Today I am continuing my series about the women who gave me the confidence I could pursue a degree in engineering. One of these women showed me that life priorities can change. Her name was Theresa. I met this woman when I was only a child, but she left a life long impression on me. I knew her as the wife of a petroleum engineer and the mother to two kids. My family met her through the church we attended, and our families became very close for about 5 years. During these years, I watched her be a loving mother to her children, always encouraging them to do their best. She interacted with everyone with kindness and gentleness, not a “typical” engineer personality. Her and her husband had met right out of college at their first jobs as petroleum engineers. If I’m remembering their story right, he was a minor league baseball player, and she had no interest in dating him. But after persisting for some time, she finally agreed to a date, and eventually married him.
Since my dad was a petroleum engineer, I grew up around a lot of engineering types who were primarily type A and outspoken individuals. This was a stark contract to Theresa, whom I remember as being soft spoken. So I was surprised to learn she was also a petroleum engineer. I found out she was an engineer one night when our families got together for a dinner. My sister, who was in a highly competitive school and a college level calculus class, brought over some of her math homework. She ran into a problem she couldn’t solve, and asked for some help. When she brought the homework to the table, all the wives left, except Mrs. Theresa. For some reason, this is still a powerful image for me. A woman, whom I had seen only the mothering side of, was sitting at a table full of men (and my sister), and working on high level math problems. I asked my mom why Mrs. Theresa had not left the table, and that’s when my mom told me “She’s a petroleum engineer, just like your dad.” I was floored. She truly broke the mold of what I had thought an engineer would look and act like.
I also didn’t understand why she was no longer working. I never thought that someone would leave a career in engineering. It seemed too important, too impressive. Especially when there were so few women in the engineering field. Her decision to stay home to raise children showed me that a career would not always fulfill me. She showed me that raising children could be as rewarding as having an impressive career. She truly loved being a mother, and I never sensed she regretted leaving her career for her family. Her decision had also given them the freedom to move to Canada, since they were not managing two careers. She showed me that even after starting a career, I was still free to change my mind, if that’s where I was being led.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know another woman who inspired me in my career choice. Remember to come back tomorrow to learn about another inspirational woman!
Read about the other women who inspired me: