Just got back from a really nice “forum” on the Motherhood book at Berkshire Community College. What was nice was the discussion that followed. An engineer who talked about having to step back from full-time job to care for her three kids and teach – and how difficult that’s been because engineering is really her passion. A couple of months ago, we heard from an engineer at our panel at UMD who talked about choosing not to have kids because she wanted a tenured faculty position (she was mid-fifties I’d say). This woman at BCC also mentioned an acquaintance in her mid-fifties who made a similar choice. I hope things have changed for engineers but it seems that in comparison to the natural and physical sciences - engineering may have a ways to go when it comes to allowing for career-life balances.
Another topic that came up was what to do with family that didn’t support one’s position to try and “do it all” - in this case go back to school (several students not only have families but they also work), work and raise kids. I didn’t have an answer for that – you’d wish such families were supportive acknowledging the tough road these women have and cheer them on, or even help out when they can. Additionally, that led to a discussion about pressure to stay home with the kids – which then got us talking about how there is not any one best way to do things – including raising a family (some parents do best when they are able to work – some kids may do better while in day care – or the opposite.) Why can’t we just be supportive of each other?
Finally there someone asked about advice for others who fall into the career “trough” – when work dries up all at once – where I was when I started this book project. I’m no expert but for what it’s worth, what helped me was 1) being flexible about what I did 2) keeping busy 3) doing what I loved – science in some way – though I had the luxury of not needing immediate income and 4) getting in touch with those with whom I’d worked in the past – even the colleagues, bosses, etc. whose addresses I had to seek out because we’d completely lost touch. Not to tell them that I was in one of those “troughs” but to say hello, here’s what I’ve been up to, am open to ideas etc. You just never know.