10/10/2014 05:04 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Getting a Ph.D. in You!


Who are you? What is your passion? What pisses you off and what could you talk about for hours? Has it been annoying when people have asked you these questions in the past and did it cause you to feel inadequate for not really knowing?

I was sitting with a client the other day and we were talking about her achievements, her academic accomplishments, earning a master's degree and going to law school, studying for the Bar and passing it. All of it left her with high earning potential and the privilege to work lots of hours and make lots of money for someone else. But it also came with the pit in the stomach feeling on Sunday night. She wants a baby, but it is not happening.

I jokingly said, "You need to get a Ph.D. in YOU!" There was a chuckle and then a moment of silence after which she said, "I do, I really do!" Do you spend so much time chasing a dream that someone else has for you? Were you taught to equate how well you did on your report card with how "good" you were as a person? Achievement, hard work, self-discipline are all important traits to instill but so are individualism, going against the herd, thinking outside the box, and dreaming big.

Many women in my practice come to see me in their early 30s after working hard for many years and finally making a good income. They think something is missing and assume it is a baby, that is the next logical step in the blueprint for being female that has been passed down to us for centuries. Women take this next challenge on like they are studying for the Bar exam or writing a thesis. There are basal body thermometers to be bought and ovulation kits with smiley faces that pop up on the day you are ovulating. Specialists are consulted, articles are read, Infertility is Googled. We are racing to fertility centers at 7 a.m. to give a blood sample, before putting in a long day at work. Making time for stillness or yoga or a walk is not on the agenda. There is no time. We are racing against the biological clock. We are racing so hard with our heads down that we have not stopped to consider whether we really, truly want this.

But another curious thing is happening, or perhaps I am just noticing it now: Some women don't know if they really do want to be mothers. They are starting to question what having a baby would really do to their lives, marriage, and career. Women are stopping to think about how far they want to go to try and have a child, if it does not happen right away. Can this actually be a positive thing? IVF is a tough on the body physically and mentally. I have had clients go through cycle after cycle without questioning what the synthetic hormones are doing to their long term health. People's marriages break up from the emotional stress of dealing with irritability, mood swings and disappointment that come along for the ride.

When is it okay to say, "You know, I have changed my mind on this baby thesis and I am not going to present it or defend it or make revisions to it." Maybe it is time to slow down and look at what you really want, what makes you happy (gasp... be one of those self-centered narcissists that are in pursuit of happiness.) I have seen women stop and let go of all their expectations for "how it should be" and start to pay attention to what is going on in their lives right now. And sometimes, when they are focused on other things like planning a weekend away with their husband, or learning how to paddle board or arranging that girlfriend getaway that everyone always wanted to take but never had time to plan, they get pregnant. And it is okay, because they did not give up their whole world beforehand.

Pay attention to you. Change things that are not working for you. Have the courage to question; you will find many others that are right there with you.


Go Get That Ph.D. In You!