Full Time Practice

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Mother's Ambitions

(This article was suggested by Angel Zimmerman, a WIL Committee member and JRCLS Kansas City Chapter Chair elect.)

I read this article recently and thought you might enjoy it as much as I did. It was written by Yael Chatov Schonbrun, a psychologist and assistant professor of psychology and human behavior at Brown University.  She entitled it "A Mother's Ambitions".

It hits home on numerous fronts.  I know I have felt so many of the things she expressed. I'll give you a few excerpts:

I felt like a constant disappointment. I felt the ever present pressure of needing to be writing a new grant or paper, needing to keep up on the literature. And I hated knowing that my mentors and colleagues were not terribly impressed with me anymore.

Spending more time with my child wasn’t my only consideration in what to do with my career. There was also my identity (who was I, if not a clinical psychologist and researcher and a generally ambitious person?), my sanity (could I really be home with a baby every day?), and the practical matter of my family’s finances (my income was needed to maintain our lifestyle). So finally, after months of agonizing, I made a decision: to back down, but not bail out.

[M]y productivity within each role is limited. My kids are probably the most satisfied — they enjoy our days home together, and they also love going to day care with their friends. But my patients get frustrated with my limited availability, and my colleagues at the university sometimes seem baffled by my desire to stay in academia in a way that is not particularly ambitious or impressive.

The real problem, however, is me. I certainly wish that I didn’t still feel like a postdoctoral fellow, salary-wise, after the ridiculous number of years of school I’ve completed, and I wish that my house and lifestyle weren’t so much smaller and simpler than those of my close friends who stayed on competitive career tracks. More painful, though, is sitting in on a research meeting, listening to my colleagues bounce around new project ideas and talk about complex data analytics or new methods of biological verification of substance use that can be incorporated into grant applications. Where I used to feel like a member of the group, and a leader on some projects, I now feel a half step behind.

[A]mbition makes our world move forward. But could it be possible that greatness can also mean finding ways to increase the amount of happiness in the world, even if that work happens on a tiny stage that can be seen and applauded by few, except perhaps by a pudgy 1-year-old and a chatty 4-year-old?

If you'd like to read the entire article, which I hope you will, you can find it at A Mother's Ambition.

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