So it's now approximately 18 months since I stepped out of the lab on maternity leave and over 6 months since I officially resigned. Sometimes I miss my work but not often. On days I do miss it I get out my glassware (pyrex) and bake. It's not that different to a PCR (multiplying DNA). Lying in my daughter's bed helping her back to sleep this morning I had a realisation:
Life as a stay at home mum is not that different to being a full time scientist.
I have often thought that my background in science has been a waste but now I'm thinking maybe it helped prepare me for motherhood afterall. There are many similarities between working as a scientist and being a mum. I'll list some for you now:
– both are something you do out of love (or fear of doing something else), because the pay sucks.
– there's lots and lots of waiting. In science you have to wait for things to arrive, for things to be processed, for things to incubate, for tests to run, for results to calibrate, for results to be approved, etc. In motherhood you have to wait 9 months for the baby to incubate, the delivery process never goes to plan, then you seem to wait repeatedly (for baby to fall asleep, for baby to wake up, for baby to finish feeding, for the steriliser to finish, for the washing machine to finish, for dinner to cook, for hubby to come home)
– there's days of great discovery mixed with periods of time so monotonous you think, "why did I choose this again?"
– checking emails is exciting
– you're under pressure to find novel cost effective ways of doing things
– you do the same methods every day and nobody can explain why sometimes they work and sometimes things just don't work.
– you learn to deal with strange smells
– you never really know what's coming in the next batch of foecal specimens
– you wash your hands all the time
– you're on your feet a lot
– there's lots of cleaning
– there's lots of waste
– there's lots of washing up
– multitasking is kind of a must if you want to get all your tasks done
– you attempt to answer questions: who, what, when, where, why?
– you don't want to wear your good clothes to work and you have to change them every day because all matter of nasties get on them.
– crazy hours
– on-call sucks
– at the end of a shift your top priority is a shower
– its much more enjoyable if you have a good team to work with
– you know that some doctors are just absolute idiots
– you audibly grown when some "medical professional" mentions the words flu, whooping cough, outbreak or epidemic on the news
– everyone thinks it's glorious until they try it themselves
– you're overworked, overtired, underpaid, underappreciated and overwhelmed, but you pride yourself in a job well done knowing that it takes a special kind of person to do what you do.
– you know deep down that what you do day to day is important and makes a big difference to someone. If you're in diagnostics you know you're helping someone find out what's wrong (or not). If you're in research waiting and waiting for a breakthrough but seemingly getting nowhere, then at least you're getting practice for being a parent. 😉
– science and parenting both require patience, persistence, a good sense of humour, copious amounts of caffiene, and your 'drug' of choice (personally I prefer chocolate.)
Being a mum is better though, kids are far more interesting than swabs and tubes of blood. They're better at growing viruses and bacteria than anything in the lab too.