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Women in Science

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Video clip: Helen is working as a GP, teaching and doing research for her DPhil which is ‘all encompassing’. But she likes the flexibility compared to the demands of clinical work.

So what about your home-work life balance at the moment? Can you talk about that a little bit?

So at the moment I don’t really have a, I don’t really, so at the moment my academic work is all encompassing so I don’t really, I don’t really observe normal days at all. My work fills all my time. So I do teaching, I have teaching commitments outside of working hours, and I do a lot of academic work outside of working hours and I find that often because my academic, my days are filled with things like meetings and teaching commitments and then obviously the time I do GP as well, I don’t then have time to actually get research done.

So I tend to do that in my own time at home sort of late at night and at the weekends. Which again is something that I’m wondering, you know when I have, I’m aware that I’ve achieved a lot so far but I’ve done that through putting in a lot of kind of extra time and I have no, you know that isn’t going to work if there are children around at home that need dinner cooking for them and things like that.

At the same time I think that’s one of the benefits of academia over, that it gives you more flexibility compared to clinical work. So for example, one of my cats this morning was limping a bit and I thought, you know I thought, “Great, I can leave early.” So after this interview I’ll go home and you know if she’s still limping it means I can take her to the vet this evening. In a clinical day there’s absolutely no way I’d be able to do that. I’d be stuck seeing patients till 6.30.

So actually it’s nice having the flexibility and then it means I can just work from home the rest of the day. So that’s much, you know that’s much nicer having that. And so maybe that does enable it to fit better round childcare and things like that and it would be good to talk to people I think that have been in a similar situation, but as I say there aren’t that many people that also try and combine it with GP as well.

Do you try to ring fence any time separate from work, or do you just tend to go home and work whenever you feel like it?

I’m really bad, I’m really, and I’m aware that I have dreadful habits in that respect. So no, I will eat my dinner by my computer. And you know finish work about like 11 o’clock and then I go to bed, and then think “Oh I can read that paper that I wanted to read while I’m going to sleep,” you know. Yeah it’s dreadful and it’s a, you know absolutely the worst example that I could possibly be setting to anybody else.

The only thing I would say is that since my husband got, he started working in London and so we’ve got a flat down in London and he lives down there during the week, and so it means I’ve got the evenings at home, which means I’ve been worse in the, in that I’d you know I’d work in the evenings. That said I have been able to do more things, so I’ve taken up running, I ran the Oxford half marathon the weekend before last, and I feel that that’s been a really good thing for my own health and fitness, and I haven’t, I wouldn’t have been able to do that had my husband still been at home because I would have felt like I was rushing home to see him. And it’s meant that I’ve been better at, both of us have been a bit better about saying, “Actually it’s the weekend, it’s the only time in the week we get to see each other, let’s not work”, or you know like as we did this weekend my husband had lots of work to do and so did I but we said you know, “Let’s not work on Saturday evening and have some time when we don’t.” So I think we are a little bit better at that since he went…

You spend a bit of time?

Since he went away because otherwise you know he’d come home at the weekend and then we’d just spend all the time sitting in different rooms.