Friday, October 28, 2005

Revisiting a past life

This is the time of year that my old life tends to resurface. Lovely Boss at the consulting firm I did a brief stint at right before C was born starts ramping up projects and needs to staff them. New, Confused Grad Student assigned to my old projects at U of X finally finds my notes and tracks me down. Mentor, having been reminded of my existence by New, Confused Grad Student, gets antsy and places a call to see when I'm going to be done with this mothering gig and return to the fold. This year, a surprise late entry into the "make her feel like a waste of a life" contest was Psychotic Director who drove me from academia to the private sector.

Every year I sit at the kitchen table with M and rehash whether I made the right decision leaving it all behind. I am fearful that it will be impossible to return to that life after taking such a long break. I debate the usefulness of auditing a course or two at the not-so local university just to keep a hand in things, but fear I'll get sucked right back in when I'm not yet ready. I dig up my old research to see if I still remember what used to consume my life (and sometimes to help out New, Confused Grad Student if she makes a particularly desperate plea).

The first year post-C I actually took a stab at doing some projects for Lovely Boss and Mentor from home, and realized I was incapable of doing it part-time. I couldn't easily walk away when it was time for the babysitter to leave or when someone woke up early and wanted milk and hugs. Perhaps due to the fog of pregnancy, I made a second attempt right before A was born and again ended up incredibly frustrated. This year no one made much of an effort to woo me back, which sent me into a full-fledged panic attack. Up until now I think I could have walked back into any of my old positions and picked up close to where I left off. Since the birth of A I haven't kept up well with the current research and news, and it shows. I am getting to the point of no return.

After dropping off C and A this morning, I raced home and pulled up the course catalog and job listings from the not-so-local university and tried to figure out how I could make it work. The answer was that I couldn't, not without impacting my children's lives more than I was willing to do. Leading me right back to where I always end up after one of these episodes, wiping tushies and serving up grilled cheese for two adorable children. This year though, that inner voice that always told me it was a temporary situation has been silent. Although I know there is an end to the tushie wiping, and someday the grilled cheese will be provided by a lunch lady, it is starting to dawn on me that I may not be returning to the life I used to have. And I'm not sure what to do about that except morn.