Being a working mother

No matter what a mother does or chooses, she is wrong, less than perfect and basically guilty and everyone finds the audacity in themselves to judge each other's choices.

Today I had an interesting conversation with my mother. I was in the lab for an experiment at 5pm on a Sunday which is typical for my work as being a bench scientist. We rely on experimental time points and ages of mice, treatments, growth of cells... so many things out of our control when following experimental protocols that defy all workday rules, 9-5s, long weekends, federal holidays which you easily get used to when doing a PhD.

I am a big advocate of healthy boundaries and try hard to not work on evenings or weekends. I was actually. Before Coronavirus pandemic.

Everything got so messed up since March in our schedules. Now that we are unable to send our daughter back to daycare and my husband working from home, "flexibility" and work when you can have been the key for us. Which means working on evenings, weekends or whenever! to get things done.

So here I am in the lab at 5pm on a Sunday, happily preparing for a coming up prep and my mother tells me "Don't forget that your daughter is waiting for you at home. Love you, bye."

I am surprised (and not much at the same time) to get such an intrusive and covered comment from her. I am used to her putting her nose occasionally where it does not belong and telling her not to do this and that and playing the back and forth game of The Boundaries.

As a response to this comment, I told her that my daughter is napping at the moment, who is probably playing with me during her sleep as if this comment didn't hurt. I continued replying to her saying I sometimes forget about who I am, my name (making a sarcastic joke to lighten up my mood), and that she is not something that I can forget about (like a bag!!!) I continued saying I am doing the best decisions I can for her and basically defending myself as "good enough mother"... her comment haunted me for the rest of the day and I decided to write this down.

My role as a mother has been an integral part of my identity for the past two years (starting from conception till now) and I had to make decisions, so many decisions, thinking about my daughter while carrying her and beyond, always by putting her well being first, above everything else. So how she can dare to imply that I am being less of a mother because I have to work while I am also trying my best to do my job and trusting my husband to take care of her (which he is excellent at)

There are a lot of things at play here which I have tried to understand deeply for the past 5 years while I am revisiting my relationship with my family, my childhood and ultimately what kind of a mother I want to become and my relationship with my daughter.

I feel like mothers are judged for their decisions no matter what they do or chose. Some mothers are judged when they leave their children to daycare and labeled as "bad mothers or career freaks" who have chosen their career over their children's well-being. (what a foolish comment) Others are criticized for staying home mothers for giving up everything for their child. (equally foolish comment)

I feel like no matter what a mother does or chooses, she is wrong, less than perfect and basically guilty and everyone finds the audacity in themselves to judge each other's choices.

Why people have to comment or judge other's choices and how actually, without knowing what they are going through for real?

Why does a woman do this to another woman, most importantly? Judging each other so badly, as if it makes us better mothers, seeing other women struggle? and can you imagine a mother doing this to her own daughter who is a new mother?

I know my mother has always complained about how my presence changed everything for her and she had to give up her career and that my father was never there to help. It is not hard for me to see what is going on here at the moment.

But, again, as a mother, isn't she suppose to be happy for me now, that I am working full-time (working myself off to keep things on air actually, still staying employed on a pandemic) and that my husband is very very helpful and doing a great job at taking care of our daughter when I go to work.

In order to support someone, we should focus on our own trauma and heal first. I know that in order for her to be happy for me or for us, or at least understand the tough decisions we are making every day, she really has to revisit her emotions about her being a working mother very closely and her relationship with my father.

It is a futile effort to expect from my mother to understand my dilemma now while I am working full time to support and keep my family here on a temporary visa in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic before we are moving to Canada.

Because she is some who has always blamed me implicitly that she was not able to continue her career as she wanted. So me putting my career first now (being in the lab on a Sunday at 5pm...) , makes me less of a mother in her eyes?

What about the other roles that we have carried for so long before we become mothers?

a wife, a scientist, an immigrant, as a healthy relationship advocate. What happens to those when we become a mother? Vanish to thin air?

Why people expect us to forget about all of them and just become The Mother.

I think we are here to integrate these all in one pot and do our best under given circumstances. I wish I had the luxury to stay with my daughter at home all day. Even then I would not be happy with that because that is not who I am. I love other parts of my identity that I loved and cherished for so long before I become a mother and I do not want to give them up. I want to integrate them.

I want my daughter to see me at the action while doing my work at the bench, I want her to see me advocate for better healthier relationships in families, I want her to see me advocate and support for immigrant scientists and hear the hardships that immigrant families face every day.

Why would I give this up? They make me no less of a mother if anything a better mother, a better person. I want her to see all colors of me and that she herself can dare to have different parts of her flourish.

In order to be a good mother, a parent, to guide someone, to teach someone life and the world, we need to know ourselves, our purpose, and dare to go after it. Without that what we have to give our children?

And when they dare to be themselves, how can we cherish them, if we have already given up all other parts of us along the way to become just "the mother"

I am a mother. I am a scientist. I am a wife, I am an immigrant and I am proud of all these different parts of me. I want my daughter to see me a whole and want to see her as a whole.

I am here to love my daughter as much as I can. I will tell her that I did my best, worked hard, really hard, for her to have a better future, that I did what I thought was best for her and our family with the choices we have at the time and

I hope she can forgive me for my mistakes, including all the times that I was in the lab at 5pm on a Sunday.


September 2020

New York

Photo: Shadows of me and my daughter, 2020 Summer