I’m pretty excited to participate in feMOMhist's Blog Carnival on International women’s day next Thursday. I think it’s very important to have role models, so we don’t feel so alone and to show us that things that seem impossible are actually doable (for example for me, one of the questions was whether to wait until I got tenure (if ever) or have a baby sooner). I think it is also important to find role models that you can actually identify with, and I love the internet for that, since in real life it is so much harder to find those people.
The first female professor I worked for when I was in college had waited to get tenure before she had a baby. I started working in her lab when her baby was about 9 months. She had gone back to work when the baby was only a couple weeks old, because she felt that otherwise the lab would fall apart (that was a good probability since she was normally pretty controlling). She still worked 80 hour weeks, and on the weekend she and her husband (also a PI) would hire a babysitter to go to the lab and get some extra work done. Night time nursing sessions were used to answer emails. I remember one Saturday night when some friends and I drove back home after going to a bar at two in the morning: we passed the lab on the way home and I saw that the light was on in her office and she was working on a grant.
I did not at all picture myself in her position. And now that I have a baby myself, I find it even harder to imagine how she was able to work so much while taking care of her baby (or was she perhaps exaggerating how much she actually worked? I don’t know). I was afraid that this would mean that I would never become a professor, since it requires so much work. But then I started meeting more people at meetings and online that show that it is possible to combine a career and motherhood (or just having a life besides work for that matter) in a way that would work for me. Cloud's post about the logistics behind this was very insightful. And even though we’ve only been doing this for a couple months now, I’d be happy to share how we do it in my next post.
All the usefulness of role models aside, I think what helped me most in my panicky days of early pregnancy, when I had just found out how expensive day care was, was watching MTV’s 16 and pregnant, to realize that if they could do it, so could I!