Monday, April 25, 2011

Teen SciMom

I have read some wonderful posts on being or not being a Science Mom (SciMom) over at, especially those by Jade, and Dr. Girlfriend. I felt I should tell my story.

On Being a  Teen SciMom…
I am 30 years old, and I have an almost 12 year old daughter.  Anyone with a remedial amount of math training can figure that out.  The solution to this simple equation can yield any number of responses: disgust, confusion, empathy.  I have to say these reactions are much kinder now that I have my PhD, and I work at a national lab.  It was not always so…
                I love my daughter more than I can fathom. I know this sounds so cliché, but it is so true.  I had never ever thought about having a kid, and it was never something I dreamed about.  I never considered myself the mother type. I had big ambitions, and as a smart girl, I had never considered myself attractive, so the whole romance thing wasn’t on my radar.  So when a guy thought I was pretty, I was taken by surprise, and well, we know how these things happen…I was freshly graduated out of high-school, going to my second choice college, miserable and pregnant.  Not so much miserable about the pregranancy, more about the college.  Being pregnant gave me the chutzpah to drop out of the collge I hated and to make a plan to go to the school I wanted to go to.  I enrolled in the local community college, which offered affordable child care, and I completed my transfer requirements for chemistry.  I remember the dubious looks people would give me when I was bringing my daughter to study groups.  They seemed to have labeled me as a failure even before I opened my mouth.  I would bite my toungue and work twice as hard. When other students complained about how hectic their lives were, I would bite my tongue harder.  Once I transferred to the university, I continued to work 24 hrs a week up until I graduated with my bachelors.
                Choosing a grad school for me was simple- I really couldn’t easily move, and I enjoyed the research of the faculty at my current university. I was told this was a damning career choice, and that I would probably have a hard time finding a job, even before I had chosen a specialty.  I ignored them.  They didn’t understand my reality- my family was my daycare, and the grad student stipend would not be enough to feed us and pay for child care in a distant city.  I pushed on, and interviewed with faculty.  Most were unabashed slave drivers- expecting 60 hr weeks or more.  I knew that wouldn’t fly.  I interviewed one prof who specialized in crystallography. She explained the technique, and showed me around her lab, and we talked.  She had been a mother in grad school, she explained, and she remembered how hard it could be.  She asked me if I wanted to work for her, I said “ Can I??” I know that my success has everything to do with having a mentor that understood the pressures I was facing.  It sure didn’t hurt that I could do crystallography from anywhere, once I had the raw data in hand.
                So many people thought my potential was lost once I was pregnant.   I knew that my daughter was a gift.  I saw all the “adults” around me terrified for me. I refused to give in to their pleadings about my life being ruined, because of this new life I was carrying. They didn’t realize my capacity for stubbornness, and tenacity. I suppose I became a parent because no one believed I could do it and succeed at my other goals. I knew I could.  I wavered at times, but I continued to believe in me. So, here I am , scientist, mother, equestrian, in no special order. The rest is pretty much history, I got a PhD, I am doing what I love at an awesome lab.  My PhD mentor is my second mom, and I owe so much to her.  My daughter is going into seventh grade this fall, she was entering kindergarten when I started my PhD.  I won’t lie, being a mother is no joke.  And it is certainly not for everyone. Some days I wonder if it is for me.  People love to drag on about how motherhood teaches you patience, and kindness. Well, I am sure you could learn those same skills elsewhere- I am sure crystallography and my horses have taught me loads about both. But in the end, life is not about what cards you are dealt, It is about how you take those cards and turn them into a winning hand.  I have an awesome kid, a fantastic boyfriend, three wonderful horses, a cat and a fulfilling career.  Winning hand, for sure!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

To Be or Not to Be In a Lesson on a Weekday....

First off, I love the barn where I board the fourlegged kids. It is a wonderful place to keep horses. There is really only one issue that seems to have reared it's ugly head again, and it is the issue of "Weekday Evening Lessons." There is one larger covered arena, a very small indoor arena, and an oudoor arena that is currenty undoergoing it's winter swamp phase. Essentially there is one place for everyone to ride, with the small indoor only really suitable for longeing. It can get really chaotic in the covered arena in the evenings after everyone gets off work.  Due to this chaos, a rule was instated that lessons were not to happen from 4-7PM.

The theoretical pros of this rule:
  • No more group lessons clogging up the arena.
  • No lesson riders needing the rail, the jump, the quarter line, etc, so potentially better arena flow
  • Potentially fewer riders in the arena.
The theoretical cons of this rule
  • Difficult for children to have lessons on weeknights, due to only later lesson slots
  • People who are day shift workers (i.e. 9-5) will find it difficult to take weekday lessons
  • Could produce a glut of weekend lessons, and 7PM weekday evening lessons.
  • Could dissuade riders from continuing their equestrian education.
My personal experience has been that this rule has eliminated my weekday lessons, and that makes me pretty sad. I have converted to Saturday lessons, and I am now part of a parade of lessons. I still ride during the week, and usually during the no-lesson window. The arena is usually pretty empty; maybe one or two riders with me usually.

So my question is, could this rule be amended to better serve all members of the population? I am sure that if one or two nights a week, lessons were permitted, the strain on the weekends would be lessened. And maybe if certain types of lessons were permitted only in the small indoor, e.g., lead line and longe line lessons.  Unleashing beginner children into a large busy arena is probably something that should be avoided at any cost anyways.  Competent children who can negotiate traffic safely are a different matter.

I would like to hear of compromises, because I think many are out there. I think that everyone should be encouraged to ride with a trainer, and any policy that has the effect of making ignorance bliss should be adjusted accordingly.