It was a week of firsts for me. My daughter walked up a (small) mountain for the first time, all the while reminding me what it was like to feel giddy with joy at every turn in the trail and with every bird sighting. I started a full-time job outside of research for the first time in my adult life, and left at 5 pm every day without guilt. And my husband and I worked on building a shed together with our daughter there and actually got stuff done. Amazing what happens when babies are old enough to walk. This is not to say this last task was easy; there was more than one pause in the building project because someone wanted to walk over the instructions or “help.” But the fact that it was possible is progress in my book.

On a not quite unrelated note, I’ve been musing about careers tonight, and have come to the conclusion that I need to answer a few questions about myself before I pursue any more career change. I have always had a sense of unrest about my career path; nothing I have done has felt quite right. With each change I learn more, which in itself is valuable, but the unrest remains. Perhaps this is the year in which I seek to discover its origins. Or perhaps it’s simply time to take a step back and let other things be more important for a while. It’s hard for me to conceive of this; my identity has been so wrapped up in what I do for so long that the whole concept of balance is unnerving to me. But that fear, like so many others, is surely arising out of the darkness of the unknown.

If any of you have been through a similar career change, what helped you make the transition, and what lessons did you draw from the experience?

Torn in all directions

My daughter hasn’t wanted me to put her down lately. I get home from work and she clings on for dear life all evening and throughout the night, crying when I put her down to make dinner and, after bedtime, waking when I attempt to regain a little space of my own. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I love that she finds comfort in my presence. On the other hand, I’ve always needed some space of my own and am finding it difficult to fulfil this need.

This is one of the challenges I’ve found most difficult in becoming a mother thus far. My daughter’s persistent and communicative and very sure of her needs. My career (up until this point) has been all demanding. My husband, primary carer to my daughter most days, needs his space as well when I get home from work. And so I find myself torn: my own needs are often in conflict with all of these demands. I want to make everything better for everyone else, because I was brought up to put others’ needs before my own. If I do this, though, cracks begin to appear in my character; my resilience fades. In the process, my worst personality traits become amplified in all the caring for everyone before taking care of myself.

I want to provide positive examples of how to balance needs for my daughter, who will one day face some of the challenges I’m struggling to cope with now. She’s persistent and stubborn, is quick to anger and slow to forgiveness, and also needs her space–all characteristics I’ve been known to exhibit from time to time, to the point where, some days, I feel like I’m staring at a reflection of myself as I try to read my daughter’s anger. My poor mother. My daughter will survive as I did, but I’d like her to have an easier time managing these traits, so she can channel them into something positive. I guess I’ll have to figure out how to do that for myself first.

I keep reminding myself that these days are like these trips we used to take through the canyons of the Blue Mountains. You get through unworkable challenges with persistence, grit, and a bit of blood, only to find a view that makes it all worth it on the other side. We’ll make it, one slippery step at a time.