Monday, July 27, 2009

Big worries for little people

For some reason, and I'm not sure why, my little ones seem to be thinking about death a lot. It might be age-appropriate but when the subject comes up, it's really difficult for me to have the balanced reaction to it that other mothers might have who haven't faced a cancer diagnosis. As I was putting my daughter to bed the other night, my 5 3/4 year old (as she describes herself these days) said "Mommy, I'm afraid you're going to die". I asked her why she was thinking about this and she said "Because you're 48. And then you will be 50, then 60, then 70,80,90 and 100 and then you're going to die. Oh I'm scared...." and then she covered her eyes. I am an older mother and her only distant reference for death was her great grandmother who died at 101. Still, as I assured her that we had many years together, a part of me felt like a liar because in all reality, I don't know how long I have left. It may be many many years - or not that many. I realize no one knows their future but each day I wake up, I'm aware that this might be the day that I find out my days are limited. I do a pretty good job of living in the moment. I do that for the whole family. For my daughter and my son, I'm sad that they have to experience life's difficulties at such a young age because of me. I hate that they think about death so much at 7 and almost 6 years of age. These moments cut me to the core. It forces all those raw fears to the surface. I'll tuck them away again and move forward. I have to......for them.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Someone gets it!

I was sitting with a potential customer a few days ago, a very senior investigator who was interested in purchasing some equipment. I was in this meeting with one of our service engineers who had brought this potential lead to my attention. Somewhere in the discussion, the service engineer mentioned I had a PhD and then asked me where I had received it. When I told him it was from M.I.T., the investigator immediately said "And you're doing this?" with regards to my sales job. But before I could respond he then pointed and said, "You have young children, don't you?" I smiled and said "Yes". He got it. Rather than looking down on me and making negative assumptions, he regarded me as someone who had most likely made a difficult decision for the sake of the family. He was right. I appreciated that.

Just Keep Hangin' On

It's been a challenging couple of months. For those of you that have followed this blog, you will know that in January I was laid off of the technical sales position that I had left 17 years of academic research experience for. The reasons for that are the same reasons women drop out of the leaky pipeline every day - family responsibilities and a need for flexibility. In the moment that I was let go from the company, a general sales position in my home town with the same company became available and given the current economic crisis, I took it, begrudgingly with the goal of leaving it as soon as I could find another position in academic administration or in technical sales. I have been bored ever since but have been struggling to stay focused and to do a decent job at something that does not interest me.

How do I know that I don't want to stay in this job? Well for one thing, there's no science involved. It doesn't challenge my mind like my academic and technical sales jobs had. Most telling though, the question I asked myself: Would I have left academics to do this job? My response is always a resounding "No".

So here I am 6 months later. I did not get the academic administrative position I really wanted. I have not been called for several technical sales positions that I would be perfect for. I am still in a position that I had hoped to be out of by now. What am I doing? I'm hanging on. It's the first time in my life I have had a job that bores me. But I need to stay in it for the financial stability of the family. Sometimes this is a problem because of my cancer diagnosis in 2007. I think "Why am I wasting my time doing something I don't like?" Then I think about the kids and the finances. It's a position most likely many Americans are in these days. So I suck it up and keep trudging along.

Each day I am challenged to maintain a part of my "self worth". It's fortunate that I never completely defined myself by my science. As my description for this blog says, I'm a scientist, mother, skater and cancer survivor as well as a wife and daughter. Still I miss the purpose my academic position gave to my life. I miss the respect that I had with that position. I consider myself a strong individual but the continuation in this job wears even on me.

So I think about the good of the family and I just keep hangin' on. I hope that better things are just around the corner.