To work or not to work… and on and on and on it goes

There’s a great discussion over at Motherlode today about planning for career and family. The conversation is a bit specific to careers requiring a lot of education (a pharmacist and a doctor) but I thought I’d take it into academia. What do you think?

My contribution:

I can only speak to my own plan, which was to go to graduate school (check), land a tenure-track position in academia (check), get married and travel/save/enjoy life as a DINK (check), start a family (check), hire a nanny (check), cut back my hours at work (check) and then …. I quit.

This is such a deeply personal issue, and fraught; whichever path we choose dictates our perspective. I sense an undercurrent of ,”How much can/should my advanced education help me control the outcome?” and while I cannot imagine a world in which pursuing education is a bad idea, that does not mean that whatever plan you devise won’t need an escape clause.

I chose to finish my PhD and pursue tenure before adopting my daughter, and I still made the choice to leave the workforce when she was two. I was used to leading with my head, so my emotional response to motherhood was startling; I was also used to doing well in my endeavors, and motherhood required of me a whole new skill set, one I hadn’t even imagined. Our nanny was fantastic and my university was flexible — sort of — and yet I still found myself dreading leaving her for the day. It was (and is) as strong a passion as I had ever felt for anything.

For me, it didn’t come down to money or time. It was all about how I felt when I became a mother. I feel amazingly lucky that what an education and Type-A planning ultimately provided for me was the foundation and freedom to make the choice I did.

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Published in: on June 24, 2011 at 10:38 AM  Leave a Comment  
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