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.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I promise I'm not dead

I realize I haven't posted in a while, and I want to reassure you all that I am not dead. I have had a rather tough month or so though. I had antibiotic resistant step and spent one week denying I was sick, one week on antibiotics that didn't work, a few days @ a conference with no antibiotics, and a week and half on antibiotics that do work. On top of all that, my computer died, twice. I ended up having to rebuild the system and start over. I have been installing software all week and am just getting back into the swing of things.

When I first started to get sick there were two weeks left in my class. I taught it anyway even though I was running a fever and could barely stand up without passing out. Finals were rough. I couldn't estimate the proper length because I was so sick that everything was taking longer than normal. My exam ended up being too long, but I curved it and it all worked out okay. The day I posted grades I was running 102 F and almost passed out twice. I had to come in though because the exams were here and I needed to talk to my TAs. That was also the day of our advisory committee meeting, but I managed to convince my chair that it would be a really bad idea for me to attend. During this time, I also did two oral candidacy exams (what was I thinking!).

After finals, I went to a two day conference. It was horrible. I don't know why I didn't cancel, but I was an invited speaker and I didn't think about sending a student instead or any of my other options. I pretty much spent all my time nearly passed out in my hotel room, venturing out for the required talks and lunches (etc.). After the conference, I spent two weeks on my sofa (with my new meds).

Although this sounds completely horrible (and I guess it was), two good things came out of it.

(1) After spending two weeks on a sofa not going into work and not responding to any emails (my computer had died by this time), I discovered that life can proceed without me @ work! Although there were plenty of things that I probably should have done, but didn't, my students seemed to get on okay and my colleagues weren't really bothered.

(2) I spent my time listening to the Twilight books on tape series and it was amazing! Actually, this led me to a deeper realization, which is that I work too hard. Since I got better, I have been more careful about the obligations that I accept. I have been saying no a lot, and I have been making more time for myself.

Note that I said myself and not my family or personal life. This whole incident made me realize that I spend too much time trying to please others. I work hard at my job and try hard to make my students happy (research and classroom), to make my chair happy, to make my colleagues happy. I also try hard at home. I work hard to be a good wife and mother, despite all the help that I have, I spend most of my time doing tasks and chores. I have very little time to myself, for my own pleasure, and two weeks on the sofa doing something that was completely pleasurable and not an obligation was definitely what I needed.

And in the midst of all this misery (and self-discovery)....I got an NSF grant funded! So life is...good.


At 10:59 AM , Blogger ScienceWoman said...

Congratulations on the self discovery and the grant funding! Now try to hold "time for myself" in mind when the exciting data start to pour in.

At 2:02 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hon -- take care of yourself and your health! I spent too many years trying to work through illnesses, oftentimes making myself sicker in the process. Both myself and a collaborator happened to be pregnant while putting a large grant proposal together a few years ago. We both worked ourselves to the point of exhaustion and ended up in the hospital right before the grant deadline, unable to do much of anything. Now I try to take a day off when I start to feel unwell, to try and avoid the week being stuck on the couch or in bed. It seems impossible, but as you say, things at work will go on without you.

And CONGRATULATIONS on the NSF grant!! My dean told me once that I should take the weekend off after every grant that gets funded. We focus so much on the failures that we should allow ourselves some time to savor the successes.

At 4:54 PM , Anonymous Cathy said...

Congratulations! The world went on and the light at the end of the tunnel was bright and beautiful! The topic of worrying too much about everybody else came up at Little League practice last night. I was chatting with one of the women, as I often do. She gets pregnant if her husband looks at her and has 4 young boys. We were noting that son number three is very independent, apparently because she was too busy with numbers one and two and then four. He never got a lot of attention and seems quite well adjusted. I'm trying to pay less attention to mine as a result! Have fun doing all of that research.

At 9:12 AM , Blogger kestrel said...

Nothing like the feeling of getting a research grant, makes life bearable again. I am smiling cos I just received funding for another 3 years. I only have one daughter and a dog, the husband takes care of himself. How do you manage?

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