“Success is how you define it,” is easier to write than to practice. I know. I’ve been struggling with this for years, and it’s a topic that came up several times during the Motherhood panels. Too often our gauge of success involves external validation – particularly for us working on our own, or without ties to any one particular job or institution – we wonder “what do they think of my work?” or we’re concerned that others might think our choice of a nontraditional career route meant we failed to make it along the traditional route. Additionally we often forget to include our lives in the “success” equation.
Below is a comment recently left on the post about the AAAS Panel, by Suzanne Epstein, immunologist, mother of two, musician and one of the contributors, writing about success:
“A happy and successful life, as a scientist-mother or in general, does not correlate with fame, fortune, prestige, or any other particular circumstance. People in quite varied situations that are not at all what they expected can end up quite happy and fulfilled. On the other hand, people who do exactly what they planned and expected, and are very successful, can end up happy or very unhappy. Depends on their attitudes, whether the plan really suited their natures, other events, and so on. Being an optimist helps.
I guess that’s small comfort to a young scientist who doesn’t know what will happen and is fearful. There is no shortcut, and many people go through painful experiences, even if things work out fine later. This is true for the other difficulties and transitions of life. But the improvements in scientific career conditions and institutional features we talked about might help. Also, maybe people could really learn to skip the apologizing and guilt, and just get on with it.”
Thanks for the reminder Suzanne.