Showing posts with label psychology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label psychology. Show all posts

Friday, April 19, 2013

What is a professional mom to do?

After five years and six miscarriages, I am the mother of a very beautiful and very alive little girl. A little girl who is nearly six months old. I love it. I love her. And in some difficult to articulate way, motherhood completes me, fills me unlike anything I've ever experienced. After all of this time of wanting, it has become part of who I am. I never thought I would be able to say it, but I am a mom.

I am also a professional. I went to school for a long time - eight additional years after my four-year college degree - and earned a PhD in clinical psychology. I completed a two year post-doctoral fellowship. And ultimately I was awarded a faculty position at a medical school as a research scientist. When faced with what career path to take during our long journey with infertility, I have always chosen the more ambitious route. Partially because I love what I do and want to do it well. And partially to distract myself from my profound sadness over our seemingly terminal infertility and multiple losses. My work is full. It is fulfilling. I spend my days seeing patients, conducting clinical research, writing grants and research articles, giving talks, and supervising trainees.

Or rather I used to, before I went out on maternity leave.

Since my beloved daughter arrived, I've been showering her with kisses and eking out as much time away from work as is humanly possible. In fact, I somehow managed to get permission to take off up until this very week. Much of it unpaid leave, but still. In America, 5.5 months off is an almost unheard of length of maternity leave. (Canadians and Europeans, I know that 5.5 months off is no big shakes, but sadly many in the U.S. get only 6-8 weeks).

But now the university wants me back. And I am filled with ambivalence.

I am crazy in love with my daughter. And I want to be an integral part of her day to day life. I'm also deeply aware of - and humbled by - the fact that my husband Will and I are currently my daughter's whole world. What she knows of trust, of security, of happiness, comes from whatever amount of warmth and consistency and touch we are able to give her. To go back to work (and thereby be away from her) feels on some level instinctually and primally wrong.

On the other hand, I am also aware of the fact that she will grow up, and not need me so much, and that if I step away from my academic career now, it will not be waiting for me when I may want to return to it in five or so years. I also worked long and hard to have the role I do now (see above about 12 years of education post high school).

So being kind of a science-y sort, I decided to look to the data. What do other people think about moms working or staying home or doing something in-between?

It turns out that the Pew Research Center has just completed a survey on this very topic.

And here are a few key findings, in graphical form:

So the majority of people overall vote for part-time employment. Sounds great!!! But this is not compatible with being on the faculty of a medical school, now or ever again (one of those 'once you've stepped off of the merry-go-round you are off' types of situations...)

What about working mothers? What do they think? This should be helpful, I thought. Maybe other moms like me can help me think through what feels most right in this situation...

Part-time wins again! Although it looks like significantly more moms are voting for full-time in 2012 versus in 2007.

From a purely financial perspective, I am lucky that I am not the primary breadwinner in our family. I realize it is a luxury that I even get to grapple with the notion of how much I want to work. My husband Will is on the faculty at the same medical school that I am, but is much better compensated (he is on a clinical track; I am on a research track). I make a decent salary, but if I chose my work based purely on finances, I could make more money in fewer hours if I left academics and entered private practice.

What do I think I want in an ideal world? If you asked me today, I think I agree with the majority, that part-time work really fits the bill the best. I'd like to have my cake and eat it too. To have my daughter see her mom working as a professional, and see herself by extension as capable of anything she puts her mind to. But I also want to spend as much time with her as I can and strongly desire her to feel that she and not mom's work, is most important.

The trouble is, I cannot remain on the faculty at my institution on a part-time basis, or I would do that in a heartbeat. And so, for now, I am returning to my current position. I am going to test the waters and see if I can work in the new way that I want to (home earlier in the evening, not working nights and weekends). I've negotiated one day at home to work remotely. Of course, as a new mom, I have a whole new perspective on what's important, and I'm hoping to be able to translate that into a changed approach to my work.

So right now I'm going through my own version of separation anxiety. My daughter seems completely unfazed, but I am a bit of a wreck.

