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Real Moms, Real Talk: Christie Cade

Star Student & Mom of Two on Finding Balance

Real (Amazing) Mom and star student, Christie Cade, tells us what it's like being in a rigorous graduate program while becoming a first time Mom.  Her story, like so many others, is truly inspiring in so many ways.  
I hope that women everywhere can feel encouraged by Christie's interview!
If you, or someone you know, would like to become part of this series on Amazing Moms, please email me at Rita@SublimationCoaching.com
Check out those beautiful nails! 
1.  Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.
I’m 32 years old. I grew up all over the place (my dad was in the Air Force), but my favorite place to live was Hawaii. After going to college at Cedarville University in Ohio, I spent a year teaching English and chemistry in China. Then I came back to the U.S., going to graduate school at N.C. State for my Master’s in chemistry and Ph.D. in biochemistry.

While in graduate school, I met my husband Lars through online dating. He was in Maryland and I was in Raleigh, NC, but we made it work and got married after about 7 months of dating and 8 months of engagement. In 2012, while still in graduate school, we had our first child Teddy, and in 2014, shortly after graduating with my Ph.D, we had our second child Amelia.

2.  What was it like becoming a first time (Amazing) Mom while in an intense graduate program?

I think it was about the same for me as it is for any mom that returns to work. At least in the sciences, the general structure of PhD programs is that there are a couple years of classes, a preliminary examination for doctoral candidacy, and then several more years of research. We waited until after I passed my preliminary exams before I had Teddy, so returning to school was very much like returning to a job—all I did was research, and I did get a stipend for my work (small, but at least it was enough to cover childcare and a tiny bit extra).

In some graduate research labs, they wouldn’t forbid you to have kids (they can’t do that), but you would definitely earn the scorn of your advisor. That was not the case for me. I made sure when I joined my lab that they were ok with me having a kid sometime in the middle of the program, and my advisor was not just ok with it, but very supportive. One of the post-docs in the lab let me use her office for pumping breastmilk, which was really nice of her. I think I weirded out some of my male colleagues with my pumping equipment, but they were at least nice about it.

3.  Did you encounter many hardships or battles, either with parenting as a student or with studying as a parent? 

Since I had finished my classes by the time I had Teddy, I didn’t have to worry about studying for classes taking over family time; however, I did sometimes have experiments that required me to be at the lab for a very long day or to come in at odd hours. It was difficult to be away from my family during those times, but my husband was very supportive. I knew he wasn’t just tolerating me getting my degree but truly wanted me to do it and willing to help out wherever he needed to in order to make that happen.

Sometimes Lars and Teddy would come to the lab with me. They would hang out in the office while I was running experiments. Then while my samples were centrifuging or whatever, I could take a little break and be with my family, then go back into the lab and do the next step. It was nice that I didn’t feel like I was missing out on so much and also I didn’t have to be by myself in the middle of the night or whenever it was.

Actually, there were some times that I did need to study, or at least prepare something for school. I had to study for my final doctoral exam, I had to prepare for interviews, and I had to prepare material for the class that I was co-teaching with my advisor. I tried to do as much of that as possible in my office at school while experiments were running so that I could come home and just be with my family. When you have a family, you have to work smarter so that you don’t have to work longer.

4.  What were some ways that you incorporated Self-care into your routine to help balance your many roles?

One of the things that my husband and I did during that time in graduate school of having a kid was to continue ballroom dancing lessons. Sometimes we got a babysitter and sometimes we brought Teddy with us, but we made sure to have time for the two of us to feel like normal people. Ballroom dancing is also great exercise, so it helped me feel better about my post-pregnancy body.

One hobby that I did on my own that helped me take some time for myself and just relax and reflect on my day was knitting. It helped me feel like I was using my creative side, which doesn’t get to come out to play in the sciences so much.

5.  What has your experience as a full-time student-parent taught you - about yourself and/or Life?

I’ve learned that there generally isn’t going to be a convenient time for kids if you also want a career—you just have to make it work. If I had taken the typical academic career path, I would have had a post-doctoral research program next, which is more intense than graduate school, and then trying to get tenure as a new research professor, which is even more intense than being a post-doc. There was really no way I could just wait for things to settle down to start having kids.

It turned out that I did end up taking some time after graduate school to be a stay-at-home mom and for now I am only working part-time, but I’m still glad I had Teddy when I did. I didn’t feel like I was putting my life on hold to have kids. I could still pursue my dreams and be a mom at the same time, and that felt great.

6.  How do you continue to incorporate Self-care now that you are working and balancing a career with your little ones?  

Right now I absolutely love my work-life balance. I have a part-time job as an adjunct instructor at Wake Technical Community College, and I also have a part-time job selling Jamberry nail wraps (most of which I do from home on my laptop or cell phone, so it doesn’t take away time with my kids). The pay for being an adjunct instructor is not so great, so I’ll probably eventually switch to doing it full-time, but for now I love my hours. I have just enough to feel like a productive member of society, but also little enough that I get to spend time with my kids, clean my house, cook dinner, etc.

The other nice thing about selling Jamberry besides having extra income while working from  home, is that I get to enjoy having pretty nails. My nail wraps stay on my fingers for about two weeks, even with hard work doing laundry and dishes and such as a mommy. Having pretty nails has helped me feel like a woman again. I hadn’t really cared much about my appearance in graduate school or afterwards as a stay-at-home mom, so I had lost a bit of femininity, but Jamberry is helping me find that again. I’d love to help anyone feel pretty too—my website is christiecade.jamberry.com, or you can email me at christiecadenails@gmail.com for advice about how to have beautiful but functional nails.

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