Formal and Informal Support

Posted on January 14, 2008

Jeannette R. Ickovics (bio) describes how family support structures affect career trajectory.


Balancing work and family is an issue I think every woman and man who has a career and a family needs to address and needs to think about strategically. I get asked that question a lot. I have two young children, 5 and 7, and I’ve managed to make it through the ranks here and to become a tenured professor.

I often will say the two most important factors in terms of that particular balance are formal support and informal support. On the formal support side we’ve been fortunate at being able to have a nanny and have a long-time support person in the household who can help us. Not everybody can do that, but you need to have good, reliable child care that you trust and that you know your children are being nurtured and are safe and you don’t have to worry. This is very idealistic, but it’s very important.

On the informal side it’s really having a partner who supports you and who supports your career and who recognizes that the balance is very, very important. So my husband and I every Sunday get together, we look at the week, and we say “Who’s dropping off the kids which particular days and who will be home early enough to pick them up or to relieve our caretaker?” and we actively do that. When there are business trips scheduled we, on a week-to-week and month-to-month basis, find a way to cover and to make sure that our kids come first but be able to meet our professional needs.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in September 2007.


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