Hi it can be hard balancing work and family. I am often away from home for several months doing field work and also the synchrotron scanner I use is in France, so that means I commute between Perth and France several times a year. I am not married anymore but I have a mum to look after. Although I love my work I do make time for hobbies. I am in a choir and I am learning oil painting. I think it is important to explore and enjoy lots of different things – not just work.
Here is an observation from the industry side in the US. Late nights will depend on your function and seniority (in some cases) as Chris has mentioned. I feel that Australians work longer hours for some reason (I know when I was in Australia I worked from 7 am until 6:30 pm) and now I am working 8 am-5:30 pm. You also have to look at the work culture and what your priorities are. Lucky for me, my boss has 2 young children so I can be more flexible in not putting in long hours so I can spend time with my wife and 2 kids. My late nights is when I have to make teleconference calls with colleagues around the world.
My boss’s boss work very long hours (she is in a very senior position) and she is at the stage where her youngest child is finishing high school this year (eldest already out of university), so you can put in the long hours if needed. Recently she has cut back on her hours as well to bring family life back into balance.
At my company, we have ‘core’ hours (9 am to 3 pm) so as long as you can fit your 8 hours around those hours (so you can start earlier or end later). Some of my colleagues here leave at 3 pm so they can pick their children up from school. My work group is quite small – 3 men and 8 ladies in the lab and most of them have a good work-life balance.
In Astronomy you sometimes have to work very irregular hours, which makes life difficult time. Normally, the hours are normal daytime hours (10-6), with some people working at home in the evening (I for one work from about 9pm-12am at home). However, when people are observing on a telescope (which most Astronomers do for about two weeks total a year), they have to work long hours, usually 20 hour work days. It also requires travel to other locations like with Kate, so you are away from home. I also have a split position between Mt. Stromlo/ANU and Harvard University so I go back forth between the two on a bi-monthly basis.