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'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.