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Is an Academic Career Compatible with Being a Mom?
I am currently the Graduate Dean at Berkeley and a researcher on the effects of family formation on the careers of academics. I am also a mother of two grown children and navigated these issues while they were growing up. Despite intensive research in this area it is still difficult to answer the question often asked of me by my graduate students, "when is the best time to have a baby?"
What do you think?
Before women begin graduate programs should they be given more clear information about the challenges of managing family and career in academia? Should more be done to help graduate students make decisions about the timing of these issues? What can current professors do to better encourage promising young women to stay in the "pipeline" to satisfying tenured jobs? And finally, when do you think is the best time to have a baby?
Mary Ann Mason
But, that being said, being in academia and having a child can be especially rewarding for all parties concerned. I (mostly) have the summer to be with my family and the hours I spend away from home working are far less than when I had a 9-5 job. My child has a great example of what it means to be committed to the process of learning and has contact with a group of brilliant and creative adults.
It is tough. I spend a lot of late nights reading and
writing and a lot of bleary eyed mornings afterwards playing
with the kiddos in the park. I have found a few things to
- get or keep your sense of humor, you won't survive without it
- learn to be in the moment, if you spend the time you are writing worrying about your child's cough, nobody wins. And, by contrast, if you spend the day your child first starts to walk wondering if you'll get tenure, you've cheated yourself and him/her.
- plan ahead as much as you can, but cultivate a sense of flexibility. Keep a bunch of frozen dinners on hand and be prepared for the day your toddler will only be satisfied with one for breakfast.
- for every person who rolls their eyes after you miss a deadline because you were busy holding a child who was feverish and inconsolable, there will be two who have been there and give you a pat on the shoulder and the understanding look that gets you through today.
grad student & mom
That being said, the two best times, in my experience/observation, to have a baby as a female academic are early or late, that is as a graduate student or as a tenured faculty member. If one does so as a graduate student in the humanities, one needs to be able to focus to finish a dissertation, but the extra year or two will not cost you much professionally. What will cost you enormously is, prejudice against women and against mothers in particular aside, the flexibility to apply for jobs around the country, unless you have an usually accomodating spouse, and to move up the ladder to a second university quickly once you have relocated from the institution where you attended graduate school. If you wait until after tenure, it may well be too late, but by this point you have a pretty big buffer. Your career will probably go on autopilot for several years, and if you teach at Berkeley you can still expect all kinds of extra trouble in moving up the ladder, but you are in a far, far stronger position. Of the mothers (out of twice that number of women) in my department, all fit one of these two models. The percentage of fathers is not any higher, by the way, and while I do not know all the details, I suspect it is largely true of them as well.
an disenchanted professor
I think staying in the academy requires dedication and a realization that change comes from within - the structure appears rigid from outside but once you are in the system, there is more flexibility. As more and more families with different structures become part of the system, the entire system should become more flexible and family-friendly over time. Yes, I think there should be more opportunities for discussion of post-grad school life - for both men and women - and also concrete solutions/ideas for tenure-track/family issues from those who have already been there. Kristen
My pregnancy was also healthy and easy, but nothing prepared me for the first six months of my son's life. I adored him and was ready to do anything for him, but my thirty-nine-year-old body had real difficulty with the sleep deprivation and healing. I have since spoken to many women about this and it seems that those who waited until later to have children experienced much more difficulty -- women in their twenties or early thirties seemed much more able to cope. The combination of being older and feeling unable to cope is an interesting bind -- in my professional life I had come to feel enormously capable and strong, and now here was something that women throughout the ages had handled not just once, but multiple times, and I wasn't handling it well at all. My self-confidence as a mother was low, which made it harder to balance career and motherhood. Shouldn't I be trying harder as a mother to make up for my feelings of inadequacy?
Long story short, I think that first of all we should not necessarily present the idea of motherhood after tenure as a given option. After thirty-five it might not happen for some women, and that should be made very clear in conversations with grad students of both genders. Women and their partners should consider whether adoption would be a good option, whether they are prepared to go through and pay for IVF or other procedures. Or whether it would be satisfactory not to have any children after all.
