I am torn. Torn between work and home, career and kids, the age-old argument without new solutions. Torn between wanting to have something to call my own and wanting to be the best mom I can be. Can I be good at both my career and being a mom?  Are the two mutually exclusive? This idea was recently discussed on a blog I love, Motherlode (there is a link to the NYTimes blog on my sidebar). You can check out the book Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood and one of several blog posts on the book here.

As a college student I always said I was going to wait to get married until my 30s (check), I would marry a man totally supportive of my having a career (check, check) and he would be an excellent chef and do all the cooking (check, check and check!). I also said I wouldn’t get married until I made my FIRST million. Well, three out of four ain’t bad.  Back when I made those checklists, they were simply ideas in my head of how I thought my life would go. I was raised in a Gen X, post-Title IX world and grew up believing I could do anything and be anything. I always knew I wanted kids and never gave any thought to choosing one path or the other. I could have it all.

Fast forward to today, and I do have it all - a successful career that is both challenging and rewarding and a beautiful, healthy family that makes me crazy happy. And yet, I’m torn. I love my job and my research. Teaching future scientists and doctors is rewarding. I want to set a positive example for the young female graduate students I mentor - something I did not have as a graduate student – and show them that women in science can have success and a family too. But there are days when I want to take Charlie to story hour at the library and walk Izzy over to the coffee shop and let her take a nap in the park.  Sometime over the past couple months while I was teaching grad students physiology, Charlie learned his ABCs from someone other than me. Some days I just want to be the Mom, to be their Mom, and just be there.   

My research lab, Summer 2011

Charlie, me and Izzy (in utero), California 2011

But maybe this is how it is supposed to work. Missing my kids and wanting to get home to them makes me more productive and efficient during the time I am at work. An exasperating day at home full of tantrums and lacking adult conversation makes me crave the order and quiet of my office. On days when I fail to inspire and students fall asleep in the back of my class, I know I will have a rapt audience waiting for bedtime stories when I get home.

So perhaps I’ll always be torn, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. It’s like going on a fabulous vacation you don’t want to end and then suddenly looking forward to coming home. It’s like choosing between a post-work run or a cold beer on the porch – both are relaxing and rewarding in different ways and I wouldn’t want to give one up exclusively for the other. Maybe being torn is the new balance, that ugly word hated by so many working and stay at home moms. (Because let's face it, there is no balance. Only skilled juggling on any given day). So the next time I’m torn between two things I love, I will try to pause and remember how lucky I am to have a choice.  How lucky I am to be torn.  


  1. Add to that choice that you are such a great writer and a wonderful big sis!

  2. Whoa, Paige. Were I able to formulate my thoughts like you - and were I a scientist rather than, well, something much less significant - I could have written this post!

    I've been doing the working mom thing for eight years now and I struggle with it every. single. day. I can't quite walk away, for a million reasons, but I also find myself increasingly thinking that the world is really not designed for families with two working parents and on my good days I can feel fortunate I have a choice but on the not-so-good days I find myself full of resentment. If you come up with an answer, let's talk!!!

    And, for whatever it's worth, I have often thought that if I were doing something more globally impactful in my work I might feel less torn. I guess misery does love company because it makes me feel better to know that you feel the same way.

  3. Hi Paige,
    Stumbled on your blog from FB, and I agree with what you and Susan both wrote 100%. We're all in it and just have to keep the balls in the air!


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