We all have our struggles, and not everything in life is easy. Here are a few entries from the diary of a working mother that speak of one individual’s struggles.
It happens to all of us but we always think that it is happening only to us. All of us go through certain stages of life where confusion takes over and we feel entangled. Most of the time we feel overwhelmed as we feel others are not in the same stage but then if we observe a little more we can see each one of us are dealing with the not so easy things of life… Each in their own way… Each in their own terms…
Once my father told me not to cross a road at the crossroads where 4 roads meet. He showed me how vehicles were coming from four sides and how difficult it was to judge the correct time to cross the road. He showed how some people were trying to do that and were getting frustrated and angry. We walked little further on the road and we could easily cross it.
I experienced the same when I became a mother as a Phd student. I guess any woman or man goes through this when they become parents and try to balance their lives along with a new bundle (of joy!) and the regular demands of life. Many times without much help from extended families and lots of self expectations of having a picture perfect life like those shown in the postcards.
This is also the time when I learnt that my career and my child are equal in priority for me and that as much I want to do good in my career I wouldn’t be able to do that without proper support (emotional, physical and economical) for my child.
It took some years for me to find ways around this situation. Now, 7-8 years away from the preliminary years of parenting, I could see how fragile and nervous I was at that time. I did not have a friend who could understand or listen to my worries at that time. I had only male researchers around me – married or not, parent or not, and I could not confide in them. They could not see any problem and they were publishing journal articles like anything.
Along with the tough situation, that was also my limitation – of not being able to reach out, and to try to cross the road where 4 roads (family and career) were meeting. That state of mind impacted my career and future choices/decisions to a large extent.
Today upon finding a way for myself I see so many other new mothers passing through the same phase and in similar dual state of mind.
It took me some years to accept that as much I like reading, thinking and presenting about science, I don’t look forward to the technical processing of science. I did not like the repetitiveness of the experiments that need to be performed, and the dependence on a boss for greater part of my scientific career.
I took the strong decision of spending big money to learn something related, but outside of bench science. I started learning about that new field. This time I was more careful about my choices and started to look for jobs in both fields. My ongoing research field and newly learned scientific writing field. This process enhanced my confidence and enabled me to talk with senior people from 2 different domains in the name of interviews.
There are times when we can’t pick just one path and need to keep walking on parallel roads. This can be exhausting but for me this helped.
I cannot tell you the date but it is around the time when my daughter was turning 5. We were relocating from one country to another and she was mostly accepting things positively with some mild aberrations. Seeing her handling things with a smile I could see those long lived ‘mommy-guilt’ clouds leaving me. I could feel for the first time that my daughter would survive and succeed in this world and that she could take so much change easily, more so because she was a day care goer from a very early age.
Also, one day while talking with her she told me that she did not remember that she used to cry in the mornings before leaving me for day care as a toddler (my major trigger for guilt- I realised this later) but she remembered her friends in day cares and the doll houses. From that day onward started my guilt free life as a parent and believe me that sorted many issues instantly.
I received an opportunity for further research, and I took the chance to try once more. I am glad I did go for a post-doctoral stint. Research after Phd is very different and enables us to work in independent environment. Sharpens our transferable skills like teaching, communication, and problem solving. Help us earn good money to lay a path for the next chapter of life. After availing the second chance as a researcher I was sure that I really don’t want to ‘do‘ science, but facilitate, write about it or nurture science in other ways.
I learned to take calculated risks and say ‘yes’ to opportunities which were opening new frontiers for me. I still did not learn to negotiate though. Higher education come with a baggage of ego and pride. Having taken a calculated risk and stepping into a new domain, I could not afford to keep my ego boosted. It was required to bust my ego and quickly find a niche for myself in the new domain.
I started using the skills learned in previous jobs, like attention to details and a knack to teach and train others. Sincere involvement and a mind to take new challenges came easily upon taming my ego. Ego never helps in anything. The less we have the better we are.
In the new job I soon started pouring in long hours. There were no experiments to be planned this time but there were telecons and meetings with different team members living in different time zones. I could relate to these situations from past experiences.
I started taking a different approach rather than handling them in the earlier manner, and waiting for different results. This time, I was more confident and mindful, with less expectation. I simplified things wherever possible by expressing and demanding help at home, making my daughter independent in doing simple chores. I learned to walk further up the road and avoid crossing it at the crossroads.
From previous experiences I learned that it is necessary to continue to make friends from all facets of life, from different genres of living. A childhood friend might not understand my present state of mind and a college friend might find me a bore altogether.
So I learned to make friends from the neighbourhood and on the internet. I have many blogger friends with whom I share thoughts that my sister might also find difficult to engage with. I became an active member in communities like Womens’ Web, and that my friends is absolutely essential for women.
I don’t shy anymore from discussing the lessons learnt through my journey. I share them with my colleagues who are in a similar phase as I was few years ago. I observe and learn from others who are a little ahead of me in their career. I have a good network of like minded friends to talk, argue, debate, and agree to disagree. I am always open to learn about a new domain, new roles and designations, and new models of work in each day.
My daughter keep asking me about what will I be when I grow up. She believes that just like her I will also keep growing. And isn’t that true? I understand that designations change from one year to another and from one company to another, but I have no answer to my daughter’s query. In 5 years I might have more dots in my career chart and I hope to connect them together in a solid line.
This year I proved again my theory of childhood that it takes 3 years or less for a us to accept a new city or a place. This is my third year in this city and now that I have started feeling comfortable about it, I have learned to understand its strengths and weaknesses. I have started debating with newcomers in the city, who don’t find any reason to like this city.
I was in the same page last year, today I feel home here. Having lived and left many places, I have found that only after travelling the path of newness, irritations, loneliness, reaching out, making friends, and then my brain accepts a place.
Most of our problems arise because we are unable to let go of certain memories. We sometimes become so attached and grow comforted by a thing or thought, that we try not to change that. Let the child grow, let the career flow, let the relationship mature or let the life pass by.
Change is the only constant and we need to learn to let life go slowly but surely…
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Published here earlier.
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