Two-body problem; post 2

Yesterday I began writing about our current two-body problem.  I want to write a little bit about how I’ve felt so far, and why.

First I was extremely excited at having an interview!  Then I started thinking about what all this means for our family.  And that has obviously been the difficult part.

Ok, so I grew up in a very “traditional” home.  My dad worked and my mom stayed home.  I stayed home with her until half-days at preschool when I was 4.  It was always kind of an unspoken truth that mommies should stay home with their babies.  And that wives should defer to their husbands.  My parents have a pretty equal relationship, but there is definitely an undercurrent of patriarchalism there.

I was always encouraged to excel in school, and in science and math.  My dad has a master’s degree in some sort of computer science and my mom has a bachelor’s in math.  When I wanted to go to a tech school for a science degree my parents were proud.  When I got my degree they were more proud.  When I went to grad school the pride continued.  Then when I got pregnant they started thinking of the child, and what would we do with it?  What were my plans?

Froggy was born shortly before I defended my master’s thesis.  SkepToad was working on his PhD already, so we shared caring for Froggy.  I worked part-time at the University while SkepToad researched and we would switch off at lunch-time most days.  So I pretty much stayed home with Froggy.

Now that I’ve re-entered the working world, I realize that I need this.  I need to be involved in something bigger than me.  I’m smart, and I need to be intellectually challenged.  I would be so bored if I were a stay-at-home mom full-time.  I am happier for working.  Besides these things I want to give Froggy a good example of a working mother, doing something she loves, not just working to pay the bills.  That has become as important to me as someone staying at home with her was before she was 2 years old.

With this potential job I feel that I can give Froggy this example.  But at the same time I am tugged at by feelings from my upbringing.  Besides having a non-working mother, there was also the whole “husband as head of household” part.  My dad worked, and we moved a few times for his job.  He was the only one with a career, so of course it was the most important.  Now that I have a chance at a pretty awesome career I find myself feeling guilty.  Do I deserve to pursue a career if it makes it more difficult for SkepToad to pursue his dream career?  How can we work it out so that we both have a chance at a good career?  Should I just give up and fulfill a completely supportive role, just making enough money to get us through the PhD and postdoc process, and find myself without a real career afterwards?

These “women-come-second” feelings are awful!  I feel them at the same time I’m kicking myself for feeling them.  But it is difficult to let go of this thing that has been in my subconscious mind my entire life.  It helps to have a husband who understands where I’m coming from.  He’s really good at telling me I do deserve to have a meaningful career and that we will do our best to work something out that is good for both of us.


July 31, 2009 at 8:07 pm Leave a comment

A version of the two-body problem; post 1

Right now my family is going through some upheaval associated with the infamous two-body problem.  Some backstory: I have applied for about four jobs so far this summer, most on a whim.  I am employed and not severely unhappy in my job.  Yet something is definitely lacking, and I have been inspired to apply for other jobs.  I got a rejection letter from one, heard nothing about the others.  Until nearly a month after I applied (and I had forgotten!) I received an email requesting a phone interview.

I was flabbergasted as this application was (along with the others) just really a whim and not exactly what my education is in.  I had the phone interview and it went quite well.  I hung up still very interested in the position.  The person that interviewed me hung up still very interested in me.  I got a call back in about an hour for an in-person interview.  An all-expenses paid trip to Favorite State.  Yes, this job happens to be in my (and SkepToad’s) Favorite State.

So I’m going to interview, and I’m going to try my darndest to get the job.  But this poses a large familial problem.  SkepToad is still working on his PhD.  He loves his research and is getting more into it every day.  A new job for me would mean moving (a long way!) again.  I don’t want it to mean taking SkepToad away from his research or his PhD.

We’ve been looking at some of the logistics of possible futures.  SkepToad can do some work from “home” meaning anywhere in the country.  He is required to do a bit of travel to field sites anyway, and can travel from any major airport.  There would be enough money for him to keep a bachelor pad in the city to be close to his adviser.  This may be a good thing as well because he would be away from distractions (me and Froggy) and may actually be able to focus more on his research and produce a kick ass dissertation.  But it means being away from his family more than he’d like.  And it may have other career consequences, especially if we really want to try to settle down in Favorite State.  Neither of us can say what these career consequences may be, so we have to learn as we go here.  SkepToad is currently in the process of actively finding career opportunities possible in Favorite State.

We started a Google spreadsheet with Positives and Negatives of each situation (staying in current job or taking new job offer).  Keep in mind that I haven’t been to the interview yet.  But we want to be prepared for the decision if we do have to make it.  And, like I said, I’m going to try my darndest to get the job.

Tomorrow I will continue with how this whole thing is making me feel.  I come from a conservative and traditional background and right now that’s playing havoc with my newfound feminism and career hopes.

July 30, 2009 at 6:35 pm 1 comment

Yes… I’m a scientist.

I had to take my car to the dealer this morning for service.  It was going to take an hour so I got the shuttle to work.  Driven by a nice (enough) old man, most likely in his 80s.  He wanted me to sit in front with him and he dropped me off last.  He told me all about his old business (a grocery store) and how terrible it was.  Then we pull up at my office and he says, “What do you do anyway?”  “I’m a scientist,” I say.  “Really?” He says, “Why aren’t you old and ugly?”

