Scotland-based Pinay Scientist on Balancing Family, Career: ‘Forget yourself’

Balancing family and a successful career in the academe is often a difficult endeavor, especially when you’re female and a — gasp! — scientist.

Slate reported in 2013 that having a family negatively affects women’s careers, while the University of Washington has a number of papers on how women pay “higher personal costs” than men to get tenure.

Jacq Romero, a Filipina postdoc in quantum optics and information at the University of Glasgow, is a rare exemption, having managed to effectively balance mommy duties and earning her Ph.D.

“It is a combination of mindset and strategy. The first step is to really believe that it is possible for me to be wife, mother, and scientist, without feeling disadvantaged at the workplace because I have domestic responsibilities and not feel guilty that I am not giving my family my best,” she said in an e-mail interview with GMA News Online.

Forget yourself 

A Filipina based on Scotland, Romero worked hard to develop a mindset to cope with having a child while doing research.

“The timing makes sense. Raising a child gets easier as the child gets older… Professional responsibilities only grow as one climbs the academic ladder,” she wrote for Science, a magazine journal.

Romero said others may find it difficult, but by focusing on one’s family, “coping becomes much easier.”

“One of the most useful things I’ve learned is this: If you find yourself unhappy, you are probably thinking of yourself,” she said.

“With kids, it is so much easier to think less of myself. That makes my children more refreshing than exhausting,” Romero added.

Her schedule hasn’t changed since graduating, but Romero said she became more discerning with the topics she worked on or people she worked with ever since.

“There is also the fact that people tend to take you more seriously when you have a Ph.D., I feel now that I have more to give,” she said.

Your career is yours

While she admitted that having a family demands “a lot of selflessness,” Romero said it is worth it to have a “healthy amount of guilt-free ‘selfishness'” in dealing with one’s career.

“I do not feel guilty about it. I can’t really say that when I am trying to reconcile theory with experiments, I am doing that for my children. I am doing that for the “Aha!” moments: I want to understand, it makes me happy, I am doing it for me,” she said.

Looking at her work as a self-inspired venture also drives her to do better in what she described as a “very male-dominated” field.

Coming home

Romero and her husband are still Filipino citizens, and both plan on returning to the country at some point in the future.

Romero, raised in Metro Manila by her Cebuano father and Bicolano mother, hopes to come back to teaching at the National Institute of Physics (NIP) in UP-Diliman, where she took up her Master of Science.

“I had a little stint working in industry after I graduated, [but] I decided to go back to NIP, to teach while pursuing my MSc degree,” Romero said.

She said students in the Philippines were “genuinely driven and interested” and were part of the reasons behind her long-time goal to be a successful academic in the Philippines.

“I want to mentor students and see them succeed. I want to teach and bring physics closer to society, not just ‘that difficult subject which you have to hurdle’,” said Romero.

(Source: KBK, GMA News)

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