For the next few months, I will take each day as it comes, taking my emotional temperature from time to time about working as a mom. I'll be posting as I feel my way through this return-to-work transition, I'll figure out exactly what kind and amount of work makes sense for me and my family now and for the future.

As always, I welcome your thoughts. I would love to hear from other working moms about how you navigated your own back-to-work transitions.


Read more about the data from the Pew Research Center report on Modern Parenthood here. 

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

And now for some good news

Thanks for all of your thoughts and support for our last two posts. Nice to know that you guys are still reading, even after our extended absence. It helped to read your words about the validity of the different choices we are faced with. So thank you for your comments. And also for your comments about others' difficult comments. It really helped.

So then...let's move on from these fraught topics to some good news, shall we?

Remember how I posted a while back that I'd passed my licensing exam to be able to practice independently in psychology?

Well...I have some more good news on the professional front. I've been offered (and have accepted) a junior faculty position at the medical college where I've been doing my postdoctoral training! Official start date will be in the fall, when my post doc ends (otherwise known as when my grant funding runs out), but I'm already doing the new job on top of my duties now - which means I am a very, very busy girl, but busy in a good way.

My new job will be a mix of clinical work, clinical research (mostly writing grants and working on intervention studies to try to develop and improve treatments in my specialty area), clinical supervision of advanced doctoral students, some med student teaching, along with the typical academic stuff of writing articles and presenting at conferences. Should be fun!

It is great to finally be at the conclusion of all of this training. I entered my PhD program as a full-time student in the Fall of 2003. What a long journey it has been. Here's wishing we can have some resolution to our fertility journey soon as well.


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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Good news for once: We'll take it where we can

I've been feeling beaten down by the infertility part of our lives. Really saddened by it, and for the moment stymied. And one of the things I've been trying to do to cope with that is make sure that the other parts of my life - the non infertility parts - don't wither away and atrophy from lack of attention.

One of those areas has been my physical health - eating, weight, etc. Which I am working on (more in a later post).

The other is professional. I finished my PhD a while back and have been completing a postdoctoral fellowship. In my field there is also a licensing exam that has to be passed once you've accumulated 1750 supervised hours. This test is notoriously onerous and is sort of the Bar exam of psychology. I've been studying for it for a while, but really ramped it up after we lost the baby in November.

And I quietly took the exam a couple of weeks ago. (gulp).

Yesterday, I got a letter in the mail.

I PASSED!!! And cooler than that, not only did I pass but I earned a score in the mid-90s! (figuring I can brag a little since this is an anonymous blog)

What a relief! It's such a feeling of accomplishment to have finished this final hurdle to allow me to practice independently after years (and I do mean years) of classes and practicums and internships and dissertation research and writing and defending.

It's great to feel that I can actually influence something - that I can set my mind to something and achieve it - even if this whole baby making thing feels hopelessly complicated and confusing at the moment.

So a minor celebration going on over here. We'll take the good news where we can.


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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Biding my time

Sorry for my quietness of late. I've been down for the count for over a week with a nasty cold. Not off work/school, and not avoiding socializing because of it, but really dragging myself through it all. Blog posts just haven't been happening so much.

Poor Ms. Moxie is also sick, also coughing. Except when she coughs, she sounds like a Canadian goose.

Moxie: [pant pant] [butt wiggle] HONK! HONK! HONK! [butt wiggle]

You get the idea.

School is super intense right now with a crush of assignment deadlines and exams. And because I'm getting this newest degree at a medical school, not in a regular university setting, I'm experiencing three classes crashing toward the end of the semester as simultaneously I've picked up two new ones this week. Blech. I mean, really, is this truly necessary? Could I not finish one thing before I start another? Please?

Work is good but also fairly intense right now. I'm about to leave this Saturday for my third major work-related trip in four months. For which I'm lucky, I know. And, hey, I'm grateful - really truly grateful - I even have a job. But it would be nice to have a quiet weekend, instead of being at a psychology conference many many states away from my dear Will and little Ms. Moxie.

So yeah. Not so much blog writing coming out of me these days. All is good - there's just a lot. The healthy eating has been hit or miss but I'm trying to not abandon the fruit and vegetable project all-together and just do what I can. Acupuncture still hasn't happened but I'm hoping I can squeeze it in.