Women and their partners should also be made aware of the kinds of psychological strain I mentioned above. When you get pregnant, everyone says casually ''Your life will change,'' but most people do not say ''You will become delusional with exhaustion,'' ''You will wonder what happened to your strong, capable self,'' ''Nursing doesn't come naturally to everyone,'' ''You won't want your partner to touch you for six months,'' or some of the other specific things that can happen. I'm not talking about what necessarily happens, only what can happen. I think that all working women and perhaps especially the older prospective mothers could be helped by conversation/therapy groups that combine prospective parents and experienced parents.
Having said all of this, things are working out well with my nine-year-old, and my department is incredibly supportive. I am grateful to be a mom, but I hope that we can discuss our ''choices'' with one another more realistically.
I was surprised that few graduate students weighed in on the dialogue, particularly in light of the fact that they are the next generation of women and men who will continue into faculty positions or opt for other choices. Age timelines for the receipt of the PhD continue to extend, so that the median age at PhD is now 33, and the median age at tenure is now 39 years of age. As many of you pointed out, it is becoming less and less an option for women faculty to postpone childbearing until after tenure. We must then do more to make childbearing feel like, and be a viable choice at the graduate level, as we are working to do at the assistant professor level.
I hope that we can continue to engage in discussion on these valuable topics.
Mary Ann Mason
As for the same-sex family set of issues, I have found my department (History) to be a tolerant, laissez-faire place generally, and I have the full support of my advisor(s). I have also worked within Gender and Women's Studies, which is an exceptionally supportive environment for queer students, students parents, and queer parents. My daughter has always been the only child of same-sex parents in her daycare/preschool classes on campus, but teachers have been inclusive, responsive, and respectful. As a resident of UC Village, however, I have often felt that we must be the ''only ones'' and have sometimes felt isolated as a queer family. I wish that I had taken more initiative to organize same-sex families on campus and in the Village and would urge others in my position to solicit institutional support for fostering a community of queer parents.
I am graduating in May and moving to Indiana to begin work as an assistant professor. As we consider the difficulties of having another child sometime in the next several years, I realize that grad school truly was a great time for us to begin our family and that Berkeley has been a wonderful community in which to do so. I feel fortunate to have received a job at a Catholic college as an out, queer mom, and genuinely hope that my experience becomes more the ''norm'' and less the ''exception'' in the near future.
I am a graduate student in the humanities in my fifth year, currently writing my dissertation. I am 34 and have two children. My overall opinion is that, whenever it is possible, it is ''easier'' to have kids while being a graduate student than afterwards, once on the tenure-track.
I had my first daughter towards the end of my second semester in grad school. I resumed working, although not full time, the following fall, and had another baby two years later, right after my qualifying exams. The hardest thing was the first post-baby semester. I officially took a semester off from school to stop the normative time clock, although I kept ''unofficially'' working with my advisor. As an international student, being off for one semester also meant not having a student visa for six months: no health care, no job- permit, no possibility to teach on campus, no money whatsoever. Very hard, isolating and depressing. So hard that the second time around I did not take the semester off and taught, so as to have a salary and health care (even though my three-month-old did not seem to understand that to be both a good mother and a decent teacher I needed to sleep more than four hours a night).
My take by now is that, although very hard to handle, having babies while in graduate school is a better option than waiting until when we get a job and start the tenure-track race. I do not know the job market first-hand yet, but the young professors around me are, in my opinion, much busier than I am, academically speaking. I have to mainly write my dissertation; when I do not have a fellowship to do that, I have to teach a class. Whereas they have to deal with administrative tasks, graduate students, committees, publishing, etc. All in all I think that the life of a graduate student allows a certain flexibility, and that this flexibility tends to disappear once one becomes a professor. After all, we are still students, and can afford to be considered as such.
There are so many other factors that enter in the picture, and so many different situations; for example, many people prefer to wait until they have a certain financial stability to have a family, and graduate students clearly do not have many financial resources. I am lucky enough to have both kids enrolled in the UC (sliding fee) child-care system. As I see it, this is the ONLY way I can afford to be in graduate school while raising two kids (I have a friend who thanked her sons' teachers in her dissertation acknowledgements - think about it, they are the most important people for a working parent's mental stability). The support offered by the university to students parents, as well as faculty and staff parents, is in this sense fundamental, and needs to be made available to as many people as possible. It can turn an impossible dilemma into a viable choice.
I am not saying my ''recipe'' is good for everyone. I am simply so glad I will not to have to deal with both a tenure clock and a newborn baby (or two) at the same time.
