There's no place like home

I want to be home. I'm finishing up 8 days of work travel in the last 14 days, and all I want to do is be home with my babies - make pumpkin bread, carve pumpkins, catch falling leaves, and snuggle.

I spent 11 hours today reviewing grants in a hotel conference room in Chicago. A room full of brilliant scientists, judging the work of other brilliant scientists. I'm not sure how I got here. I'm not sure I can ever get another grant funded. We made decisions today about which research projects are worth millions of dollars of government money - my money, and your money - and I'm not sure how I'm qualified to make those decisions. The whole process makes me feel small and not very smart.

I spent the whole day trying to keep my emotions in check, to not think about Charlie and how he just wants his mommy. It was torture, really. His first broken bone, and I wasn't there to dry the tears, to hold him and hug the pain away.

I think this is really what wears working moms down. It isn't the big roadblocks or the bias we encounter, it is the little things that add up and make us feel like we're not there for our kids when we should be. The little things that make us feel inadequate as a parent. You can't explain to your 3 yr-old why Mommy isn't there when he breaks his arm. He just doesn't understand. He will be ok in the grand scheme of things, but you might not. And that's what hits home.

I tried to make the most of this trip, staying out and talking way past midnight with the other scientists. I know  it doesn't sound like work, but to this introvert, it is. After 11 hours of reviewing grants and worrying about Charlie, all I wanted to do was retreat to my room and be alone. But I went to dinner, and I made conversation and I was social. I went to the bar after dinner and kept making conversation. I was part of the last group to close down the bar - because this is where the real connections are made, this is where the friendships are formed that lead to favors and life-long loyalty in a very competitive field. I thought of it as work and I forced myself to engage when I really wanted to retreat and hide. If I had to be here, away from my family, then I was going to make it count.

I'm not sure I am doing what it takes to succeed in science, and I'm not sure I am doing what my family needs to be happy and whole. How will I know? Who decides and who tells me what's working? There isn't an expert panel ready to pass on their judgment of my parenting. I almost wish there was. An expert panel can give you specific suggestions and recommendations for changes to ensure future success. The critique can feel harsh, but it ultimately leads to success. Where is my parenting review panel?

Ryan has done double duty in the past couple weeks while I've been traveling. We've had pink eye, a broken arm, many sleepless nights - it's so complicated. Ryan has to give a lot to make my career work. I know it would be so much easier for him if I managed the kids all the time and he could focus on work. That is a luxury many of his peers enjoy and I worry that his career suffers because of mine. For my career to work, he has to give and the grandparents have to be on speed dial at all times. It takes a village. Some days I feel like its worth it. Other days, I'm not sure. Some days I just want to be there when it matters. I want to be there when my kids need me. At the end of the day, that's all that matters and that's how I'll be judged.


  1. I knew this post was coming, I knew it was going to be tough. Nothing can replace his "Mommy" and of course he wants you there. But, at this age they can't see who their Mom really is, they only see the nurturing the hugs, etc. Give it a few years, and in class they will be talking about all the things their Mommy does. How they get to go to her lab and see rats, and play with telescopes. They will be asked what they want to be when they grow up and they will say a "Scientist like my Mommy"
    Take it from someone who is doing it backwards and already has teenagers,and is watching how older kids process things. A strong, educated woman is great for both your son and your daughter to see, all they will have is the memories you tell them and create for them to go back to, and you are doing that too!
    I felt the frustration last night, Juante's final regular season football game of his senior year was last night. It started at 7:00, I was stuck at work past 7:30, I was dying, but I still made it. I was still there, after a 14 hour day. I remember him asking me in the kitchen the night before when I was telling him good luck. "you will be there right?" That kept playing in my head over and over as I watched the clock tick past 7:00 last night.
    You and Ryan make a great team, just keep giving each other high 5's and keep cheering each other on.


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