Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Multiple Identity Revisited

Thank you for your helpful comments about weaning. I like Flea's idea of a party to mark the end of nursing. I think I may need that. Maybe Pumpkin will like it, too!

A while back, I wrote a post about how it feels a bit strange to post on a science blog using the identity I use here on a blog that is mostly about parenting, working motherhood, and other such things. In that post, I said I was going to keep my identity "whole", and not create different aliases for different areas of my life. That is true, but it is also true that I comment much less frequently on the science blogs and Slashdot (the one techie site I read with regularity) than I do here. And, due to the fact that I had an identity on Slashdot that predated this blog, I use a different alias there (datababe72, if you're curious).

I also don't generally post many comments when I'm at work. I consider it part of my job to read Slashdot and a few of the particularly good science blogs and sites- I lead a department and need to keep up with what is going on. But I usually wait until I get home to post comments (except on Ask Moxie- and reading that can in no way be considered part of my job, so I'm not all that consistent in my policy).

So it is a bit unusual that I have gotten involved in a running discussion on In the Pipeline about alternative medicine (you can read Derek's posts here and here, and my summary of my opinion here). It is not really a subject I am passionate about- I have found yoga to be beneficial in my life, but I'm nothing like a true believer. I watched the first thread for a while before I posted anything. I'm not sure why I finally posted. I was annoyed by the arrogance of some of the commenters and the inconsistent refusal to seriously consider the possibility that Qi Gong might actually have some effect beyond just exercise (without citing any conclusive data) while lambasting people who believe in Qi Gong for not having any data. Maybe I just got annoyed enough to have to say something.

But I think I am also getting more comfortable in my identity as a mommy and a scientist and techie. I know, my "about me" section has proclaimed this as my identity for a while, but I've not felt particularly comfortable in it. I feel more comfortable with readers of science blogs following a link to my blog and finding a discussion on weaning. In fact, I think it might be a good thing. Some of my male colleagues, even some with children on their own, seem to have absolutely no idea what is involved in being a working mother. If they learn a little bit about that here, that's great.

And if some young woman follows one of those links and finds a blog that demonstrates that it is possible to be a working mother in science, and even to be reasonably happy about it, that is even better. When I was in graduate school, there were precious few examples of successful women scientists with kids. There still aren't that many examples of women the next level up from where I am who have kids. This made it hard for me to imagine my life as a scientist, and influenced the choices I made about my career. I wish I could go back to that younger, less confident me and tell her how it truly is.

Yes, being a working mother is often very hard. Yes, there are some aspects of certain careers in science that can make it even harder. Yes, there are some changes I think we should make in family policy in this country. However, one of the best things that having a child has taught me is that I am really rather resourceful, and so is my husband. We have found solutions to the problems that have come up, and for the most part, I'm happy with those solutions. I was selling myself short when I thought that I wouldn't be able to combine a successful career in science with a family life. I unnecessarily limited my choices. I'm happy with the career I have now, and wouldn't change anything about my life (well, maybe I'd have the cleaners come more often, and I would love to get more sleep), but I do sometimes wonder what I might have done if I'd truly believed I could do anything I wanted.

And I really, really hope that by the time Pumpkin is making her choices, it doesn't even occur to her that a career she might want to pursue might be incompatible with having a family.


  1. I think it's fantastic that you are thinking this way. You will be a role model for so many by showing what works for you and the possibilities that are out there for women.

  2. Cloud,

    I think it's very very valuable to have women like you in the blogosphere, showing that one really *can* combine motherhood and science. I read a lot of science blogs, but they tend toward the academic blogs, so it's also nice to have a perspective from outside the ivory tower!

    By the way,Pumpkin sounds adorable. My littlest one is around the same age--and it's an awesome age, isn't it?


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