June and our trip to Denver is right around the corner...till then, I'm just biding my time, trying to wade through all of these life tasks, comfort my honking dog, blow my own nose, and wait...patiently...or not so patiently...


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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sundays of grace #28

What am I grateful for this week?

1. You guys. Did you see the post on attachment in adoption and the thoughtful responses it drew? Many complete with links to other blogs discussing this topic? Wow. Thank you. Not just for me, but for others down the line who might google the topic and land here and find your comments and your links to more thoughtful thoughts on the topic. This is scary territory for many and yet a bunch of you took the plunge and gave your opinions. You guys rock.

2. Psychology training last week. I spent the week out of town at another university getting certified in a type of therapy I use in my clinical and research work (I have an intervention grant to provide this for the next two years). It was fun to solidify my skills, but what was even cooler was getting to talk to colleagues from the training facility who are world leaders in my clinical and research area and bounce ideas back and forth. They invited me to collaborate on a project with them, and I was able to help one of them think of a new way to analyze his data. And the best part of it all? That I was reminded that I LOVE what I do. To be able to (hopefully) help people and to try to improve the evidence base and develop new treatments/improve on existing treatments. Does professional life get any better? A great chance to step back from the small disappointments and stress of an academic medical life to remember why I do what I do.

3. Date night with Will in Chinatown last night. Because I was out of town at my training all week and we were both working like mad people the week before that and then the week before THAT, Will was in San Diego for a conference for a week...all this adds up to feeling like I haven't seen my husband - not really seen him and cherished him - in ages. And you know what? I missed him. So despite yesterday being super packed and us both being exhausted - me after meeting with a group of bereaved military families on an Army base in outer Brooklyn and Will working most of the day at an outside hospital on a consulting gig - we came together last night, went out to eat in Chinatown and had a splendid time. Yay for date night! And an even bigger yay for husbands. I've missed mine! Oh, and you want to know what my fortune cookie said? "An old broom will gather the greatest amount of dirt." You should have seen Will laughing - deep belly laughs - when I opened it...Hmmm....


Monday, January 19, 2009

Two roads diverged in a wood

I'm at a place in my academic training where I have to decide between various paths. I am applying for post-doctoral fellowships and must choose between a more clinical track (read: flexible and easier but perhaps more isolating, and less prestigious) or a more clinical research-oriented track (i.e.: more academic, more nose-to-the-grindstone grant-oriented, more intellectual, longer hours and more take-home work, but greater opportunity to make a positive contribution to many lives at once, academically more prestigious).

And somehow infertility rears its ugly head yet again to muck up another part of my life.

I am finding that I would choose two entirely different things depending on whether I can have a child or not. Which of course, I don't know the answer to.

I've always thought that I would pick a softer, easier clinical path (maybe part-time) if I had little ones at home (especially if there were multiple little ones, or higher-order multiple little ones even). It has always seemed that then my family would be at the center with work filling out around the edges of my life (at least when my child/children were young). But if childless, my ambitious side has always thought I should do the most difficult, competitive, intense clinical research track.

I had thought by now it would be clear which way things were heading.

Deadlines are fast approaching. I'm being courted by one research fellowship that requires me to apply for a pretty hefty training grant (due later this week). And I am just filled with anxiety about it. I'm a shoe-in for this fellowship. Or I could pursue a more clinical track (which might feel like a cop-out if I don't have kids)... or I could not apply for anything hoping that I will be pregnant by July and can just take some time off for awhile and be (of course if I'm not pregnant by July or don't stay pregnant, this would be disastrous emotionally).

It raises all these issues of legacy and meaning and purpose. Which of course being infertile does too. And leaves me wondering whether to plan as though a baby is coming (when it may not be) or just keep going forward with my life and if a baby appears figure things out then...

Can you see how my head just goes around and around and around? (Looks sort of like the exorcist, except it's just thoughts. My head doesn't actually spin around).

Anybody gone through anything similar? Thoughts on gaining clarity?

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