Strong As A #Mom - A STEM Loving Mom

Contributed by Katrina Villegas

It was my freshman year in college. I was taking the "weed out" courses of the premed (biomedical science) major that I'd signed up for. I found myself spending countless hours at the library studying, reading, and practicing chemistry. Chem 101 was a tough class, but I was feeling inspired by the content. I wanted to read about it. I wanted to practice the problems. I wanted to learn as much as I could. It seemed to be the perfect mix of science and math to satisfy my brain, and, simply put, I was fascinated. I knew right then and there that I'd be changing my major to chemistry. 

And so it was. I started my journey, not knowing full well what I'd do. I considered double majoring in education so I could perhaps teach chemistry. It didn't feel right, however, in that moment. While I loved tutoring, I knew I wanted my chance to climb the corporate ladder before I became a teacher. I wanted to prove to myself what I was capable of. I also wanted real job experience to bring to a teaching career. So I put that idea on hold. I made my way through difficult courses and graduated a semester early. I had earned a chemistry major with a minor in biochemistry. Now it was time to find a job. 

Rewind to my childhood, and you'll find that my interests were all over the place (from art to architecture, medicine to math). I did well in all subjects without applying myself very much at all. I could go in any direction that I wanted. I was drawn to science and math. It was fun for me, and I loved the topics. I also loved working on cars as a hobby. 

I never viewed the world as a place where only men had careers in science and technology. I fully believed the message that I could do anything I wanted. But it wasn't without its consequences. Being the president of the automotive club in high school, earned me my first look at sexual harassment from not only my peers (classes where I was the only girl), but also my male teachers. 

Graduating with a chemistry major, you might expect for it to be male dominated. It wasn't! 50% of my class peers that graduated with a chemistry major were girls! But as I looked across to my engineering friends, it was easily 90% male. 

When I graduated college, I landed a lab tech job, at a biochemical lab. Again, I was met with a good mix of male and female peers. I excelled at my job and reached for the stars. I was promoted to a process improvement position. My title- process engineer. The number of women as peers dropped significantly as I moved into engineering. I continued climbing. I worked as an engineer for almost 6 years. My female peers slowly dwindled to none.

At this point in my life, I wanted something different, and I knew it was time for me to teach. I came full circle back to my original idea. I went back to school and earned my master's in teaching. I taught high school chemistry for 3 years. Then I had another career change- I am now a stay at home mom. I know, you are thinking, "that's not a career!". Oh but it is! It is one of the most challenging careers I've faced yet, and I'm loving it. I'm applying my engineering and science knowledge in ways I never knew possible, and I'm teaching my daughter to find her passions. 

So what did I learn through this journey? I learned it's so very important to follow your passions. Follow where your interests and skills take you. Learn as much as you can. There will be bumps in the road. There will be setbacks, and rooms full of men at times. It can be uncomfortable, but we can change that. I changed that in my small circles. I was the woman that was present. And I was just as good at my job, if not better, than my male counterparts. I learned that I love STEM more than I ever thought possible. I learned that being a stay at home mom doesn't take anything away Purple Tshirtfrom my journey, it adds such a positive layer. I confirmed that I can do anything I put my mind to. I can even be an independent, science loving woman, who chooses to stay home and raise a family. I learned that I am the only important judge of my life. I learned that I judge myself too harshly at times. I learned that giving back through teaching and raising a strong daughter is more fulfilling than anything. I confirmed that women can do it all. 

Please join me in thanking the National Girls Collaborative Project in all that they do! I am raising funds to donate to their wonderful cause. You can help by purchasing one of these shirts "Strong As A #Mom". Whether you are a mom, or just have a mom, we can all appreciate how difficult their jobs are. They often get overlooked. I am here to say we can be strong, independent, STEM women that are also amazing moms! Let's celebrate these strong women and donate to the NGCP! Fundraiser runs through March 30, 2017.

Katrina VillegasAbout the Author: Katrina Villegas is a former process engineer and chemistry teacher turned stay at home mom. She is organizing her beautiful chaos one Babywise step at a time, and sharing her successes and trials along the way. When her daughter was just a few months old she started a blog: She's been recording her thoughts and stories, along with what she's learned, "how to" guides and more. You will find everything from information on breastfeeding and cloth diapering, to using Babywise schedules, sleep training options, and discipline tips.