I don't think there is a better time than grad school to have a child as an academic, unless you expect to get tenure before 35. However, that doesn't mean it isn't exhausting and miserable much of the time. I am tireder than I have ever been in my life, and I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I consider giving the whole thing up literally daily. I also was not able to find a tenure-track position in my first foray on the job market, so I don't even know what I'm doing next year at this point.
The hardest thing about all of this is that if you slow down, you're done. I am working my butt off to get articles out, go to conferences, etc. in the hopes of getting a tenure-track job next year because if I don't, what options do I have? A Ph.D. in my field isn't useless outside academia, but I would have to seriously rethink my career. I try to stay positive about the whole thing -- I know this is the problem of a very privileged person -- but I am very close to jumping off the whole track.
A related issue for me is that I would like to have a second child, but have no idea how to time it. From a career perspective, I feel like being pregnant/having a new baby would be problematic 1) during a postdoc, 2) while interviewing for jobs, and 3) in the first year of a t-t position. That could be a number of years yet, and because of family history my fertility may end sooner than average. Ultimately, I'm going to choose having a second child above having an academic career. If luck goes my way, I can still do both, but it's far from a sure thing.
I guess my fantasy world would be one in which it were possible to work half-time for a period and then get back on board the train. I have no desire to be a stay at home mom. What I'd really like is to be able to work thirty hours a week for the next few years without giving up the possibility of an academic career. I don't know, though, what kinds of policy changes would make that possible. Academia is competitive, and the jobs are going to continue to go to the people who work the hardest/most. In a way I think that's fair, but on the other hand, there's no question that it pushes a very large percentage of women off the track, or out of motherhood, and I don't know that that serves society well in the long run.
One final thought -- I think that any solution has to make this about changing culture for everyone vs. making exceptions for women. The latter will just make women second-class citizens.
I wish I had answers and not just complaints. But I do appreciate that Berkeley is trying to show leadership on this issue.
Tired grad student mom
Regarding the question of motherhood and academia, I feel compelled to respond to the following line from a recent article:
"We were shocked to find that we have all of these great policies, but nobody knew about them," said Ms. Switkes. "They were buried way down deep in some policy documents."The "great policies" to which Ms. Switkes refers, are things like taking maternity leave, and stopping the tenure clock for a single year (or maybe a couple of years). Or perhaps a semester or twos break from teaching.
Unfortunately, these policies do not address my ultimate problem with academia. I have a Ph.D., enjoy research, and have always dreamt of being a professor. However, I've never actually applied for a position. Why not? The answer is simple. I have never actually met a female professor who didn't have either a husband with a flexible schedule, or a nanny (even when their children were in school), or both. I have also never met one who didn't say that she had to work 60 hours or more a week, at least some weeks, or grade papers at 3:00 in the morning, or something to that effect.
My husband has an extremely rigid schedule. He has to work 60 hours or more a week, if he wants to keep his job which he does. I don't have a nanny. And I am at my limit with the 35-40 hours per week I now work. No way can I work 60 hour weeks, even sometimes.
As I see it, taking maternity leave, or stopping the tenure clock for a year or two, doesn't fix the problem that when the maternity leave is over, and the clock is running again, I will be expected to work those 60 hour weeks. So, there's no professorship for me. The only thing that would work would be a part-time position.
Logically, half of a 60 to 80 hour week would be 30 or 40 hours, which would be just fine. I'd be getting paid a lot less, but at least I'd have a life outside my lab.
Also, I would like to point out the absence of fathers from this conversation, both in the way the question was raised and in the lack of responses from fathers. I know that grad student fathers are out there - did having children not affect any of your work? Doesn't this issue matter to men? More importantly, are we going to allow the thorny questions regarding families and academia to be only a woman's question (or burden)? Ayelet
tenured and lonely
For any of you pondering pursuing an academic career and wanting to balance that with a family life: I'd like to add my story as a potential ray of hope so that some of you may not be discouraged by what you are reading everywhere about the entrenched difficulties in combining academia and children.
On one hand, the open dialogue and introspection by university officials and individuals about these problems and biases that is finally occurring is essential to correcting them. I am encouraged that these difficulties are being discussed in a variety of settings, both here at this website and at the national level with high-level university officials (e.g., Oct 27 2005 UC Families Newsletter).
