I am a Reader in the Astronomy group and have been working in the School since January 2011. I joined the group as a SUPA Advanced fellow, then as a lecturer since September 2011 and I gained promotion to Reader in September 2015. When I first joined the group in 2011 I was the only researcher working in my field of galaxy evolution (Simon Driver has been on long term research leave since before I arrived) and my decision to move to St Andrews puzzled some of my colleagues. My decision was motivated, however, by the inclusive and collegiate atmosphere in the School, and in particular the Astronmy group. The School was one of the only departments that I visited internationally where I felt I was warmly welcomed by all staff, and I felt sure that I would be supported as a Early Career Researcher learning to teach and, hopefully, starting a family. I have certainly not been disappointed.
My first daughter arrived in January 2015 and I took a relatively short amount of maternity leave (5 months). This was primarily due to my commitment to my research group (3 post-docs and 3 students), and the knowledge that my partner (a non-academic) wanted to take extended paternity leave when I returned to work to learn how to care for our daughter on his own. However, it is true that it was also partly motivated by the relatively short amount of paid maternity leave available from the University (4 months). On return to work, I felt that I could achieve a better work-life (work-mother!) balance working 4 days a week until the end of 2015 when my daughter would be 1. My brief request to the Head of School was accepted immediately and all arrangements were made directly with HR. This arrangement has worked so well, that I asked to extend it for another year to the end of 2016. My request was again accepted immediately by the (new) Head of School. I do not work on Fridays, unless there are exceptional circumstances when I want to be in the department, in which case I am in the fortunate position of usually being able to quickly arrange an extra day of childcare. This does mean that occasionally I miss important meetings. However, it’s always possible to provide input ahead of time if required, and catch up from colleagues afterwards. Everyone has been very understanding of my working patterns.
My daughter was exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, and has remained heavily reliant on my milk up to her first birthday, so the School provided me with a fridge. The School now owns three mini fridges for use by breastfeeding mothers, and also potentially to store medication should they be required in the future.
I can’t pretend that it’s easy getting all the work I want to do done in 4 days and only working 9-5 in order to fit in childcare drop off and pick up. My non-research workload has increased steadily in recent years, with teaching and now admin responsibilities, and this pattern is set to continue. Sometimes things just don’t get done, and unfortunately I’ve had to cut down on my coffee and lunch breaks which I previously valued as networking time with my colleagues. However, I am much more efficient now than I ever was, and I fully enjoy the opportunity I have to spend time with my family in the evenings and at weekends, very rarely working during this time.