... Or, Making it "Worth it"
The past year has been a real journey for me, not just in the obvious ways (becoming a mother), but also in examining what I want for myself and my career.
As I have discussed countless times on this blog, I'm not really cut out to be a bench scientist. I think I've known this since my second year of grad school. I love learning, I love thinking about science, I just don't love the day-to-day slog of bench work. But dropping out of grad school is a pretty terrifying thing to do, and I just... couldn't. My own sense of pride and self-worth would have suffered a fatal blow if I had. Which is a terrible reason to spend 5 years doing anything, but there it is.
At the end of my PhD, I was stuck with the classic two body problem. Husband had 2-3 years left till he would be done with his post-doc here in Dissertation City. So I took a post-doc position here. "It's just temporary," I thought "and I'll find a new career once Husband lands his tenure track job."
Then we had the Bean.
I don't think there's any way to anticipate the raw unfettered emotion of giving birth to your first child, or the way that it will change you. I spent three glorious months on maternity leave with the Bean, and then returned to my post-doc.
When I first went back to work, I was... well, I was angry. I mean really darn angry. Don't ask me at what or who or exactly why, but I was angry. It just didn't feel right going back to work, to a job I was barely happy with, and paying someone else to be with my beautiful child. Difficult doesn't even begin to describe how hard this was.
Over the past year, I have gone from being angry about returning to work to being grateful. Motherhood can be all-consuming, and it's easy to lose yourself entirely to the needs of your child. Even though some days I'd much rather take Bean to the zoo than go to work, I'm generally really grateful to have time each week where I am an independent human being again.
That being said, it still doesn't feel right that I'm leaving the Bean each day to slog away at a job that most days makes me pretty unhappy.
Before I think it would have been too much for me to actually contemplate leaving the bench for good. After all, it's been 6 years since I realized that bench work wasn't right for me, and yet here I am. But having the Bean has really made me re-evaluate my priorities. And I'm just not going to settle for a job that makes me unhappy. If I'm going to be away from the Bean, I have to make that time count. I want a career that makes the time away from her "worth it".
I don't know when, but someday very soon, I'm going to take the leap. I'm going to do the work, and find the courage, to change my career for the better.*
*"Better" according to my standards!