Monday, January 11, 2010

Breaking my heart.

I need to be working on some paper revisions.  I said I'd have them done this week, and I've barely begun. 
But all I can think about is my return to work, one week from today, and it's breaking my heart.  I never talk about my job/school on here, because I generally feel it's best to keep that separate from my online self.  That's how one gets in trouble (dooced, if you will.)  But right now I can't help it.

I'm a graduate student.  But, in the sciences, that generally means you get paid to go to school.  Generally through a research assistantship, or teaching assistantship.  So you actually pay nothing for tuition, and you get paid to either teach or do research part time.  The rest of the time you're expected to be working on your PhD.  Furthermore, at my point, I don't actually take classes, I just go to the lab and do work.  So, although I'm a student, it really feels like more of a job.

The plan all along has been for me to take a semester off then return in January.  I thought 4.5 months off would be more than sufficient.  I thought by that time I'd be itching to be around adults again.  That I'd be bored at home all day.  The problem is that I love it.  I love spending all day with my baby.  I love waking up and playing with her, doing a little housework during her afternoon nap.  I love being able to be around when DH has time off and going on family outings. 

The thought of leaving her next week is breaking my heart.  The thought of missing part of her childhood makes me cry. 

And what makes it even worse is that I don't have to return.  I could choose to stay home.  We can afford it.  And I'm not sure I want to become a professor, so I'm not even sure whey I'm getting my PhD.  The thought of getting it for self gratification no longer seems sufficient given what I'll miss.

But the thought of quitting is terrifying.  Of becoming completely reliant on my husband.  Of leaving the workplace.  Of no longer being marketable.  And I know I wouldn't want to stay home forever, so how do you re-enter the workplace?  Once you leave a PhD program you're pretty much done; you just can't stay up on the science.  So what would my future look like?  What would my identity be?  All of my friends, our friends, are in my discipline.  I'm sure we'd still stay friends with several of them, but to lose that community would be hard.

This is what's on my mind.


  1. You do have an M.S. though right? So you've got teaching opportunities outside the halls of universities. I have to say that I left my PhD program in the geosciences for much the same reason (only without actual baby yet), it just didn't feel like the right life combination of work and family for me.

    I find that teaching at a two-year college allows me TONS of freedom. I can make my own schedules for the most part, take summers off, teach some online, and maintain that academic schedule that my kids will someday have. For me, research always came second to teaching, so I don't feel cheated having left behind labs for classrooms. If you are really a research-lover, that would be a tough transition, but the trade offs are certainly tangible.

  2. I do have my M.S., and I've been thinking more and more about the teaching option. I haven't begun the hunt for a teaching job in earnest, but I feel like the market around here is pretty saturated. And I do love the research. I'm not sure I'm a quantitative enough person to be able to become a real-deal research professor, but I love coming up with research ideas and the broad aspect of research.

    The other part I forgot to mention in this post is the feeling that you're letting women down by not finishing. A man can not finish for all sorts of reason and there's not the "oh, he's a man" stigma. But if a woman quits because of a baby, you just perpetuate a stereotype.

  3. That is so true and so totally unfair. The whole leaving-grad-school thing is really sort of feeling of personal failure and a conformation with gender roles. Ultimately, I sort of forced myself to just get over the shame and accept that, while a PhD has been in the plans forever, it wasn't what I actually wanted. Once I made it past that, it was like a whole new world of career and personal directions became available. I think now I feel like making an eduation and career choice lets me do all the things I want to do, and that is empowering in its own way. There are women that are really cut out for PhDs and a life in the publish or perish academia, but that wasn't me.

    I also think that the market for full and part time 2 year faculty is actually more open than a lot of fields. Community Colleges have continuously increasing enrollment as 4-years become more expensive, so lots of adding varying positions nearly every semester. We added 8 adjuncts just for spring semester and we are a tiny community college!

  4. Ah, isn't this the perennial heartache? I wish there were an easy answer. If you shut off your brain for a second, what is your heart telling you to do? When you are 80, is there one decision you would regret more than the other? Is there one where you would say, "I am so glad I..."?

  5. I wish I knew the answer to this. I try to think in these terms but it's hard. My baby will grow up, and then what will I do with myself if I stop my career now? But my baby will grow up, and I'll never get this time back.

  6. These sentiments of leaving academia behind have been slamming around in my head for the past year, particularly the one about letting down womankind. I thought taking a year off would help me figure it out, and alas, I still have no idea what to do.

    So what I'm saying is: *hug* You aren't alone. Smoothie date soon.