I wrote two things, one two years ago, and one about a year ago about working hard, hours and balance. There's been lots of talk on the tweets about how hard people should work. As if should was a real thing. Here are the valuable bits (much more in each of these posts):
It's a worthwhile exercise to sit down and actually track the hours you really work. When I was in grad school a friend of a friend was a French woman (she impossibly old and chic and beautiful to me at the time), call her Martine, who had two little children, and was single by choice. Martine was doing a visiting postdoc in the US for 9 months to learn techniques. She absolutely worked only from 8 to 4. Everyone was aghast, and predicted doom and failure. But, I watched some, and talked to my friend some, and it was very clear that when Martine worked, she worked. She did had one cup of coffee at 10:30 or so in the morning. That was it. Lunch was at her desk reading. Martine did not avoid the social relationships that are part of what make a lab work, and the discussions about science. But she didn't go to the gym in the middle of the day, she didn't hang out on the lawn or play volleyball or talk about fashion or movies. She didn't surf the web, which was largely impossible as there was no web at the time.
What struck me at the time, and stayed with me these many years, was that this woman had made decisions about what was important to her, and what she was going to do, large and small scale.
Work and children and families are funny little fuckers though. If you let them, they will expand and fill every crevasse of your day and leave you with nothing. Nothing, I tell you.
We all deserve more than nothing.
..where that line between "obscene" demands and "strong" demands can be and often is drawn in many places.
The Red Queen from Alice became an acceptable model/trope in evolutionary biology visa vi Leigh Van Valen, a character if there ever was one (the link to the original publication for The Red Queen Hypothesis). The Red Queen is simply that one must run as hard one can to stay in place, as the RQ tells Alice:
“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that. -- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.
In evolutionary biology, this came to imply that if a species did not evolve, but stayed in place, it would go extinct, given that it was existing in an ever changing environment and competing with other species that were evolving.
In the cultural context of academic survival, it means that if there are fewer places (jobs or grants) than people who want them, one must run as hard as the others who also desire those ends. I am not saying this is A Good Thing, or that it is A Bad Thing. It is merely A Thing, and to a large extent, A True Thing. One's emotional response to this is, to a large extent, irrelevant. We can all commit to changing the system. We can work towards being different.
But, when you are a postdoc, or an untenured faculty, railing against this, tweeting furiously will not change the fact that if you want to succeed, you need to achieve standards. And those standards are often made in comparison to other people who are also running as hard as they can.