I’ve been feeling the pressure of time lately, and I know I am certainly not the first to be concerned about what the future will hold. I’m also not the first to worry about how my choices now will affect that future, nor the first to ask, “How will I manage both a professional life and a home life, as a wife and mother?” But the worries themselves are a first for me, and I am glad to be able to ponder them all when each is still up to me to decide. When will I start a family? When will I finish school? Where will I work? What will I do? What is the meaning of MY life?
It bothers me that this reeks of the cliché’d notion of the biological clock ticking, and it bothers me more that these concerns might be related to a birthday that’s just over a year and a month away –the big Three-Oh. Intellectually, I know it’s just a number, but it’s requiring a bit of conscious effort not to let it get me down. But it may be age (aka ‘maturity’) that has pushed my hormones to start preparing my mind for the eventuality of children, and thus these urges to stabilize my future. Or it may be the fact that I’m simply getting tired of being a student, and I really just want to figure out what I want to DO with my skills.
The big question is, “To PhD, or not to PhD?” Interestingly enough, a search on that phrase brought up 57 million links, which is comforting. I found evidence of a lot of people deciding that it is the right thing for themselves, and a lot of others realizing that it isn’t, and not feeling like a failure for choosing to go a different route. The most striking comment was presented as the answer to “Why the hell am I doing this?”:
If you do not have an acceptable answer to this question, then don’t get a Ph.D. I repeat: if you do not have a rock-solid reason for getting the Ph.D., then it is better that you leave with a Master’s.
This started some very serious thought about why I am doing what I’m doing, and my only real reason was, “Why not?” I do like the idea of writing textbooks, and it’s quite possible that a Ph.D. would be important in that choice of career… but books aren’t profitable to base a career off of, apparently, and so I was worried that it wasn’t enough motivation. I just wasn’t “feeling” the draw to research, which really made my thesis advisor’s words poignant: the purpose of a Ph.D. is to prove that I can do independent (and, presumably, original) research.
I came up with an interesting analogy for how I’ve been feeling about this: education is like a highway, and I’ve just kept on following it because hey, it’s the biggest road around, and it will surely get me somewhere, so I didn’t really worry too much about it. But lately, I’ve been wondering if perhaps I should’ve been looking more carefully for my exit. There’s no way to turn around and go backwards, so there’s no sense in thinking I missed my exit — but there was an exit a little while ago that I could’ve taken, and there’s another one coming up that goes to the same place: the Department of Education.
I’ve always known that teaching is something I definitely see myself doing, and tried to convince myself that I would find the teaching most rewarding if I did it at the university level. But in most cases, a career in academia has more to do with the research than the teaching. As for teaching at a highschool level, I’ve always just considered it to be just a “backup plan”. I really don’t know why I discouraged myself from considering the idea more seriously; perhaps I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t chickening out from going “all the way” up to the Ph.D. level. I am still sure that I am capable of getting a Ph.D., but I am not sure I want or need one! So why spend the next two or three years on that track, when instead I could wrap up my Master’s degree, shoot over to the Department of Education, and get out and into teaching for a year in the same length of time? Besides, I can keep appraised on the developments in my field of interest on a recreational level!
There is one other consideration that I’ve only briefly mentioned, and it has to do with the time commitment of the two choices. The question is about when I am going to have the chance to be a mother. I feel that this is important enough to plan my career around it, instead of planning my motherhood around my career. I may in fact be in a position where I can take a few years off to raise the young ‘uns, letting my husband bring home the bacon (a figure of speech I giggle about, since I personally don’t eat bacon, or any other meat for that matter). See, I really am quite bothered by the fact that most maternity leaves are only a year long. A one-year old is still a baby! I am sure that when that baby is in my arms, I will have a terrible time agreeing to send it to daycare. But then again, that’s just because I didn’t go to daycare myself. My husband did, and he has no problem with the idea, so we’re still discussing.
He’s behind me in my decisions for my future, though, and says that I will be a very good teacher OR professor and that he will support me in anything I do. Hmm, now I’m smiling to myself, and thinking I’m about done here and would rather be somewhere… warm. :)
Here’s the mindmap that really helped me get a grip on what was going on in my head.