“Hello, my name is Meg Garvey, I recently completed my Ph.D. in Exercise Science and I am a new mother…please send help.”
I find myself writing this email over and over and over again…Ok give me a bit of credit, the above is not what I literally write. It is what I say in my head while I write these emails. Let’s back track. I use to have a ton of confidence. Then I don’t know what happened. Something, I guess, had to have happened because even though I was still saying the same words, “this is who I am, here are my quick credentials, would you be interested in sitting down with me because I feel like my skill set would benefit your company” but it was laced with hesitation. Maybe we would be a good fit. Potentially we could find some commonality. I began writing myself out of a job that I don’t even have yet.
I have never been traditional, much to my husband’s dismay. My jobs in college were teaching group exercise classes and figure skating lessons and I loved it because I could make as much working in an hour as some of my friends could do working in an office at school for 5. Upon graduating I applied for a job at a gym that was 2 miles away from the house my roommates and I shared and within a few hours I had a scheduled interview and a day later I was employed. This would be my second job because I was already teaching 4-5 classes a week at a private studio in New Haven. My career was off and running. No 9-5, my alarm went off either at 4:20am or 5:20am every morning. I had clients back to back starting either at 5 or 6am until 11am, quick break till 12:30, then booked till 4, head to the studio to teach and then back home. Repeat. Please introduce burn out. Enter a new city, similar’ish schedule, but witch a new twist built on experience.
Everything was chugging along, I went back to school, while working full time, for my masters. I got a gig teaching some Exercise Physiology labs and I fell in love with teaching in that atmosphere. I entered academia, chose a school and a program that I felt fit my goals and embarked on a journey unlike any other. A PhD quest is something that you don’t fully get unless you live it. Nothing anyone could have told me would prepare me for what those years would bring…but again I’m not traditional so of course I did not do the traditional stuff while I was in pursuit of my PhD either. Most people advice not to have any drastic life changes…I got pregnant (twice) and we bought a house. I defended with a 4 1/2 month old in the room and I put extra padding in my bra for fear that I would start leaking while I answered questions.
In non-traditional fashion, I had it in my head that I was going to seek out an industry job. This type of position would hopefully give me a larger salary than postdoctoral work but more importantly, it would give me some flexibility in my work schedule to still be the type of mum that I want to be. Throughout everything we have never had the available funds to put our kids in daycare full time, so I have spent a lot of time with them, especially during each of their first year.
I want to find something that it intellectually stimulating, aligns with my research interests, provides enough salary to cover childcare and, heaven forbid, leaves some left over for life after expenses, and gives some flexibility to work from home or work non-traditional hours. Oh and I want to continue to teach and play in the studio because that gives me balance and sparks my creativity. My ideal job gives me a feeling of pride, security, and a feeling that I am finally giving back to my family.
Needle meet haystack.
I think a lot of women feel this kind of pressure in any industry I’m sure, but particularly in academia. When I was undeniably pregnant with my first I literally was asked if I had “done this on purpose.” I’ll wait till you pick up your jaw from the floor…to say I admire the women that have academic careers and are mothers is an understatement. I always try to pick their brains when I have the chance. Postdocs in some far off city for a year are not options right now. Most postdocs do not pay enough to make ends meet as an individual, let alone a family. I have spent the last 5 years feeling like a burden to my family because of our decreased earning, I would like to avoid continuing that at all costs. I have also found that if you open your mouth in academic circles to express your interest in pursuing an industry career you get shut down. No advice. No connections. Just no.
I found myself floating in an abyss not knowing how to progress or even just get out. We have the option to either be good at work or a good mom and to say that you want both is having your cake and eating it too…well I’m hungry.