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Academia or parenthood or …?

Dear Cary,

Thank you for doing what you do. Your thoughtful and sensitive answers to people's questions are something that I look forward to reading each week. I've been holding this question in for a while now. Over the past six years, after ending a relationship with a perfectly nice guy that I wasn't in love with (at the time, I felt like he seemed satisfied with the material things in life, coming from a wealthy background), I endured a series of relationships that crushed my self-esteem. After being verbally abused and psychologically terrorized, I finally was able to break it off and for the past year I've been with a man that treats me like gold. We talk about getting married and having children, and it's wonderful. He works hard, has a close relationship with his family, and is sweet and sensitive.

My problem now lies in my inability to draw on my potential and build the career that I want to have for myself.  When I was a child, my mother pushed me hard to achieve in school -- and then I was belittled for not having intrinsic motivation to do well the way she did when she was in school! (I have forgiven her for this, by the way). All that was important was being smart; there was no accompanying push into a specific career. I never had any childhood aspirations to be a doctor, astronaut or a lawyer so when it came to college, I just took classes in what interested me and following the advice of a favorite professor, entered graduate school.

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