On the other hand, the relentless stories about how un-family-friendly so many institutions are make me also worry that they will frighten away qualified people from even applying for academic positions; but that will ultimately have the effect that it will take even longer for universities to become truly family friendly.
So here's my story. I was hired at UC Berkeley into an assistant professor position (50% chemistry, 50% earth science) at 35 years old. My biological clock meant it would be risky to wait until after tenure to start a family. In my 3rd year, I had my first baby. Very fortunately, the chairs and vice chairs of the departments knew about UC's family policies and strongly encouraged me to take advantage of them (although even they did not stress that my husband could take advantage of some of them, too, which would have helped me out even more!). I postponed my tenure decision a year and I had teaching relief for a semester.
These policies were essential in helping me adjust to new parenthood and to continue my research. For some inexplicable reason, I wanted another child and became pregnant in my fifth year. Although I could have officially postponed my tenure decision another year, I turned in my tenure package 3 days before my second child was born as I felt that if I didn't get tenure then, based on my work to date, then I wasn't going to get it period. I did get tenure and I feel, in my individual case, that the faculty and administration did not judge my case any differently than someone who had not taken a year off their tenure clock.
I know there may be many cases in which discrimination has occurred, but I want to get the word out there that it is possible to be judged fairly and that I have managed to enjoy both being a parent and being a professor and have felt accepted by my colleagues. I feel that I have not had to fight in my particular career to see that I be treated fairly -- fortunately for me, that fighting was done by women who came before me in my departments (and who continue to do so in the higher level of the administration) so that I have been more free to teach, do research, and enjoy my family.
So, if you are truly interested in and inspired by an academic job, I hope you will give it a go and see where your individual trajectory takes you. The good news about all this dialogue about how many things can go wrong in academe is that you will go forth "armed" with the power of information -- information on your rights and on past and potential problems with the university system, as highlighted in this newsletter, and this information will provide you with better protection should you need it and knowing who to see early if you perceive potential problems.
I am a grad student mother of an infant and contemplating what to do after I finish my thesis. I had always anticipated that I would go on the academic job market but now as a mother I am wondering whether the high-pressure tenure track jobs found in academia would really satisfy my desire to be an active and involved parent of my child as well as any future children I hope to have.
I am curious to know how others have approached the work-home balance, specifically in academia, or I am interested if you have opted for another route because you didn't think it would work ( or for another reason.), did you miss that research- intellectual environment? I am not aware of any part-time or job-sharing in academia but if anyone has experience with this, I would be interested in that too.
Also if anyone is willing to speak to me privately about their choice I would be interested. I am not giving my contact information, as I believe my department would be upset if they knew I had any misgivings. I feel like this choice coming up is tearing me apart.
Although my husband is supportive of what I choose, he has doubts that an academic position will give me enough time at home to make me happy and does not really want to move and job search for himself if I am not fully committed to that career choice.
Any thoughts from people who have made choices, are
contemplating these choices, or have seen others wrestle with
them would be appreciated.
Feeling trapped to make a decision
My solution has been to work part-time (50%) as a research
scientist. This kind of position is perfect for me now because
I spend all of my professional time on research (which I prefer
to teaching), and can continue to pursue my interests and
publish. It is hard to get a position like this (although
easier in the hard than in the soft sciences - I don't know
what your field is), but it was doable because I have been a
post doc at Cal for 3 years and my mentor here was happy to
keep me on in this position. I was also far enough from my grad
school mentors that I didn't feel as though as I let them down
by not going the professor route. I think that perhaps in 5 or
10 years I may consider going onto the job market. I may be
too ''old'' for highly competitive universities at that point and
sometimes I have pangs of sadness for having given up that
goal, but I have no regrets at all. I would not opt for the
high-powered career over time with my children, and I felt as
though that was the decision I was facing.
A couple of things I've discovered: There are many women (myself among them) who are very reluctant to take a tenure track position at a major research university, for precisely the reasons you mention. There's even been research presented recently (I believe by the Center for the Study of Higher Education) linking the point in your career when a child is born with whether or not you ever get tenure (you're less likely to if your child is born in the first five years of your career). However, I also know women who took positions at ''second-rank'' universities (e.g. teaching universities, state universities) who are happy with both career and motherhood. I also know a couple of women here on campus who managed to combine both a stellar career and involved parenthood. The latter does seem to be unusual, though.
