TiP: Does anyone that meets you believe you have a Ph.D. in computational chemistry and have been a researcher most of your adult life? You definitely don’t fit in that box.
Dr. Lidia: It’s funny because I have met some people who were highly surprised when they found out after weeks, even months, of knowing me. I think I talk too much and too loudly to be a computer geek. And I am definitely not a computer geek, but I did like being a researcher in computational chemistry.
However, it was true that it was probably not the best fit for my personality. So, I decided to change paths. I took that step when I became a mother. And then motherhood took over. First, that’s what motherhood does, whether you keep working or not. And second, I just got fascinated by it and got really into it. I love it! Ha! I am passionate about the way I have decided to raise my child, but I try not to be too strict about it (mostly to avoid arguments with my own mother).
TiP: What is it like starting a new family in a foreign country in your 30s — the good, the bad, and the unexpected?
Dr. Lidia: When my husband and I wanted to have a baby, we just went for it — scared like hell, of course. Being in a foreign country did present two delays once we made our decision: healthcare and how to go about getting married.
My job in a foreign country (U.S.) didn’t cover certain healthcare expenses, namely pregnancies. Can’t go and get pregnant without healthcare. That delayed us. Then there was the issue of the wedding. My husband (then boyfriend) is a romantic and got real into it. I wanted something less traditional, simple, and casual without all the shenanigans that come with weddings. Trying to compromise and coordinate this abroad without offending anyone was another baby delay.
Then, boyfriend went and proposed. How do you say no to the guy you love, who just got you a beautiful ring, and took you to a beautiful place just because you are lazy about weddings? No pressure. But we pulled it off in the end. And for someone that’s not big on weddings, I did decide to delay getting pregnant to look fabulous in my dress (which I did). And, yes, I know it’s shallow. I don’t care.
As far as waiting until my 30s, maybe if I were younger it would be easier to face challenges like redefining my career, but would I be as experienced? Would I have taken that step then? The thing with being “a little less young” is that you become more protective. Younger parents are less “careful,” and I mean this in a good way. But also, you think more about the consequences of your actions and how they might affect your child when you are in your 30s than when you are in your 20s (points for the 30s here! There’s a match!)
For me, waiting until my 30s was the best time, emotionally and physically. I am fitter now than I was in my 20s, and I also think that is important.
TiP: You earned your doctorate and began an impressive career in scientific research in New York in your 20s. Would you say waiting to start a family is a major factor and is a formula young, ambitious people should follow?
Dr. Lidia: Yes and no. I mean, for me, yes, because otherwise I would have had children earlier. In my opinion the best time to have children (at least biologically) is in your 20s. You are young and vigorous (which any parent knows you NEED to be); the age gap with your children is lower (which I guess would have come in handy when mine is a teenager); and when they are grown-ups, you are still young enough to do stuff and enjoy life and then be a younger grandparent (if that happens). But I also wanted to do things in my 20s that were (at least in my mind) incompatible with children.
Travelling as much, having free time and expendable money for acting and taking dancing lessons … I don’t know, it sounds silly now, but then it wasn’t. Also, I didn’t feel I wanted children then.
Point is we didn’t really wait for the perfect situation because we think there’s no such thing. You can plan and plan, but what if you wait 10 years to get the stable job and then suddenly you have problems becoming pregnant or it just takes you longer than you expected and your situation changes in that time and stops being perfect? I think it’s a bit of waste of time. I’m not saying “go ahead, have children whenever,” but mostly, if you are an adult and can afford it, and it feels right, don’t wait too long, ‘cause you never know what nature’s cards are.
And by the way, I thought my situation was perfect because I was going to give birth right before the end of my job contract. I found this to be perfect for me to take the leap for a career change, take the time to think about it, and at the same time, spend time with my child. Talk about naïve! Who can do all that stuff with a newborn? And then we decided to move to Spain. So, in the meantime, I have put my career on hold.
I am still happy about my decisions, but I realize now the situation wasn’t at all as perfect as I thought. So, now I’m just trying to go with the flow, knowing that I can’t really plan anything.
TiP: If you could send 2005-Lidia — your twenty-something, pre-mommy-self — a message, is there anything you would warn her about or encourage her to do?
Dr. Lidia: Well, I’m still waiting for 2025-Lidia to come and tell me what to do. I don’t feel wise enough to tell 2005-Lidia anything. Sometimes, it almost feels like I don’t know $*!t. Perhaps I would tell her to complain less and act more. To be proactive and passionate. It’s not that I wasn’t; it’s that I should have been even more so.
TiP: How much traveling did you do before becoming parents? And are you able to travel as much?
Dr. Lidia: Before becoming parents, we used to travel quite a bit. In Europe, we backpacked across several countries twice, traveling by train. I can’t say I have seen enough. I still have LOTS of places to see. When we came to the U.S., we wanted to see the country. We have been to Yellowstone, Alaska, Hawaii, San Francisco, Chicago. Those are the highlights.
With the baby, it hasn’t been too hard . . . yet. We returned to Spain in the summer (for a job opportunity for my husband). Before moving here, we left our home in New York and travelled through the national parks in south Utah and northern Arizona for two and a half weeks . . . all three of us. And here in Spain, we have taken a couple of weekends for shorter, but still exciting, trips. Maybe we won’t do as many “big trips,” but as long as we can manage it, this will be a traveling family!
Dr. Lidia gave up her job in New York and is seeking employment in Spain while enjoying being a full-time mother while settling her family in their new — and, at times, challenging — situation.
I love how personable and real she is, particularly when she pointed out the following: you can be well-educated, well-traveled, with world experience (having waited until your 30’s to start a family), but when you become a parent . . . somehow, you feel like you “don’t know $*!t.” Ha! So true.
What life lessons has parenting taught you?