Saturday, July 7, 2012

Going from PhD to Stay-at-Home-Mom

It's always been a goal for my husband and I to get in a position suitable for me to stay at home. Last year with the news of our little bun-in-the-oven, really set the timeline for me to make the commitment. I truly loved my work, my projects, and of course my co-workers but my family came first.

I've always worked. I babysat kids in my early teenage years but my first real job was at the local YMCA. Again, I love the smell of chlorine so I was in the right place for me. I, then, eventually became a lifeguard and a swim instructor that I worked as until I graduated college with my BS. So, working for me has been a way of life for more than half of my existence, changing would not be an easy thing.

A year ago, we were developing the next generation of a therapeutic HIV vaccine and which was heavily involved. I couldn't imagine myself not there but I also couldn't imagine myself not at home either. The struggle was the same one when I was determined to go into cardiology (blog: Flashback part 1). I thought of different scenarios to try to make both work and my family happy. One would be staying in the city working and hiring a Nannie. However, I know what my kids need and there's only three people I trust to take care of my children outside of my husband and I. So that option was out. Another option was to be part-time or even a contractor just a few days a week but too many people were doing that already so I wasn't too confident I could do that too.

Time was getting closer for me to return as my maternity leave was coming to an end. I had to make up my mind. My husband and I decided it would be best to just part ways. You must know that I loved that job! I grew so much there. I was encouraged to explore and to understand what I was doing. The smallest detail would constantly ring through my mind like, "is the pH causing the cells to not produce this or that?", "could I have incubated longer?", "at what point will the genes up regulate production of X?", or "what would happen if I threw everything in the culture plate together? Would it make biological sense?". All my energy was in my work but not as much as at home. I thought to myself, "Where would my family be if I put all my energy there?"

We really thought that this decision would really be hard for me to make and we were right. However, it was temporary during my two weeks notice that I worked out. I would cry to and from work, an hour to an hour and a half each way, remembering all the good times and all the bad times too. So my crying was fueled by sadness, by anger, you name it! I was a mess! I really thought this job defined me. It really didn't. Remembering back when I wanted to be a cardiologist and I immersed myself in all aspect of heart disease I really could do it but I wanted a family, to be with them, and watch them grow. I completely stopped with no hesitation. Same in this situation. I landed a job, learned the science of it, became good at what I did then had a family... It was time to focus on them.

The best thing I learned about myself is it's not one particular subject that defines me but rather the questions I asked. If I found something broken then I would try to fix it. Having all the tools around me and people who are considered experts in their field really helped me along the way. Then I must ask you, "Are you defined by your job or your thought process?". I know my little brother has the same thought process as I do. That man can take a part a car and put it back together without a manual because he understands cars and what they need to function as a car.

So I must end here and go get car tags for my husbands car.

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!


  1. I just found your blog, and I love this post! It sounds much like my story. I left academic life after earning a Ph.D. in engineering (loving science and especially applied statistics) and teaching for four years to stay home with my daughters. What a blessing the change has been! I look forward to checking out your other posts. :)

    1. Hello Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.!
      Thank you for your response! I'm so happy to hear you enjoy the blog! I love writing but do not do it as often as I would like! My friend's husband was an engineer and all three of his sons would spend Saturday building towers with blocks. They were quite elaborate. However, on Sunday before and after lunch they would debate as to what would happen if a certain block was removed! I was amazed at their understanding.

      I am not an engineering person but I love those lessons! The majority of our science lessons are virology-based. Such as "What happens with you pick your nose?". Needless to say, she doesn't pick her nose anymore. :)

      Anyways, thanks for your kind comments!
      Kindest regards,

  2. I have been reading a lot online about how a career break would affect me. We are expecting a baby boy this June, and until now I have been so invested in my research both during my PhD and postdoc. I stayed back in the lab when I wanted to and my work has been a central part of my life. However, I am also a very family person and I know I will not be able to deal with the guilt of leaving my little one that early and being at work. So, for now, I am planning to take a break and then get back when I feel I am ready. I must confess I am very nervous about not having a job to look forward to from June. Almost everyone has told me that this break will be well deserved and much needed.
    I look forward to reading more from you.

    1. Hi Racsumbr,
      Thanks for your response! I totally understand about the guilt! I worked up until my oldest was three. It was awful to leave her at daycare or even at home because I wanted to be the one to get her milk, a toy, sing songs with, rock her to sleep, or have lunch with. Now being with my son from birth, I do believe I missed out on her.

      As far as the break from work... That has been a mixed emotion one. Although I loved my job, there were too many politics that made it a pleasure to break away from but aside from the politics, I loved what I did! I loved my friends and I loved solving the problems. If someone said it could not be done, I was on top of it to make it work. My friends I miss so much! It has been a year and with them I feel like I've missed so much. My closest friend and his wife had a baby. If I worked, I would have heard about her everyday but I hear about her every other month or so.

      I had the best bosses that actually believed in me and leaving them was heartbreaking. Specially with it was felt on a personal level. I loved what I did but now, I can even imagine not being at home with my babies and being (or at least trying) to be the best mom they need.

      What an endeavor you are preparing to do! I am very excited for you! Please keep me informed of how it is going. I have been pretty busy with other things to post consistently. However, I love writing so I should do it more often. :)

      Many kind regards,