I would be very happy to have someone to talk with about this; you are more than welcome to email or call me. Karen
If, on the other hand, you will have to work full-time (or nearly) to help with the family, you might consider continuing on the academic track. Why? It is hard to find jobs as flexible in terms of scheduling. Your vacations (especially summer) often mesh with your child's, and you have access to a vast array of resources (libraries, films, special events, athletic facilities, etc.) to which the public has limited access. You live a life of the mind, keeping that part of your spirit alive while nourishing yourself and your family. Considering the summer off, the pay is not bad, on the whole. It is true that getting tenure is difficult, but not all academic institutions are Cal. Some don't require the publication of a book, but ask you to emphasize teaching instead. Those that do ask for book publication have grown more sympathetic to the needs of families and offer more ''stop the clock'' and leave options. In some ways, grad student life is more stressful than tenure-track faculty life.
In the final analysis, it boils down to how much your academic life means to you. Do you love your field, do you look forward to chances to read and write and research? If so, you can balance it with a family life. I know single parents who have done it well, and you sound as if you have a sympathetic husband (he might well have to move out of the Bay Area, though...) But if you're really not fully engaged by your field or the academic enterprise, maybe it would be a good idea to go for part-time teaching or another field entirely. Just keep in mind that other fields are often not as flexible...
Good luck! a mom who sympathizes
Sure, academics are incredibly busy, yet our schedules can be quite flexible. I personally feel I would be just as busy (well, almost) if I were in industry or a government lab -- that's in part because of my ''busy'' personality (which makes me apt to overcommit myself). And yet those other positions might not be nearly as flexible in both short-term and long-term schedules. By short-term schedule, I mean when you arrive and leave your office each day. By long-term schedule, I mean that I am being evaluated on annual to 3-year time scales; industry might be quarterly and not so integrated out in time. In addition, many universities, particularly UC, finally have reasonable parental leave and/or teaching reduction for new parents (for both moms AND dads) as well as the choice to delay the tenure decision for one year (and when you're not getting any sleep that first year, this makes a lot of sense). My toddler is also in fantastic on-campus daycare for faculty children (There are not enough spaces for the demand now but creating more is a high priority of the Chancellor -- although the State budget makes the outlook gloomy in the near future).
I love my job and my toddler. For me personally, I feel I am a *better* parent because I have commitments outside my family. These commitments benefit my family by providing intellectual, social, and financial resources that will be useful to my child throughout his childhood and college years and probably beyond. I very much admire stay-at-home moms and dads -- that truly is the *hardest* job there is and it also has great benefits for kids -- but that would not be the best choice for me and my husband and, therefore, for my child. My child is delightful, happy, very secure, and very bonded with me. Although I often wondered (to myself) whether I would prefer to have a part time outside job or no outside job when I had a family, I have to say that since having a baby there has not been one single moment when I regretted having the job that I do now -- not one moment. That satisfaction says to me that I manage to achieve a balance of my family and my work. That might not be true for other moms and dads, but it has turned out to be true for me and, since you are looking for anecdotal information, I think that is an important point to hear. The idea you often hear that you can't do either job well is not how I feel about my situation at all. I am proud of the work I do as a parent and I am proud of the work I do as an academic.
Of all the women faculty in my department (let's just say there are more than 5), all but one have families and most have more than one child. We are all very happy with our jobs and with our families. I've asked whether or not my collegues would have wanted a different job or lifestyle and all of them say no. We also frequently talk about all the soccer and softball games (including coaching !), camping trips, dancing and surfing lessons we do with our families and the just-plain-fun we have with our kids, in addition to our scholarly conversations. [As a bit of an aside, the results of a recent nation-wide academic survey done of faculty showed that the percentage of women with children was higher at research universities than at 4 year colleges, which in turn was higher than at community colleges (this outcome was the reverse of what the creators of the survey had hypothesized !). I find this negation of the popular idea that research university faculty have even more trouble than other academics in having families very interesting !]
