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01/23/2015

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Marcus Arvan

Thanks for sharing your experience, Josh. I don't know about kids, but I can say (also anecdotally) that having a *family* (a spouse or partner) can be beneficial. By and large, the people I knew in grad school who had families tended to finish far more quickly than those who didn't--and I've been *far* more productive since getting married than before.

My impression--both firsthand and otherwise--has been (as you say) that having a family requires one to become more efficient. But also, I would say, it can provide a great deal of motivation, as one' career success or failure suddenly has implications not just for one person (you), but also for others close to you. Moreover, I've found, having a spouse or partner can help tremendously with all kinds of professional matters: daily love and support truly go a long way.

Anonymous professor

I'm writing this anonymously, as professors, especially on the tenure track needs to appear collected and having it all together.
I have 2 children. There's a significant age gap - My oldest child was born when I just started graduate school, my second was born 18 months before I started to work as a tenure-track professor. For what it's worth, in my personal experience, the care for a young child (baby/toddler) is much easier to combine with grad school than with a tenure track appointment.
In grad school, I had similar experiences as the OP and I am a woman: my supervisor was very encouraging and gave a gift for the birth of the baby, my other colleagues were also supportive, albeit surprised I finished so quickly.
We wanted to have another child, but the timing seemed difficult. After I got my PhD, my partner had to finish his PhD and we both had to get publications out - journal articles, and I got my first book under contract. We had our second child while we were both postdocs, and then I got offered a tenure track appointment. It's still early days, but having a toddler and starting a new tenure track job is definitely exhausting!

Joshua Mugg

Anonymous professor and Marcus-

Thanks for sharing. My wife and I suspected that dealing with little ones would be easier in grad school than TT days, which was one reason we decided to have kids early. I have known a number of folks with kids who have finished earlier than those without, and I find this curious. I suspect this is (as Marcus suggests) because having a family forces one to stay on track and be more efficient.

grad student

Thanks for raising the issue.
I am a female student about to start my PhD and always thinking about my personal and professional future - sometimes I am worried, sometimes hopeful, others just panic. My long-time partner and I certainly want kids - possibly not too late, as he is 10 years older than I am.
The reasons in favour of having kids in grad school the OP and comments provided sound strong. Apart from the benefits of paid leave - which vary between countries and universities -, one critical issue is travelling. In my PhD program, we are required to spend at least one year abroad. ALthough these research periods may be split into shorter visits, the travelling requirement strikes me as a big problem for parents with a baby. Does anyone have relevant experiences to share?

Joshua Mugg

Grad student-

I’m not sure what ‘traveling’ entails. Are you expected to spend a year on the road? Or a year at a different institution, but with normal living arrangements? The former sounds a lot harder than the latter. Are there any grad students with kids in your department? Talking with other academic parents was really helpful for me.

I’ll share my experience traveling with kids. My wife and I travelled a lot before we had kids, and said we wouldn’t slow down once we had kids. I have done a lot of conferencing in grad school, and a fair bit of traveling with one little one. My wife, son, and I went spent 2 weeks in Bavaria when my son was 3 months old. We had a great experience. At that age, we could just put the kid in a carrier and he would fall asleep when he needed. To be sure, it was a different kind of trip than we would have had, had we not had our son. For example, we stayed in BnBs or hotels rather than hostels, and we didn’t go out at night. We took a similar trip the next summer (when my wife was pregnant and my son was just over a year). This was harder. My son needed to move around, but was not yet walking. Furthermore, he was not content to just hang out in the carrier any more. More difficult, he needed exactly 2 naps a day at fairly regular times. This made getting out a lot harder. We decided not to attempt eurotrips with little ones again after that trip.

I have a friend (in history, who is male) who is moving his family abroad for a few months. He and his wife have two kids under 3.

postdoc parent

@grad student: My partner and I are trying to figure out travelling with a baby, and currently plan to be travelling for several months of baby's first year. So far so good. We have found mixed success with airbnb rentals - where wifi, internet and even daytime heating seem to be extra !!! - but have had great success with sabbatical rentals designed for academic research or writing retreats. We have used one sabbatical rental in North America, and will be moving to a second one in Europe for the months of March and April. In all cases, the owners have been very accommodating of the fact that we are travelling with a baby, and have even supplied us with cribs and some baby toys or books. In the sabbatical rentals as opposed to the airbnbs, the owners seem much more understanding of the need to have high download and upload speeds, to work from home while the baby naps, etc. Along the way, there have also been a few hotel stops, and while these are expensive, they tend to have cribs available on demand, as well as suggestions of restaurants or cafes that will accommodate the baby, a car seat, etc.

@Joshua Mugg- In my experience, many graduate programs, postdocs, AND TT appointments can be differently accommodating of philosopher-fathers and philosopher-mothers. This seems especially to be the case when the second parent is not an academic, so that women who have children at any given stage of a philosophy career can always fall back on their husband's income/career, whereas philosopher-fathers are perceived to have *dependents*, and therefore are given quite a bit of support. I hope that my experience does not generalize, but I fear that it does.

Grad student

Joshua, thanks for sharing your experience.
I had in mind spending some months at a different institution - I am not at a US or UK university, so sorry if the problem is unique to me. The fact is my partner (not in academia) would not be able to leave his job for some months and follow me. Traveling for occasional conferences seems way easier - a single parent can look after a baby or toddler for a few days.
To be honest, I suspect that a graduate student may be partly exempted from the "period abroad" requirement if they had a baby. Yet this seems to me to raise some wider issues, given the significance of the "period abroad" at my university (and in my country in general): would you still be considered a committed researcher by your supervisor and peers? would you lose important contributions to your education if there aren't many people in your area at your department?, just to bring some examples we can discuss.
I would be happy to regard such concerns as minor - e.g. the first is remarkably biased and weak; as for the second, I believe you can finda ways to discuss and get feedback on your work without moving at other institutions. So, I'd have a kid all the same. But it seems worth discussing, if it's not an isolated problem.
And no, no graduates with kids here! There are two female researchers with kids, but they had them when they were adjuncts. I'm sure there also are some male academic parent with kids, but this seems to reflect so little on their academic life that I do not know if there are any.

smef

@Grad student: I studied in continental Europe, in places where NO graduate students would dream of having children (in fact, most of my female colleagues waited after their Habilitation to have children, or did not have any).
Nonetheless, I have frequently travelled with my toddlers, not just for conferences (since they were 6 months), but also for longer periods (since they were one and a half we spent months together in UK, the US and in Japan ---in UK and in Japan without my spouse, in US with him, but he was also working). They readily adapted to the local childcare (although they could not speak a word of English or Japanese) and greatly enjoyed the experience.

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