July 20, 2009 at 3:38 pm Leave a comment

Sticking up for myself

I’ve been having fun reading some posts about mentoring in academia via Historiann. Something that undine said on Sisyphuspost got me remembering something that happened to me as an undergrad. undine said:

If you were raised with working-class values (as I was), you thought that when someone told you the rules, they were really the rules. You didn’t realize that you could argue your way out of them and convince people to do your bidding, because that’s not how the world works if you don’t have class privilege to back it up.

Not that I’m bitter, but I’ve learned that most rules are just starting points for negotiation for people with privilege and have strongly encouraged students who didn’t grow up knowing that the world was their oyster to speak up and protest when some arcane rule gets brought up.

This made me remember working on my senior thesis as an undergrad. I did a pretty big project working mostly on my own with a bit of direction from the only paleontologist at my Uni. I had decided paleobotany was the thing for me, and there were no paleobotanists within a 200-mile radius. I came upon some rules in the middle that dealt directly with the way I approached my senior thesis as a class. It was ambiguous as to how many credits you could use for a senior thesis – credits that counted towards graduation. My reading of the rules, and my thesis adviser’s, was that you could take 3 credits per semester, for a total of 6 credits. I had taken 3 in the fall when this came under department scrutiny. They read the rules another way, that you could only take 3 credits total. You were “supposed” to take 1 credit in the fall for lit review and 2 credits in the spring for research. Well, I was only half done with my project and I was NOT going to find another class to take! I made this clear to my thesis adviser and to my academic adviser, who happened to be department chair as well. They helped me fight for my right to have the extra 3 credits count towards graduation. I was successful and got a nice senior thesis out of it. The fight was well worth it.

I was confronted with some arbitrary rules, and I chose to fight them.  I didn’t come from a particularly rich family, private school, or otherwise privileged childhood.  I wanted this 6-credit thesis so badly that I wouldn’t take no for an answer!  That’s all there was to it!

This really sticks out in my mind right now because, especially being in “corporate America” daily now instead of academia, I feel like I am quickly losing the ability to stick up for myself. Perhaps my goals are more nebulous now? Back then I knew what I wanted and was prepared to fight for it. Now, frankly, I’m not so sure. But, as I write, I am preparing to do a teeny bit of sticking up for myself. We’ll see how that goes…

July 17, 2009 at 6:50 pm Leave a comment

Almost parallel trajectories

I spent a while on Tuesday chatting with my best friend from high school. We don’t talk very often any more, but we are still good friends. I got up the nerve to ask him a question that had been floating around in my mind for a while now – whether or not he’s still a practicing Mormon. It turns out that he’s now a self-described “militant/evangelical atheist”! I didn’t see that one coming!

I didn’t learn his whole story, but it turns out it was a little bit like mine. What I found interesting about the whole thing was that we have been friends since 1996, and we lost touch for a while somewhere in 2005, and in between then and now we’ve both turned away from our childhood religions and are now atheists. Back in high school we were both fairly committed to our different faiths, mine Lutheran, his LDS. I just found it way cool that we went through similar changes in faith while we weren’t in touch, and now it seems like we have added another layer to our friendship through a “shared” experience that wasn’t even really shared!

June 18, 2009 at 4:25 pm Leave a comment

Stormy morning



This morning we awoke to thunderstorms!  Then Froggy and I had to drive through them to school and work.  When we left home it was only sprinkling.  As we drove through Center City it was raining HARD and there was lightning everywhere.  The tops of most of the skyscrapers were shrouded in the clouds.  We passed through the storm heading east, and by the time we got to Froggy’s school it was only sprinkling – we had beat the storm.

When I got out of the school and back in the car the storm hit!  The same storm I had already driven through!  Lightning was everywhere and it was pouring buckets of rain.  It was crazy!  And fun at the same time.  I got this radar picture about 20 minutes after the storm had passed.  This was an impressive set of storms this morning!

June 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

That old standby – money

I wish I had something more profound to post about today.  My mind, however, is being consumed by my budget.  I’ve been thinking about it nearly all day.  I thought of a new way to visualize and predict future budgets, and implemented that today.  It has been good, but it has been a huge brain- and time-sink.  I finally got to a point where I can take all my work home to share with SkepToad, and now I feel like I need to just decompress for a while.

I can say this… no more credit card purchases!  We’re actually not in debt, but paying for things nearly a month after buying them is screwing up the budgeting process.  So, no more credit cards for a while at least.  And if we pinch pennies now we’ll be much happier come winter, when I’m sure we’ll have to make adjustments again.  But at least we’ll have more of a cushion.

June 3, 2009 at 7:19 pm Leave a comment

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The Stars

SkepticMommy : Me! I'm a scientist working in industry. I get to play in the lab most of the time. I also run, do yoga, and read. And I'm always learning more about the world around me.

SkepToad : My husband, a 6th year astrophysics PhD student. He's involved in some really cool research and he also likes teaching and outreach.

Froggy : My preschool age daughter. She loves to dance and sing and color and go to the Children's Museum, and she has a great sense of humor.

Ringo : Froggy's lovey, a stuffed frog that's been with us since she was born. Yeah, his name is Ringo.