So, a number of us academic mothers are happy with our choice of an academic career and a family. I believe the most important ingredient for this kind of happiness is what kind of mate you have. Second is a realistic evaulation of what a few of your personality traits and expectations of family life might be. First, you need an empathetic, modern partner who takes care of the kids as much as you do and who is as committed to making your career work as you are. Second, you need to not worry about having a clean house -- either let it be dirty or pay someone to clean it (or both); you will also most likely not be the next Martha Stewart. I have a fantastic husband who did everything but breastfeed the baby and who understands what an academic job is like. My own mother worked outside the home full time after I was 2, so I grew up seeing that a busy job and a family were not mutually exclusive -- I adore my mom and always have and am very close to her. I was also encouraged to read a book or work on homework rather than to do housework (although I loved to vacuum) -- so perhaps that's why I'm quite happy to pay a housecleaner (note that we respect our housecleaners very much and my child ''helps'' by sweeping and dusting along with them). In making your decision whether or not to pursue an academic career, I would contemplate these issues and what your expectations are for yourself and your family life (and what your partner's are also!). If you or your mate have unreasonable expectations, for example, for how clean you want your house, or how many dinner parties you're going to have where you cook everything from scratch, well, you might not be as happy because ''balancing'' your expectations of work and family life may be much more difficult for you than for me. Note that I still do lots of homey things, though. I did make my child's Halloween costume by hand, for example -- after running to the fabric store five minutes before it closed, and sewing it by hand at 11:30 at night in a rather rushed hour; I did this because I thought it would be fun and I had something special in mind; despite the rush (which I thrive on anyway, it seems), it was very satisfying. But that last minute rush probably would have happened no matter what work I did or whether I was a stay-at-home parent or not -- everyone is really, really busy, even (especially ?!) stay-at-home parents.
If you do go on the academic job market and wind up negotiating
for a position, you should definitely compare family policies
between the universities -- perhaps best done by searching on
the university website and/or by speaking with a woman with a
family or a recent father on the faculty well after they have
decided you are the one they want. These policies still vary
greatly from place to place.
Significantly, I am not the person I was. I am taking what I have learned back with me, and I will try to make the university where I go more child friendly. I have been experimenting with teaching classes to mothers while they hold babies or their children play around them, and while my own daughter is there, too. The secret has been a great child care provider who likes working in groups and can distract a child while a mother finishes a thought. But, overall, the courses have been successful and I now know I can teach with my daughter and other children present. So.....my goal is to work to offer this course through my future institution. And for the courses that aren't for mothers, I will have a child care provider who will play with my daughter in my office or out around campus while I teach and hold office hours. Otherwise, I will work at home while my child plays with her father (who will also be working from home). Children CAN be intergrated into academic life, but it will take revisioning how we divide ''professional'' spaces from ''private'' spaces and allowing that ''children'' and ''professional'' can go together.
So, what do I have to say to you? Well, enjoy what time you spend with your child. Be committed to that. But when you want to go back to academia, TAKE YOUR CHILD WITH YOU. If we all do it, the universities will be forced to change. Amy
Though much decried, the adjunct lecturer route has its benefits: the schedule is relatively forgiving (right now I'm just working two half-days a week, but I can work up to about 3/4 time); it gets you out of the house (good for the sanity); it allows you to pursue your intellectual interests within an academic community; and it beefs up your CV. Some people will tell you that prolonged adjunct teaching will tarnish your chances at a really prestigious job. I'm not so sure that's true in today's market, with so many very bright and accomplished scholars patching together part-time work. Anyway, I hope not.
What works for me may not work for you, but I thought I'd just weigh in. Another advantage of the adjunct thing is that usually it doesn't require that you move, so you can kind of test-drive the working-mothering balance and tinker around with it until you find what's comfortable. The biggest obstacle to making it work is the money, because if you only teach one course, you more or less break even with babysitting costs.
Good luck figuring this out. I'm still in the process myself!
My sister is a tenured Sociology professor, and her husband a tenure-track Poli. Sci.professor. They have much more flexibility in their fields about working from home and combining their work and childcare than I would have had as a biologist, and they are doing fine (so far!) with parenthood and full-time academic positions.
I hope this helps you in your decision. I suggest you read the book Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half-Changed World, by Peggy Orenstein, for some very interesting reading about how women balance careers and family life. Sima
First brief thought: Get a 3 year postdoc. I have a postdoc now and it has been quite low-pressure but intellectually engaging. You could keep up in your field, publish, develop yourself further which will make you (a) more marketable; and (b) less stressed about amassing publications for tenure. At the same time, your child will be older and more independent (in school, etc.)
