A Slower Track

Posted on January 15, 2009

Mary C. Blehar (bio) talks about family responsibilities and her career trajectory.


I don't know if I was maybe a generation too soon in terms of flexibility but when I was making a decision as to where I was going to be looking for work, I had to consider my husband's employment. So I was constrained geographically, to the Washington, DC area, which actually wasn't exactly a huge constraint, since I had a lot of options in the government, but that was a constraint.

Then, I think in my early career choices, one of my first positions was that of what they now call Scientific Review Administrators. This was a position that played to my organizational strengths and skills. It was predictable. I knew the pace of work and it also allowed me to manage my family responsibilities quite well, because I knew exactly what my time demands were going to be and, needless to say, I had some very good household help. But those things sort of constrained me when my children were young and then about, I would say when they were, perhaps in grade school, I began to get my own, more of my own voice, professionally and I was able to develop my professional and research interests more fully, again. So, there was a slight, it wasn't leaving my career behind but I definitely think I went on a slower track for a few years.

Well, I think life involves a series of choices and it is a choice that you have to negotiate, obviously, with your partner and it's something that may temporarily affect some of the flexibility that you have in pursuing an academic career. It doesn't have to so much but essential to that is having a partner with whom you've negotiated a contract for help and also having a support system in place to help you through your career and deciding what your priorities are. But I don't think you have to step out of academics any more than you have to step out of any position.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2008 Leadership Training Institute in Bethesda, MD.


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