First, some background about me as I think it is relevant. I’ve been a PI for 10 years, and I am at my second university since becoming faculty (the move was post-tenure). For the most part I have been NIH funded since my post-doc. I still consider myself relatively young at 43, and I have 4 kids spanning from high school to preschool. My wife is a full time 6th and 7th grade teacher. In addition to lab stuff, I also direct a graduate program and sit on a multitude of committees.
Now, I have a small confession. I do not work 80 hour weeks in the lab. My time actually at the university is more like 45 hours. Like most of us I would guess, I get lots of bits and pieces done while I am at home as well. This includes emails, reading papers, and occasionally I will VPN into my office computer and do real work such as writing grants. However, I spend most of my time on nights and weekends with my family. This is a priority for me. When I work on the weekends, I bring my kids to the office. They love it, and we usually head to the zoo (walking distance) or a nearby shopping district or other attraction in the city. My job allows me the flexibility to stay home with sick kids, and I often come home a little early to cook dinner. I go to dance/gymnastics/recitals usually without fail. Of course near grant deadlines and other times of year I may work an 80 hour week, but that is rare. Similarly, I allow my staff to determine their own schedule. I also make it a point to not email them after hours.
So what is the point of this post? Science isn’t everything. Myself and many of my colleagues place family first. You can be successful running a lab and enjoy everything else life has to offer.
My wife is often spending nights and entire weekends grading papers. It amazes me that teachers are so underpaid considering how essential their job is to the future of this nation.