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.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A little perspective

I really appreciate your comments on my last post about answering the question, "What do you do?". I had a chance to try a new approach last weekend. My daughter had a playdate, and I had never met the Mom before. We were talking and eventually we got to the question. This time I responded by saying that I was a research scientist. I described my research in a few sentences (the kind of description I usually give to my family) and tried to enthuse with confidence and excitement. This appeared to work. I did get the usual 'look,' but this time instead of 'you must be so smart.' I got a different response: 'wow, my life is really boring compared to yours.' This made me think about the whole situation in a new light. It's not that they are afraid of me, or that I am uninteresting. It appears that others are afraid I won't like them. This makes me feel a little better and helps me understand how to approach the situation.

If there is one thing I've had a lot of this week, it is perspective. I have been working on a grant application for new faculty members. I have been having the hardest time with it. At first I felt bad about my lack of enthusiasm, what does that say about my future career if I can't even find the energy to put my ideas down to paper? Worst part is I am supposed to sum up my entire career plan (and teaching plans) in 8 pages and I find this very near impossible. I have too many ideas and too much to say. Seems I am not the only one with this predicament as young female scientist appears to be in a similar situation.

Yesterday, in a fit of frustration I took off for the gym. On my way there I was pulling up to a stop sign when I saw a tractor-trailer crush a car in front of me. Amazingly, the occupant appeared unhurt (the crushing appeared to be on the side opposite where she was sitting). I stopped to help and summoned the police (who were next door making a traffic stop). Then, I got back into the car and continued onto the gym. When I got to the gym, an aerobics instructor was nursing her 2 mo old baby in the locker room. And my heart just melted. Between the threat of death and the promise of life my grant application seemed a really minor problem.

After my work out, I went back to work and started over. I rewrote the entire beginning and retooled a couple of my research areas. The enthusiasm for my work is returning and I am back on track. Sometimes I think we just need a little perspective.


At 12:19 AM , Anonymous Dr. Shellie said...

Don't worry-- grant applications aren't supposed to be something you just sit down and write. They are supposed to be kind of painful. But hopefully the process is actually helpful and helps define your goals more clearly to yourself. I just had to do a one-page version of this and suffered for a week. But in the end my ideas are a lot clearer.


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