Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I've been thinking about this word a lot the past week. A friend of mine came over to help me paint - man, there is no end to painting! - and we talked a bit about 'fulfillment.' Her husband isn't sure she feels 'fulfilled' staying at home with their kids, despite her assurances to him that for her, this is the most important thing she can be doing right now. Not that it doesn't make her crazy at times - she is human after all and not a robot.

I suppose some people are fortunate enough to have found jobs/careers that 'fulfill' them. I have always found that for myself, fulfillment does not come from the outside. That is, I have to take active steps to 'fill Kat.' If I don't, crankiness ensues. If i do, the world is a happier place - at least MY world is. There were two gals in my former lab that talked often of their love of day care. They often dreaded the weekends, because then they would have their kids full time. These were good mothers who loved their kids, but they weren't used to hanging out with them all the time. I've always been curious how much of the 'labeling' of each side (stay-at-home vs. 'working' mom) is a defense mechanism to assuage some of the guilt that each feels about their personal choice, but for these gals stay-at-home mom were bon-bon eating, manicure getting, all-day shopping, super-snotty lazy butts who were too dumb to have 'real jobs.' How could they not carry their weight in society by having a job? How could they possibly be happy just staying at home with their kids?

Needless to say, we did NOT have many conversations about my post-Katie-hatching plans. The PI (boss) left and I conveniently ran out of funding at the same time that I was due, so that gave me an out. To them, I was 'wasting' my education by not going back to work right away (the two gals I'm thinking of in particular were technicians, which means primarily that their job is to carry out the experiments that someone else thinks of and later interprets.) Most interesting to me was the support I got from the new PI of the lab, a fellow Ph.D., who said that he would happily trade working for a few years in order to stay home and raise his new son, and the MD investigator who cut her hours after the birth of her twins so she could spend more time with them.

I understand that it's a personal choice for everyone, but if I was working full-time right now, and let's pretend that I could find a research position with a 30 minute commute, I would see my kids approximately 2.5 hours a day. One hurried hour or so in the morning, trying to get everyone fed and ready and out the door, and about an hour and a half at night, which time wouldbe spent making dinner, trying to get them to eat it, and putting them to bed. That to me is insanity. As a postdoc, the only real extra nonsense I'd have to try and squeeze in would be travel to the occasional conference. As a professor, I'd get to juggle committee meetings, travel, and who knows what else.

Fulfillment? What kind of fun happens in the craziness of getting up and going to bed? Everyone is at their most demanding - myself included. No wonder the lab gals loved day care - if the ENTIRE day was going to be that, who wouldn't want to ship the troops off to let someone else deal with the nonsense. I'm not saying that some days don't FEEL just like that half hour before bed. But even if I was some cutting edge research genius instead of a 'cell poker' studying the effects of low oxygen on lung muscle, how could that make me feel like more of a 'complete' person than watching Katie and Alex have a tea party, or watching how excited they get when they figure something out?

This is not to say that changing a million diapers a day makes me dance around the house singing like Snow White. But for me, working outside my home isn't the answer. Figuring out what DOES energize me and then doing something about it is. That and setting realistic expectations for what I NEED to fill me up. Of course, Dove dark chocolate miniature ice cream bars help too.


MiaKatia said...

There are days where I look at all the fun I have had with the kids watching them play together, having lunch at McDonald's with my girlfriends and their kids, getting a new library book, one of them learning a new trick a the park, or lounging at the pool for a couple of hours where I really feel bad for the dads (or working moms). Because if you look for it, there is so much to enjoy about motherhood. Then there are the days where there are 673 tantrums, fighting in the ranks, we are stuck inside all day and I think I just can not do this one more day and I would trade places with the dads/working moms in a heartbeat.
We do have to as mothers or even dads find what fills us up and rejuvenates us and make time for that so we have something to give. Because we have nothing to give to society or our families if we are empty. I think Dove mini ice cream bars would help fill me up too!

azufelt said...

I love your posts, always so meaningful, and mostly right on target.

You TOTALLY have to look inside for fulfillment. It's tough somedays to remember that I have to find the things I enjoy, because sometimes they get lost amidst the crying. But Mis's right, when you get to do all those fun and simple things with your kids, and it means the world to them, that is truly a rewarding fill up.

Oh yeah, did you know that my good ol' bro will be heading your way soon... he's taking a job up there!

Kristina said...

I completely agree with your post, Kat. I have never felt as "fulfilled" as I do now. Some women need to go back to work for economic reasons and others choose to go back because it is the right choice for them and they feel they can give more to their children that way, both financially and emotionally. I personally feel very fortunate in my opportunity to stay home with our little guy and when I think about it as a percentage of my lifetime, these years when I can be with my baby is such a small portion of my life that I want to enjoy it to the fullest.