What I’ve been waiting for…serious discussion of motherhood and science

I have to give my appreciation to Jenny from A Natural Scientist for having a button on her blog that linked me to other science mama blogs. Through a quick jump through a few other hyperlinks, I stumbled upon this gem of a blog called Motherhood, The Elephant in the Laboratory.

I am a lurker on a few “women in science” blogs, read some of the discussions facing women in science generated by the Scientiae Carnivals. I feel like a complete outsider, a bit of a charlatan, now that I’m no longer on the bench. In addition, most of the women in science hold academic positions and higher level educations than mine, and me, just holding a B.S. and 12 years of laboratory experience. Although, I do have something under my belt: the biology department director that hired me at Presitigious Private U told me that having the 9 years of experience in clinical laboratory work was the “equivalent” of having a master’s degree in their eyes, and they hired me for my technical strengths and my quality assurance experience. And no matter where I go next, I do have the Prestigious U’s experience to document on my CV, and no one can take that away from me.

As I contemplate the future, I find I how I feel about re-entering a science career varies from day to day. Most days I’m thrilled to be at home, teaching my girls science and math (lately my first grader wants to know multiplication, so I’m teaching her at home). Some days I’m wistful for what I’m missing. Very rarely do I have a heartbreaking ache like I used to have.

I’m also extremely grateful I’ve been able to leave be an advocate for my middle daughter. As the acting supervisor for my small laboratory at the last position I had, I would not have been able to take off to take my daughter to her 6 neuropsychological appointments last year to determine if she truly had selective mutism and rule out more worrisome concerns like autism. I’d also wouldn’t be able to spend the time to go observe her in her schools, monitor her progress, and put the special needs teacher in her place when she disregarded a significant portion of my daughter’s IEP.

My former lab director, a mother of two herself, while understanding, would only have been able tolerate so much absence. Because our laboratory was so small, each of us was critical for the moving of samples through to completion (I wore a dual hat of acting supervisor and senior bench analyst). With the growing influx of new samples, working part time was not even an option.

Unlike her, who lived close on the campus and could take off a couple of hours if she needed to attend to her children, I lived 45 minutes by car, 1.5 hours by train away in the suburbs (no the train ride didn’t take that long, the walk to the train, the wait for the train, then the ride home in the car took that long) . There would be no “oh, I’ll be gone for 2 hours and I’ll be back” for me.

I appreciated this story from Nan Padzernik on Full-Time Scientist VS. Full Time Mom. I understand that feeling very out of place. I am a content for the moment to live vicariously through other scientific mamas and read their trials and tribulations of finding work/life balance as I sip my coffee and consider whether I should get started on making a doll blanket for my girls like I made for my niece over the weekend, and how I should stop blogging/reading blogs and go make the zucchini nut bread I’ve been wanting to make the past two days with my 3.5 year old to help me and seriously considering running to the dollar store to pick up some workbooks on multiplication (my oldest daughter loves workbooks) before we have to pick up my 5 year old and 7 year old from school.

I am in the thick of parenting right now, and have no screaming desire to go back to the bench, but perhaps I will. I like reading about other women in science who face some of the same decisions I faced and see how they are dealing with the complexity of feelings that are placed upon their hearts and minds.

I feel some day I will get to the place I want to be, and I feel I will know it when I get there which is why I haven’t had a strong commitment to returning to work or school at the moment. Until then I am enjoying my time at home with my girls. I’m at a point where I crave quantity time with them, not just quality time. They are teaching me a lot about what I value at this point in my life. And that’s everything that they have to teach me about themselves and about me.

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