Becoming a woman

I have changed so much in these last few years.  I used to work in a male-dominated field.  Most of my friends were men.  My mentors were men.  I dressed poorly; I ate out; I embraced being one of the boys.  I had an old boss who confessed years later that (although he would never act on it) he was very attracted to my femininity.  I was flattered but perplexed, as I didn’t think I had any particular femininity at all.  If I did, it was only relative to his other colleagues–who were almost all men.

Somehow, a lot changed when I had kids.  Part of it was that I had moved to a job that was 50% women.  But another part was that so much of my experience now consisted of things that a man just couldn’t relate to:  pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, all the endless invasive OBGYN exams, etc.   Meanwhile the women around me acted like I’d just been initiated into some secret club of moms.

After having kids, I slowly became interested in fashion (because in my new job, it seemed to matter).  I became interested in cooking, out of necessity after I came down with gestational diabetes.

My husband’s career became our primary career, because as a doctor his work directly impacts life and death, and also because he has the potential to earn twice what I do.  And because with several years of sleep deprivation, I stopped caring as much about my job, and idolizing people who did.  I slid into a job role where I was dealing with people instead of doing technical work–and I found that I really enjoyed it.  Some days, I felt like quitting and staying home with the kids.

I don’t recognize myself; the old tomboy who used to be a glass ceiling-breaker.  I didn’t totally choose this path; I left academia out of necessity.  I never really understood women who worked in female-dominated fields, whom it seemed to me spent more time “communicating” than actually doing things, who cared about their clothes more than their work product.

I feel like I have betrayed the person I used to be, and like I wasted a lot of potential–because I really am a crack techie and programmer.  But frankly going with the flow is easier than fighting it.  In a state of sleep deprivation and fatigue, doing a job that is easy is a lot less stressful than one that requires my full concentration.  It’s been six years since I left my old field, and although I’ve encountered discrimination, never once have I heard the explicit, crude sexual comments I did as a graduate student and postdoc.  I didn’t realize how much that environment sucked until I got out of it.  It’s easier sometimes to go with the flow than to fight it, and I certainly feel happier.