Posted by: unlikelygrad | April 4, 2010

looking back #3B: from housewife to grad student in 2 years

My last post showed how long I was floundering about, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Today I show you how the pieces all started fitting together very suddenly.

* * *

March 10, 2008

UnlikelyDad and I were talking about my future career last night. I’ve been doing some research (but am still not done–you’ll see deficiencies in the list below). I’ve come up with five possibilities:

(1) Teach at a community college. To do this, I would need to go to graduate school & get a master’s in Chemistry. This would be harder than it sounds, because I had to finish college quickly (thanks to Al’s birth) so I settled for a B.A. rather than a B.S. So I would need to take some of the B.S. classes I didn’t need to take for the B.A., before I even applied. (Of course, this could be advantageous; applications generally ask for recommendations, and I have no one to recommend me who knows anything about my chemistry skills.

This option has the advantage that I could choose to teach as a part time instructor while I still have kids at home, but also go for the full-time tenure-track position once I have an empty nest. But it would take a while, maybe three or four years.

(2) Go for a combination Master’s Education/Teaching Credential. The goal here would be to teach chemistry in a public school. Or maybe a private school, if I’m lucky. This option would be faster than the previous one–maybe an investment of a year and a half– but I don’t think I’d like it as much. Also, I’d probably have to be “just” a substitute until my kids were out of the house.

(3) Get a Emergency Manager Certificate. This would be 100% online study, and would therefore take as little or as much time as I liked. Since I’m familiar with the basics of most of what’s in the course (would need to learn more about gov’t regulations, though), this wouldn’t take too long. Personally, I like the idea of independent study. I read fast, I work fast. Waiting for other people to catch up makes me grumpy. As for the job side of things, I like the idea of planning for emergencies–I’m good at that stuff–but I would hate the constant dealing with bureaucracy.

(4) Become a clinical lab specialist. Again, this would require a master’s degree. Idaho State University has an option whereby those coming in from other backgrounds can get the CLS certification (usually done as a bachelor’s) and a master’s degree at the same time. Most of the coursework can be done online, but there would be 13 weeks in Idaho for lab practicum.

They say healthcare is the industry with the best job prospects, and this is the aspect of healthcare that appeals to me most. So this would make me the most employable of any of the options. But I think I would like the actual job the least.

(5) Become a forensic scientist. This combines my love of chemistry with the delight I have in working with law enforcement. I see it listed as an option on career lists, but, by golly, I can’t find anywhere that tells how to get into this field. If I became serious about it, I’d start by going to the DPS volunteer coordinator and telling her I was interested in working in the forensics labs. (Yes, they do have volunteers working there…and the records department…and all sorts of sensitive areas. There’s a reason DPS volunteers have to pass an extensive criminal background check.)

* * *

March 17, 2008

Soooo…my very first tutor client is back from college for spring break, and needs a crash tutorial in Organic, which she’s been floundering in. (She wants to major in Chemistry…WHY??!!!)

Five days, two hours a day. But not two hours at the same time–she needs a break between the hours to try some problems without having me hover around. So, an hour in the morning and an hour in the late afternoon. Today we tackled spectroscopy. IR spectra in the morning, and the beginnings of NMR in the afternoon. My recollection of the theory of NMR is a bit shaky, but I’m still a dab hand at deciphering spectra. (I had to do practice problems before even thinking about how to explain IR, but I could jump right in with NMR.)

Tomorrow: Spectroscopy wrap-up in the morning, substitution reactions in the afternoon.

I need to study up on reaction mechanisms tonight. These used to be my greatest strength–it’s what I would have picked as a research focus, had I gone to grad school–so I’m hoping I can cram them back into my brain quickly. I also hope I can explain them properly; the concepts I have the hardest time teaching are the ones that come to me instinctively.

I’m really enjoying getting back into organic, which was my favorite class in college. I only wish I didn’t have to cram it in so fast! Maybe I’ll go back and study again after this week is all over.

Every time I talk about or do chemistry, I remember why I studied it in the first place. And every time I have to stop talking about or doing chemistry, I feel a little pang. I’m gonna have to do something with chemistry when I grow up.

* * *

April 12, 2008

The last couple of years, I really haven’t been coping well with life. And I hate to say this, but this is primarily caused by the fact that UnlikelyDad has been working from home and being a good father and doing most of the homeschooling and generally being in charge of all household matters. In other words, he’s been the poster child for enlightened males everywhere.

I love him. I really do. But doggone it, he is in MY space. I am not the sort of person who can stand meekly by and say, Yes Dear, I will Do Things Your Way. Nor am I the kind of person who is content to split a task half and half with someone who wants to do his half very differently from my mode of operation. I am very independent and I need an independent sphere of operation. It doesn’t have to be the home (although that would be my first preference), but it has to be something.

Conforming to current expectations, e.g. “You may make any breakfast you choose as long as it comes from this list” is not independent enough. “You may do this home improvement project but only if I approve every little detail” is not enough independence, either.

So…I want to go back to school. The plan had always been to do this, but my thought had previously been that it would be later rather than sooner.

I’ve been thinking about grad school a lot in recent months and the idea makes me happy. Actually, that’s an understatement: it excites me. Exploring new ideas, learning new things, teaching as a TA–all of these are things I would really enjoy. I don’t want to wait three or four years to go for it. I wanna do it now.

It’s a bit too late for Fall 2008, but maybe Fall 2009? Still, that’s 17 months from now; in the meantime, how am I gonna keep myself sane? I’m sick of feeling useless. I’m sick of the depression that comes when I feel useless. I’ve got to do something for my sanity’s sake.

* * *

Just a few days after I posted the last entry, I signed up to take the GRE. You can read about the rest of my back-to-school stories in previous entries.


  1. what a life. thanks for sharing. keep your sanity

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