Some of my friends call me Wonder woman because, according to them, I can do anything and I have achieved many things in my life. The truth is that I wish I had more strength or a superpower to accomplish everything I would like to do in my life. I am not a Wonder woman.
Let’s start with the fact that juggling motherhood with my career, as a Geoscientist, has been an extremely challenging task. I have failed, so many times, but by embracing that failure, I have, providentially, learned and evolved.
I remember the day I had to leave my first baby girl at the nursery so that I could go back to work to continue to develop my career. Claire Alejandra was only 7 months old when I went back to the office and I was still breastfeeding, in the mornings and evenings. I chose a nursery near my office to be able to run there if she needed me; or run there if my body needed her. Many times they called me saying she was unwell and I ran there, scared, with my heart beating so fast until I could see her eyes and feel her temperature.
The first 2 weeks were probably one of the hardest of my life and I doubted, every second, whether what I was doing was the right thing to do. Each morning, during those 2 weeks, I felt like my body went to work while my soul stayed with her. I used to constantly question myself: If I don’t follow my dreams, will I be the unhappiest mother on this planet? Will I still be a good mother if I follow my dreams? Does my girl need me next to her so she can be well and happy?
My routine got easier once Claire Alejandra showed me that she could be happy even without me being next to her all the time. She started smiling when we arrived at the nursery. Her eyes used to get so big and shiny while opening her arms toward her key carer and looking at the other babies in a room full of toys. Then, my heart was full of joy to realise my baby could be happy without me. Even though I was raised to study hard and get the best scores at school, I feel that my main aim as a mother is to make sure my daughters are healthy and happy, with or without her mum, and whatever they choose to do with their lives.
After 3 daughters, I have continued to follow my professional dreams; I even managed to successfully finish a Doctorate at Imperial College London. Claire Alejandra is 8 years old now and when I see her, so happy, focused, determined and with a high sense of responsibility, I confirm that my decision was the right one to take. I recently received a job offer to work abroad and when I told her about it, she said: “Mum, this is once in a lifetime opportunity and you have to take it. If we move there, I will still continue to pursue my career as an athlete and I will train hard to participate in the Olympic games”. She always inspires me to focus, try harder and do better.
What I have found more difficult about managing motherhood and a career in Geoscience is to get the right mind-body balance, which allows perform well in my routine.
I am not the perfect mother, neither the perfect housewife. I am far from being the perfect employee and I wasn’t an amazing PhD student, even if I passed my viva without corrections.
I feel that I still have so much to learn and if I had the opportunity to do my PhD again, I would do things differently. I would even struggle differently. During the hard times of my PhD, I used to have a recurrent dream where, first, I could only see with one eye and, then, I ran to a mirror where I could only see half of my body. My impression is that the recurrent dream was a reflection of my struggle trying to find the right balance between the research and my family and trying to be good at both.
My message to real women, who want to follow their professional dreams and still be good mothers and housewives, is that there is no recipe for success or for happiness. However, it is possible to succeed by combining the following:
- Healthy eating. Respect your time to eat and choose your food wisely.
- Exercise is a must. You need to make sure you oxygenate your brain. Choose any physical activity you enjoy, even if it’s only for 30 minutes. I run; while running I meditate and recover my internal energy.
- Find a good support network, e.g. husband, family, friends, or advisors.
- Make lists. Solve one thing at a time and live one day at a time. You can’t solve everything at the same time or in just one day.
- Avoid procrastination. Organise and respect your schedules.