Second thought: Most people have been making the distinction between ''high-powered research universities'' and ''state colleges'' or ''liberal arts institutions'' to point to the spectrum of family-friendly places. Interestingly, I have found the landscape to be much more complex.
First of all, as somebody mentioned, different fields seem to have different subcultures. I would venture to say that the fields that are still predominantly male would be more likely to pressure women to ''perform childlessness'' (as one poster put it). My field is currently pretty gender-mixed, so I have not felt the same pressure that the previous generation of women scholars have felt. (I actually talked about this to a childless female professor. She agreed that part of her decision to remain childless was to be seen as a legitimate participant in the field.) More significantly, different universities -- even top research universities -- have different cultures, as do the departments within them.
Here was my strategy: While in grad school, I watched the more senior students go out on the job market. (Most people who graduated from my program at Cal ended up at top-tier research universities.) I would run into them at conferences and guage their happiness and the life choices they were making. It became evident over time which departments seemed to be more or less hospitable to junior faculty with children. When I came up on the market, I saw a posting at one of the family friendly research universities (two happy Cal grads with kids were my data points), and I poured myself into that application and got an interview. While on the interview, I tried to find disconfirming evidence of my family-friendly hypothesis, but found a Dean who offered to babysit people's kids, junior faculty who didn't work on weekends and flexed their schedules with their spouses to minimize childcare time, explicit structures to support people through the tenure process, and kids playing in offices.
The happy ending: I got the job and, while I realize that it will be a challenge to raise my two young children while working for tenure, I think it's do-able in this particular context, with the support of a modern, very involved spouse. Anon
Has anyone noticed that not a single father has spoken up? I've seen mention of sharing parenthood duties, but nothing about the demands of academic life (especially first-rank research universities) and Fatherhood. All the advice has been for women to choose between research and parenthood.
How can we, in the most liberal place in the US, in 2002, be taking this for granted? What kind of model are we giving to young women contemplating careers? Are all academic stars either childless or with stay-at-home wives? And finally, how much are research universities impoverished by the absence of committed parents?
This has *got* to change. AR
Even though I'm certain that job would not have been worth the toll on myself and my family, I do wish I'd had a clearer idea of what the next step would be. I underestimated the difficulty of rethinking my professional identity between loads of laundry, with my brain fogged by sleep deprivation. At the time I thought I would be able to find a challenging line of work without too much trouble. But once I looked more closely at other lines of work, some of them looked distinctly less appealing. I felt that in order to work my way up to anything engaging, I would face many of the same time pressures and energy drain that I would have faced in an academic job. It would have been an enormous help to do informational interviews with former academics before going on the job market. In some sense, this is what you're doing with this question, but by asking around you can probably get in touch with other graduates from your program who are now working in other fields. See how they like their work. Of the graduates who have remained in academia, how many have ended up back on the market within a few years? How would your spouse feel about multiple moves? You don't say what your field is, or how readily your skills would transfer into other professions. Be aware, though, that there are a lot of people looking for work in the Bay Area right now, and if you're changing careers and not available to work long hours, this will almost certainly put you at a disadvantage compared to other applicants.
For me, the balance has now tipped too far in favor of my family life, and I miss intellectual stimulation. (''I coulda been a contendah, instead of a mom, which is what I am...'') I'm contemplating doing more adjunct teaching, despite the low pay (as of 2001, $5,500 per class at Cal) and lack of job security in a budget crunch. Nonprofit work also looks rewarding, but local nonprofits aren't doing much hiring these days, since their funding sources have been affected by the economic downturn.
Two pieces of recommended reading: Ann Crittenden's _The Price of Motherhood_ (especially the chapter on second children), and the report in e-Grad a few months ago that stated that women who had children within 5 years of completing their theses were 20- 25% less likely to receive tenure.
As you can see from the variety of resonses, there's no one answer to this very thorny question. Best of luck with your decision. Jennifer
I get inspiration from one of the leaders in my field, who had many of the seminal insights and discoveries in 1970s and 80s and 90s. She is a mother who had her family, then went back to research and really defined a field. She is in her 70s now and still is relevant and active, and a friend as well. So really she is an inspiration not only for the family story, but for age as well. There are so many people who give up when they hit their 40s, but that is when she got started. Joe
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