Archive for May, 2012

Hanging up my SuperMom cape…

Posted on May 11, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

ImageBrandon started traveling again for work in January.  I didn’t think too much about it – I mean he traveled every week when we were in Texas.  That was the main reason we moved to Calgary – so we could have him home every night.  And we did… for about 2.5 years.  I had a lot on my plate – full time grad student, full time mom, and running of the household.  No big…  been there and done that.  In Texas, I was a full time student that had a 1.5 hour commute (one way) to school.  What I forgot was A.  I only had one child at the time,  B.  I never did anything to focus on myself or my health, and C.  My parents lived across town.  I never realized how much I depended on them – not only for babysitting, but for company – until we moved 3333 km away (that’s 2071 miles for my friends south of the border).   

Over the past 6 months, I’ve wrestled with the idea that something in my life had to give.  I couldn’t do it anymore.  My life had gotten too hectic to live.  I did my school thing, picked up Zachary, fixed dinner, taxied Jackson to where he needed to go, got Zachary to bed, and then worked on more school stuff.  My fellow graduate students can attest to the fact that you don’t stop being a graduate student when you close the door to your lab.  I would push my struggles to the back of my mind and just get enough done so that the boys had something to eat (not necessarily healthy somethings) and we had clean clothes to wear (most days).  Our weekend activity was just trying to catch up from the week and keep our heads above water.   I couldn’t think of a way to get the balance that I so desperately needed.  I felt like I was being pulled in too many different directions and at the rate I was going, I wouldn’t be very good at anything.  I know that there are moms out there that do all I was trying to do and even more.  I tip my hat to them.  They are truly SuperMoms. 

I began to give serious consideration to withdrawing from school…  I know, right?  Dawn Jackson would NEVER voluntarily quit school!  Ok, there was that one semester I took off to have Jackson but then I went right back.  For months I kept the notion of leaving school quiet.  I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud.   After having several heart to heart talks with the mirror about what it is that I want in life, I finally sent Brandon a text message expressing the need for something to change.  The words were out and once I hit “Send”, I couldn’t take them back. 

Brandon and I discussed the ins and outs of what withdrawing from school would mean for me and the rest of my family.  To make the decision even tougher, Zachary had finally gotten a spot in the University Child Care Centre and he LOVED it there.  I had also finished up my course requirement for my degree, so all that was left was research.  There was the ever present idea that leaving school would illustrate how I failed.  I didn’t want to be a failure in anyone’s eyes, especially my friends and family.  It’s been difficult, but I can finally look at this decision as not failing, but as a simple shift in my priorities.  I remember when I first talked about going back to school after we moved here.  Brandon was all for it and said, “If in two years you aren’t happy, quit school and do something else.”  I could never wrap my head around that idea.  Who would ever up and quit a PhD program?  This girl just did.

My decision involved more than my laundry and culinary skills.  I wanted to spend time with Zachary while he was still young.  It’s hard to explain.  I was able to spend time with Jackson.  We did so much together – random trips to Six Flags, out of town trips that had no timeline or specific destination, SciPort visits to feed the gators, etc…   Maybe I assumed that all that would somehow just happen with Zachary as well or maybe I didn’t realize how much I would miss it.  I also want to be there for Jackson (even though he IS 13 and ready to move out on his own).  If nothing else, the cats will enjoy me being home more.  Would my decision to leave school have gone the other way if Zachary was older?  Guess we’ll never know.

I also want to be a little selfish and focus my health.  I’m currently training for another half marathon in July followed by the Strathmore Women’s Tri in August and the Subaru Banff Tri in September.  My mind will then shift gears to work toward the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge in January.  I’m so nervous about the Goofy, but I’m ecstatic that I’ll finally meet my fitness soulmate.  We should be easy to spot – the two goofy girls running around in Snow White costumes.  I found it difficult to get my training done on a consistent basis and am looking forward to having that time to myself.  I know that being home with Zachary will cause me to lose a lot of “me” time (where I could catch a movie or just sit alone in the quiet), so I’ll have to make the most of my training sessions – “me” time and stress relief!

ThoughtWorks is a global company with offices everywhere, therefore we have the opportunity to travel.  There are so many places we would love to visit: Brazil, South Africa, Australia, China, Singapore, London, Germany… the list goes on.  I didn’t want to squander this opportunity because I was in school.  I know, I know… we could just travel when I got done, but then Jackson might not be able to go with us.  It’s hard to believe that he only has 4 more years and then he’s off to who knows where…  He really wants to go to Australia so that’s our preliminary plan.  He could do a year of school down in Oz and get a taste of Australian rugby.  To give my boys a chance to experience another country and culture is something I just can’t pass up.  I know that it will take some time to work out the logistics, but at least I know that the cats and snakes will be well cared for while we’re gone.  

Brandon was very happy with the decision to withdraw from school.  He’s felt guilty about not being with us and is hoping that this will be a good move for all of us.  Jackson’s reaction wasn’t what I expected.  I figured I would get the typical teenager response of “Ok.” or  “Whatever”…  Instead I got disappointment.  He kept telling me to just change my mind back.  I don’t know if it was because he was proud of his mom for pursuing the degree or if he liked the fact that I was never home.

Once the decision was made, I had to tell my advisor.  It was a conversation I was not looking forward to but I couldn’t put it off.  We were scheduled to go to Newfoundland for field work and I needed to have this talk before plans went much further.  Either he expected this, or he has a poker face worthy of Vegas.  While disappointed, he understood my reasons and we agreed for a shorter trip to Newfoundland.  I didn’t feel right about not going at all.  I had already committed to it and it would haunt me if I didn’t follow through.  I would also finish up the tilapia that we had at the school – no sense in letting them go to waste.  Words cannot describe how amazing my advisor is.  I am so very grateful that I was able to work with him and I  learned so much.  

I kept the news of withdrawing to myself for the most part.  If someone asked me what I did, I responded with: “I’m working on my PhD in Animal Physiology.”  You gotta admit, it sounds a lot cooler than: “I’m a mom.”  Maybe not more important, but definitely cooler.  I still love school and the research I was doing.  I know that there will be days spent kicking myself for leaving – particularly when Zachary has me pulling all my hair out – but over all I believe that this was the right choice.  

This week has been a very emotional transition period for me.  I cleaned my tanks, turned in my key, and said “Goodbye” to my lab mate.  I leave for Newfoundland this weekend and after I get back we will get to enjoy our busy summer.  Summer plans went from doing nothing but research to pretty much everything.  Brandon will still be in Vancouver so the boys and I are going out there for a visit.  We’ll take in the sights, do some camping, and Jackson and I will be on a 2 day kayaking adventure with the orcas.  We will also be headed up north this summer – who knew you could even “head up north” from here!  A visit to Sarah and then on up to Yellowknife will be on our docket.  Jackson has a backpacking expedition in Kananaskis and Dino camp in Drumheller.   Zachary has his first race in July and is very excited about getting to train with Mommy.  

As of now our goal is to enjoy life.  Now.  Not later.  Our hope is that you do the same.  

Save your pennies and you can come visit us at the next stop in our journey…




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