Thursday, December 04, 2008

Missing the point

Yeah, so after I re-read the blog this morning, I realized that my rambling had completely taken me away from the point. Sorry about that (not that it is anything new). My point had been that I was starting to feel back in control of things, and then daycare called about Sophie and I felt like it was all getting chaotic again.

Let me say first that I know Sophie can't control when she's sick. And I don't blame her for getting sick. And, as her mother, I WANT to be the one taking care of her when she's sick.

It's that being a working mother sucks. There, I said it. And while I don't think I'd make a very good stay-at-home mom either (just my personality), I hate being torn in opposite directions all the time.

I am working very hard in the new lab to put my best foot forward. I try to be around as much as I can, I'm trying to be super productive, and I want to not be a pain in the ass. I tried all these things in my old lab too, but that place was not rational, and it got me nowhere. Still, I really like the new lab. I like the people, I like the project, and I want to be a good student. And I feel like I owe it to my boss--she really did rescue me from a bad situation.

Still, when daycare calls, I have to go. I had to cancel a meeting with my boss and get someone else in the lab to cover my stuff for the afternoon. That sucks. And it makes me feel irresponsible to my job. Especially with not even having been in the lab for two months, I don't want to get a reputation about not being serious about my science.

And there's the rub. Am I a mom first, or a student/employee first? My heart says mom. But how do I stay a mom first and still be the ideal student? I'm the only student/postdoc in the lab that is married and has kids. My boss, who has been very understanding, does have two kids, but they are adults. And she had her kids before she went to graduate school, so the kids were older when she was doing research.

I just feel so out of control all the time. I'm trying to get lab and home organized and running smoothly. Just as I finally feel like I've got some balance, either lab or home has major drama. And then I'm back to square one.

I don't want to sound like I regret being a parent. Sophie is by far the best thing to ever happen to me, and she and Tim are the reasons I look forward to coming home every night. Even though I had to leave work and move everything around yesterday, I loved having her to myself for a few hours. She brings me such joy. And yet, I don't want to do anything that is unfair to her. A stressed out crazy woman for a mother is not what she needs. I try very hard to separate myself from stress when I am with her--I don't want her picking up on that. I don't raise my voice in front of her, ever, and I want her to see me (and Tim) as her source of comfort and security. The world is a scary place. It's my job to make it less scary for her.

And so, this is where I am. I'm surviving at this pace, somehow, and I know I'll continue to survive. I'm just scared about what happens when my schedule becomes less flexible. I don't like always being the one to stay home with her, but I understand that for now, I have the flexibility. What happens when I'm not flexible and Tim's out of town? Or in a few years, when I'm in residency, Tim's gone, and she gets sick at school? We do have family around, but they have their own jobs/travel/lives too. I'm just not sure how we handle it.

And yet, millions of working moms do. Many of them don't have the luxury of flexible jobs or family nearby. And they make it work.

I just feel like, as a woman in a male dominated field, I have to try ten times harder already to be taken seriously. Needing to leave all the time doesn't help that issue. I won't ever do anything to put Sophie in jeopardy, but I do struggle with my responsibilities on a regular basis.

Things have been stressful for the last two years--since finding out I was pregnant and then delivering a baby while working in the lab from hell, and now finally trying to get back on track and hitting road bumps on a regular basis. Someone asked me the other day when we are going to try and have another. Here's my answer: NOT FOR A LONG TIME! First off, daycare for two would cost more than our mortgage every month. Second, I'd like to have a handle on raising one before I throw another one in the mix. Tim's friends are all on the two-years-apart plan, which would put us trying NEXT MONTH. Can I tell you that there is no chance on God's green earth that we are going to do that?

I seriously wouldn't trade Sophie for anything. Part of me is proud that she gets to watch her mom be a (hopefully successful) career woman. I really do think that I personally need to have a career to feel like a complete person (not trying to start a debate here). I love medicine, but there is definitely a part of me that wishes I had chosen a more family friendly career. And I think working all day makes me cherish my time with Sophie in ways I couldn't appreciate when I was home with her all the time.

But, it's a struggle. I've talked to lots of other women in science that have families, and it sounds like it gets harder before it gets easier. I am thankful I have Tim, who is a gigantic help with Sophie in ways that I am sure many other husbands aren't. And I am thankful we have a safety net of family around. I just wish there was a way to be balanced. But I think it's a myth, honestly. I've heard working and having kids is more of a juggling act--you can devote yourself to one or the other, but not at the same time. The women who are most successful and happy in their work-life balance find ways to keep the two as separate and compartmentalized as possible. When you are at work, you work. When you are at home, you don't. It's oversimplification, I know, but I think it's worth striving for.

I am looking forward to having a few days off over the holidays. It's hard enough scheduling work and family time--personal and fun time has gone completely out the window. I'm hoping to have half a day sometime to read a book, take a walk or a bath alone, or maybe even do a hobby for a while. I think it'd recharge me. I know I've been running on fumes for a long time now--a little refueling would do me good. And they say you can't take care of other people until you take care of yourself. I feel selfish taking time off, but I'm trying to convince myself that it'll make me a better mom and a better person. Here's hoping.

For now though, I'm just going to keep juggling. Every now and again I drop the ball, but the important thing is to pick it back up and keep going. That's all I can do.

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