Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Friday, July 29, 2005

My High School Reunion: What are all the other girls doing with their lives?

The year before my son was born, I attended my high school class reunion. At the time I was finishing up my last year of grad school and interviewing for postdocs and faculty positions. I was a little nervous about going, but I figured that I was well on my way to accomplishing most of my life goals. So, I had nothing to be ashamed of.

In high school I ran with the band crowd (even though I was not strickly speaking in Band). I would not say that I was popular, but I had a tight group of friends, boys and girls, and we went out almost every weekend. Most of my friends were in the "honors" program and college bound. I have kept up fairly well with them through the years so I knew that two were journalists, one was a math teacher, one was in sales, one was a physician, and a smattering of boys became engineers or computer scientists. Most of them married, but almost none had children by the time of the reunion.

At the reunion, my two best girlfriends (my wingmen so to speak) and I started mingling and meeting with old friends. All that stuff your parents tell you about trivial high school stuff not mattering is true. Even people that I didn't like (or didn't like me) were pleased to see me at the reunion. It was really nice to see everyone, and so many of them had married and had families. It was amazing.

However one of the most striking things about the reunion was a dichotamy that came to light with each questioning.

When I asked each girl what she was up to close to 2/3 of them had the same response: I am a stay-at-home mom. I live in Keller (a suburban up-and-coming town with low cost housing). I have one child (or occasionally one with one on the way.

The other third had a different story: I attended college, then professional school (Ph.D., M.D., J.D. etc). I recently married. No children. I live out of state.

I think I was one of the only women who had both a career and a family. When I related my story I told everyone that I was in grad school, would be finishing soon, and planned to be a professor. The standard response was, "Oh, I always knew that you would do something like that." Then they would ask if I was married, and I would say yes and I have 2 year old. People seemed pretty shocked by the latter. I got a lot of wow's.

All of this left me wondering. Is life really that clear cut? Does one have to sacrifice family to start a career? or vice versa? Why did so many of these women, whom I know to be intelligent and capable decide to confine their talents to the home? It's not that I don't appreciate the stay-at-home Mom; it's just that I would like to see a happy medium, where women can contribute at work and at home.

As I continue to struggle with my own, admittedly overwhelming, situation. I ask myself can women really have it all? Can we have it all, but not at the same time? or is there another option, where we can have a little of both.

2 Comments:

At 7:47 PM , Blogger sweet_alien88 said...

Hi,

I came to your blog for the first time. As I start my grad school career this spring, I would like to express my appreciation for your writing down your experiences in form of this blog.

Looking forward to visiting often.

Regards,
Reshmi

 
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