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.