An ode to the ‘walk and talk’

I am currently on maternity leave with baby #2. How does one manage the responsibilities of a PI while on maternity leave in the middle of a pandemic? I will not lie, it’s not easy and I don’t have it figured out. Since the beginning of 2021 though, my infant son and I have been bracing the cold Swedish winter and gone on countless social distancing walk and talks with lab members and colleagues. Almost every weekday, I layer us up to meet one of my trainees downstairs of my apartment at 10:45 in the morning. (Timing carefully optimised with nap schedule:-) From there, we walk with the stroller and we talk.

As it turns out, this meeting format is brilliant. Not only do I get my exercise and my son a nap in his stroller, I truly cherish connecting with my lab members face to face. All due respect to zoom meetings, I think we are all craving some real human interaction in the age of Covid19. Oh and did I mention face to face adult conversation about exciting projects wholly unrelated to diapers, baby naps and Daniel the Tiger? Jokes aside, babies or not, the walk and talks have surprised me. The elixir of fresh air and the slow but steady motion of walking can do magic for creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. My experience is that we have been able to plan experiments, trouble shoot problems, and crystallise ideas and concepts for manuscripts more efficiently and enjoyably than in an oxygen sparse, fluorescent-lit, caffeine filled office room setting. Who knew?!

As the Swedish saying goes, there is no bad weather only bad clothes. We have been pushing the stroller through thick and thin slush, ice, and snow around town and only twice was I worried that my trainee was getting borderline hypothermic. These meetings have become a staple of my daily routine and provided the structure and health benefits, both mental and physical, that many of us are in dire need of in these times of social distancing.

I know that life will speed up once I return to work but I truly hope the walk and talks will outlive both my maternity leave and the pandemic!