780 grams, 25 weeks and six days. Evelina Leivada’s daughter was born early. “It fit in one hand,” he says. After suffering a therapeutic abortion before the brink of 20 weeks of gestation because her life was in danger, the woman gave birth on May 1 to a premature baby affected by a chronic lung disorder. This Wednesday, her maternity leave ends, which has been longer than usual for this circumstance, but she will have to go to work full time even though she would like to take advantage of a reduction in working hours. “They make me choose between taking care of my daughter and my research career,” she laments.
Evelina investigates the cognitive effects of bilingualism at the Rovira i Virgili University of Tarragona, and does so as a contracted doctor thanks to the Ramón y Cajal scholarship, one of the most prestigious research grants from the Ministry of Science and Innovation. The duration is five years and can only be extended in certain circumstances such as time off for maternity or adoption, but not if the researchers need to take advantage of a reduction in working time or other rights available in the legislation to reconcile, such as it is your case.
The point is that if you accept the reduction in working hours for at least a few months, the hours you do not work will be lost and yes or yes the aid will end after five years. “That will imply that I will not finish the research project. If the work count is finally three or four years, by subtracting the hours of the reduction of working hours, I will not be able to achieve it,” he assures. It is not something innocuous for her or her career: “Once the contract is finished, it is expected to achieve a permanent position, and a competitive curriculum maximizes the possibilities, but how can I do it if I do not have the same possibilities of having merits as others? “, It is questioned.
The case of Evelina is particular, in fact, in the Ministry of Science and Innovation they had never encountered an analogous situation, but it reveals the gap that continues to separate care from productive work in general and especially in the world of science, based on a system that very often turns its back on parenting. “You have worked so hard for so many years, that at that moment you think it will be understood that if you need time now it is because your daughter really needs it, but it is not like that,” she says at 37 years old.
A spokeswoman for the department led by Diana Morant confirms that the Ramón y Cajal call for applications “does not contemplate right now” the reduction of working hours as a cause for extending the contract, but is open to modifying it: “The situation of this researcher forces us to rethink ourselves circumstances. We are studying it. ” Before hearing the case, says the same spokesperson, the Ministry “was already evaluating how to reinforce the equality guarantees in force in the calls” and this situation “shows us that we have to rethink it.”
The family’s first option was for Evelina to be the one to take advantage of the reduction in her working hours, although now they are reconsidering that it is her husband. Still, she claims “the right to be with my daughter as other professionals have.” The law specifies that the parents of sons or daughters with serious illnesses under 18 years of age, as is the case, can benefit from the reduction of between 50% and 99% of their working day.
The delicate situation of his daughter forces him to attend medical appointments and physical therapy sessions every week. Almost any infection that would be innocent to other children her age can cause a serious health problem for her. “At the moment the doctors have told us that we cannot meet friends or friends or other children. Nor can he go to daycare because it involves a very high risk. Now he needs us more than ever, but we don’t know what we are going to do … “, assures his mother.
The crossroads Evelina is at is not an isolated case. There are many scientists who in recent years have focused on the obstacles they encounter in their scientific careers as mothers, something that also does not happen in the same way with men. Making the demanding scope of the investigation compatible with conciliation is still pending. For Evelina it is “frustrating” to have dedicated years to science and now risk “losing the scholarship and the opportunity to build a competitive curriculum just because she wants to have the fundamental right to care for my baby.”
And it is that she has continued to dedicate herself to her project even in the most difficult moments. Also after the medical abortion she suffered before giving birth to her daughter. It was in early 2020, shortly before the COVID pandemic broke out in Spain. Her life was in danger from chorioamnionitis, a pregnancy infection, which she suffered. “Waking up without my daughter was the most difficult time of my life,” she says. She was absent for ten days because the termination of her pregnancy caused another infection, but she was not entitled to any benefit for the loss of her daughter.
“I worked hard, I published a lot, I recruited two PhD students, I made progress on the project … I had been active even when I was losing my baby, even right after I lost it,” she says. Telling it now, he assures, is a way “to break the silence” because “I have received many cases of women in the same situation” after telling your story on your blog. What it demands is a change in the legislation so that stillbirths can be a reason for maternity leave. It is something that currently It is granted if the gestation time is greater than 26 weeks of pregnancy. In his case, it was 20.
“I will not quit my job. I will not stop caring for my daughter. As long as circumstances (also known as Grandma’s invaluable help) allow me, I will do both, working as hard as I can. I hope that after years of hard work, this is enough to get a stable place at the end of my scholarship. If not, I will become a statistic, succumbing to the penalty of maternity, “he claims.