There has been a lot of chatter on the internet this week on successful women in the workplace (thank you Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg). Nature just dedicated an entire issue to women in science (see interesting article here). Seeing as I am a working mom and a scientist, I figured I would put in my two cents. Most of these things apply to all moms, not just scientists.
#1 Define your own success. No one can do it for you. There are lots of ideas about what makes a person successful (lots of money, lots of publications, tenure, etc.). Each of us must take time to sit down and think about what success means to us. Begin with the end in mind, right?. What do you want your life to look like? When you reach the end of your life, what will satisfy you looking back? For me, it means making an impact on the lives of others and helping them to find their own success. It also means raising a couple of wonderful kids and giving them the best start in life that I can.
#2 Ask for and find help. Build yourself a support network. Find a great daycare. Marry a supportive husband. Live close to family members that can help you raise your kids. HIRE A MAID (I have not yet swallowed my pride to do this one, but seriously I need to). You are not superwoman. Give yourself the resources you need to be successful. Make choices that will make your life easier, not harder.
#3 Choose your employer carefully. I have learned this one from experience. I have worked for people that were incredibly supportive and flexible, and I have worked for people that have no tolerance for family life. Don’t waste your precious life working for someone who does not care about you or your family. Its not worth it. There are a lot of jobs out there. Yes, we all have to suck it up sometimes and work in a crappy job for a while, but keep looking for a better situation and you will find it.
#4 Be willing to make some sacrifices. Parenting, no matter what, requires sacrifices. As a working mom, I don’t have time for hobbies. I gave up crafting and playing guitar when I went to grad school. Likewise, you are going to have to choose your kids activities carefully. Maybe just one sport instead of 3 different ones. I don’t know.
#5 Take care of you. I do make it a priority to squeeze in time for myself every now and then. In fact, I gotta run because I’ve got a hair appointment this afternoon!
Some people might look at my career and say that I’ve wasted my PhD. I think that I have an incredibly rich life and I look forward to what adventures lie ahead.