I was born in Lima (Peru) into a classic catholic family where the mother stayed home taking care of the kids, and the father was the one working outside the home. So, I am both a scientist and a catholic who believes in God. Believing in God has helped me to pass through very difficult moments in my life, including facing all kind of abuses, that I now prefer to forget.
For financial reasons, my parents decided to immigrate to Montreal (Quebec, Canada) 30+ years ago. Like many people who immigrate to Quebec, my family had to learn French. For my siblings and I, learning French was not too difficult partly because we were young. However, learning French was a totally different story for my parents. Age and work-responsibilities may the task of learning French very challenging for them.
My siblings and I were integrated into the regular French school system rapidly after our arrival. So, I did my high school, college (CEGEP) and even university in French.
My Workaholic Years
In 1996, I completed my Ph D in biological sciences (with a specialization in ecology) from the University of Montreal. Although I had the possibility of staying in Quebec to do a post-doc and perhaps find a job there, I accepted a faculty position at the University of Prince Edward Island (Prince Edward Island) just a few days after I completed my Ph D. This was probably one of the most important decisions that I have made in my life so far.
When I was hired by UPEI, my ability to communicate in English was poor. Thus, you can imagine how stressed were those first years at UPEI. I remember spending many hours memorizing my lectures, and practicing my English pronunciation. I have to say that students were generally very patient with me, especially during that first year.
There were days that I was back from work exhausted, mentally exhausted. Let me tell you that learning a language in immersion while working can be very exhausting! When I think about those years, I still don't know how I was able to spend so much time on the preparation of my lectures. Let's remember that as a young faculty member, I was also expected to develop a research program, apply for competitive grants, publish papers, and participate in university committees. I don't know how much personal time I was really having at that time, probably not much.
Of course, as the years passed, my English skills improved and I got used to the university and the way of living on Prince Edward Island which by the way is very different than Montreal or Lima. During those years, work was everything in my life, so I did not mind to spend more time at work than at home. I am not certain how many hours per week I was working at that time, but I said it was easily over 65 hours. Was I happy? I don't know. The reality is that at time, I did not care much about work-life balance.
From Workaholic to Mom
My life changed completely when I met my husband, Sheldon, some years ago. He is a physicist and also a professor at UPEI. I have to say that I did not recover from workaholism as soon as I met him. Sheldon is also an academic and a hard worker. So, during the first years of our relationship, I was still working a lot (perhaps a little bit less than before because I obviously had to spend some time with Sheldon), but it is during the last 5 years that things have changed significantly for me.
My husband and I got married in 2010 when I was 45 years old. So, I am now the proud step-mother of a fantastic 12-years old boy (from my husband previous marriage). My son, Elijah, was born in 2009. The birth of Elijah was that final step or issue that I needed to review my life priorities and reconsider my workaholism.
So, I know now that my family is my number #1 priority. Work is very important for me for many reasons, especially because I enjoy very much teaching and the interactions with students. But, I also know that a balance between work and family is necessary for me. I cannot be a good mother or a good wife if I put 65+ hours of work per week; I simply can't. Why? Because I want to be there for my husband, kids and also for myself.
At this point of my life, 49 years old, I want to feel that I have accomplished some of my dreams and not just dedicated my life to work. I want to be present, physically and mentally, for my husband and children. I don't want to wait until I retire to enjoy and live life.
Life is short and unpredictable. This is what I have learned over the last five years. I need to live now!