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!


  1. And you pretty much rock it all. My two cents... everyone's lives have their ups and downs. I've admired you since I met you.

  2. Just found your blog from Jade over at LabSpaces. I love it! Your story is really inspiring. Looking forward to reading more!

  3. Thanks for reading and your kind comments! I hope I can continue to deliver!

  4. You're daughter will only gain from seeing you do something that you love...and with her....thanks for writing.