T’is the season to celebrate motherhood!
A giant shout out to mothers everywhere!
And if you have a STEM career, you’ve got extra challenges on top of the motherhood challenge.
I read an article called Babies Versus Science today that was a rather lighthearted look at the question:
What is the effect of motherhood on a scientific career?
New perspective and altered priorities.
It’s a rather short answer to a complicated question, but it’s absolutely true.
No one gives you a road map for combining motherhood and career. And someone else’s map may not suit you. But the more women put out there, the more we can cherry pick the ideas that sit well with us.
I was lucky to see this first hand in my husband’s family. There are four siblings and each one became an engineer (all different fields of engineering!)
My oldest brother-in-law’s wife stopped working just before she had her second child.
The next sister-in-law opted for a part-time engineering position after she had her first baby.
My husband and I are the next pair and we both stayed working full-time while raising two children.
The youngest sister-in-law stayed working full-time and her husband became a stay-at-home dad.
All the options available, demonstrated in one family.
And you know what?
Every family worked out just fine. Between the four couples, we had nine children in six years.
AND THEY ALL TURNED OUT FINE!
It seems that we agonize over IF we should have children and then WHEN to have them. And once we do, we struggle with the question of career versus motherhood for the next 18 years or so.
With all sorts of angst and drama thrown in.
But, for the most part, the kids turn out fine.
In the article 4 Things I learned from My Mother Working in STEM, the author says that she learned to take responsibility for herself and her needs because her mom wasn’t always available to help her with a last-minute project. Now, she holds the time her mom did make for her even more special.
I can agree with that. I wanted my children to be raised to be independent, both in their actions and their thinking. With both my husband and I working full-time, it became mandatory for them to learn life skills. Did we still find time to support their activities? Sure we did. But we sure set an example of work ethic, too.
There are no easy answers.
That’s why the answer “new perspective and altered priorities” is so perfect.
No woman knows ahead of time, or even can plan how her perspective is going to change after having children.
But it will.
And we can be rock solid in our priorities – until the day our child gets hurt at school on the same day that the big presentation on your research is due. Or the big test report is due TODAY! and it’s still not done at 6:00. Or we have a 5:00 a.m. call with China.
And you know what?
The kids will be fine.
We all do what we can given the circumstances. Sometimes the scale tips to the career side, sometimes to the motherhood side.
The kids learn valuable lessons regardless. Go back and reread my short Super Mom post. Our kids are our key stakeholders and we often don’t take time to understand what they want. We just know what we want.
So to all mothers everywhere – hats off to you. It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love.
Leaving you with this from the lighter side: Motherhood: Powered by Love, Fueled by Coffee, Sustained by Wine.