. My wife gets the heavier burden of baby-related work, and I try to be the best father that I can, while being as productive as I can during the rest of my time in Boston.


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Yolanta Kovalko posted on October 7, 2013 at 3:20 pm

What a wonderful post. Thank youfor sharing it with us. Good luck to you and your family. You are a wonderful, caring father.

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