Several years ago, while at a conference, I ran into an emeritus professor from my department at the poster session. He had recently met his first grandchild, and all he wanted to talk about was the joy of parenting. He said, “If you’re a biologist, you really have to have a kid. You just learn so much about biology.”
That comment stuck with me, and once I had my daughter, it resonated. Development, genetics, behavior, immunology, endocrinology, psychology, motor control … digestion. (Lots of digestion.) I imagine her neurons stretching and linking, making connections and refining them daily. She can say “dog”! But now every animal is a dog (“woof woof!”). She knows “baby”, but everyone is “baby” – at least, until she learns a few more words. She can tell the difference between animate and inanimate objects, animals and humans. It blows my mind that there was a time when I didn’t know these things. Suddenly I wish I’d taken a philosophy course. Meanwhile, my parenting strategies are based on my understanding of evolution. I constantly ask myself how our current environment compares with those we evolved from, and how our ancient physiology and anatomy react to things like anti-microbial soap, diapers, and processed foods.
Other professors (also parents) told me never to have kids. Those remarks were made in the heat of high-stress moments and I didn’t take them seriously. Still, they were inappropriate and I hope they were never repeated to any other students. Every year I know, or know of, more moms who are successfully pursuing tenure-track faculty jobs. I’m optimistic that attitudes are changing, that more women are seeing scientific careers as a realistic and rewarding possibility, and that for every woman who heads down that path, ten more young women are encouraged to follow in their footsteps.
edited to say: For more #scimom posts see David Wescott’s list on his blog. I’ve linked to a few of the early ones below.
The Mother Geek blogs about her parenting “thing”
Nutgraf with kind of a fan letter to science
Motherhood has made Micro Dr. O a slob
Susan Wells on why she and her kids love science
Emily Finke still drinks water out of the hose.
The Wandering Scientist talks about motherhood, science, and all that.
Sheril Kirshenbaum tells parents to focus on critical thinking if they want kids to get interested in science.
ETA: Not official #scimom posts but recent and relevant
Elaine Westwick on increasing diversity in science blogging
A Hypothesis Is A Wish Your Brain Makes by Catherine Connors at Her Bad Mother.
Nicole and Maggie explain Why I’m not a guilt-stricken mother and why I have it all and why the patriarchy sucks