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11/21/2019

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MBW

Every place is different. Read the policy, but also take the pulse of the institution. What have other women done? Who are your allies and advocates? Can you stop the clock?

That said, when I was faced with this decision my thoughts were that this profession had taken enough of my life without taking my fertility, too, and I had two kids before tenure. We have a generous policy, I took maternity leave twice, and I did not elect to stop the clock.

Anecdote: there are more women in my cohort with young kids pretenure than there were in the generation ahead of me.

random person

This may not be helpful, since I'm not in a tenure-track position, but here's my two cents. The biggest obstacles I have faced to getting research done since having a kid are not being able to afford childcare (and hence having to watch my kid most of the time everyday while I'm not teaching--my partner and I stagger our work schedules) and having to devote a lot of the scarce time I have to job applications for tenure-track positions. If we could afford daycare and if I didn't have to do job applications, I would be so much more productive research-wise (that doesn't mean I'd get publications, it just means I would have exponentially more time to write and revise). Since you already have a tenure-track job, presumably you'd be able to afford childcare once you go back to work and you also wouldn't have to be filling out job applications, so you'd still have a decent amount of time for research. Of course, there are other considerations like serious sleep deprivation. How bad your postpartum sleep deprivation will be will depend on a number of factors, mainly just how your kid is/sleeps. Anyway, I'm starting to ramble, but my thoughts are just that having a kid pre-tenure might not be as much of a hurdle as it seems, provided you are in an otherwise good position job-wise and finance-wise. If your department seems like they might have a problem with you having kids while on the tenure-track, then that would make things harder (for a number of reasons). You know your situation best.

Denise

I recommend the book Professor Mommy by Connelly and Ghodsee. It's a good combination of frank and encouraging.

Tom

Childcare childcare childcare. It all, 100% of it, comes down to this.

Big hint: if you are *considering* having a kid, have a look at waitlist times for childcare in your area. Don't be shocked if the lists are years long. Or go ahead and be shocked, because wtf. Then, after being shocked, hop on a bunch of the lists (oh! fun note: it'll probably cost $20-50 just to get on the list. And of course that's nonrefundable). Then hope you end up getting a spot in time.

If you're smart with your time (and you are, because you made it to where you are), and you got childcare, you'll be good. At least, you'll be as good a person as they thought you were when they hire you. This doesn't block assholery of other sorts which, as MBW points out, you gotta suss out on your own.

Helen De Cruz

Thank you for raising the question, anonymous reader. I know quite some people in this situation, also off the tenure track who are delaying, or not delaying the decision to have children. Both these decisions (delay or do now) have costs. Off the tenure track the decision is really hard as it does seem pregnancy, taking time off etc hurts one's chances on the job market. On the other hand, I've seen people struggle with fertility issues and regret they waited until they had tenure.

On the tenure track, my inclination is that you have a bit more room to breathe and could take the leave policy they offer. I don't think it matters how many years you've been teaching, but perhaps readers could chime in here (I had both my kids off the tenure track as a grad student and postdoc, respectively, so I don't know).
Does your institution have a policy to stop the tenure clock? The evidence for this policy is that there is only a marginally increased rates for women taking leave with this policy and women who have pregnancies on the tenure track without this policy. If the clock stop is gender neutral, men actually have an advantage in receiving tenure and women do not: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.20160613
Also the evidence on women's biological clocks is not that clear, particularly until when one can risk waiting and still have a good chance on a pregnancy without fertility treatment (some say up to age 40).
Having just read Richard Pettigrew's book "Choosing for changing selves", I think that he's right that such a decision could be made by involving your past self, present self, and potential future self's valuing particular outcomes. Given that a speeded tenure clock is undesirable, you'd need to weigh the value and probability of the different outcomes and see how you might come to value it in the future (though as Richard explains - his prime example is adoption rather than biological parenthood - it's not just your future self, your past aspirations and your present values also matter!) My sense is to go for it as a tenure track position is relatively secure (compared to being on the job market and off tenure track), and I've seen several people do this successfully.

TT Prof

If you want a baby, have a baby!

I've had a few, both in graduate school and now on the TT. You make it work. You find the time. Productivity might take a hit, but you learn to adjust to a new normal. I don't think you'll look back 30 years from now and think, "I wish I didn't have my kids, because really, my career was more important" ... Much more likely would be that in 30 years, you look back and think "I wish I hadn't waited so long to have kids" or "I wish I could have had more kids".

I've taken maternity leave, but not any delay in the tenure clock. We have an application process here by which one can delay the clock a year. I think I'm in a good position, only time will tell, of course, but even if I don't get tenure, I won't regret any of my children.

I hear it is rare and difficult to go up for tenure early. But like family leave policies, this varies from institution to institution. Have a conversation with your chair.

Dr. Mommy

If you want a baby, and can have a baby, then have a baby! And if your department is anything but supportive then is that the crowd you want to dictate your life choices? I really agree with TT Prof on this one. I had kids in grad school, and did just as well as if not better than my younger, childless fellow grad students. Though I took a route other than the TT based on my interests and preferences about my work and my life, I found that the people in my professional orbit (both men and women) were willing to work with me on my schedule, and in turn I was able to be reliable and productive - just on a different rhythm than those who didn't have family obligations/interests/needs.

I think I have become a better teacher and researcher since kids because of how focused I am on my job and because I think my family is so fabulous, it means I have to take on work that I really care about and do a good job at it to make it worth doing work when it requires trading time I could be hanging out with them. Childcare is expensive, you realize sleep is both over and under rated, but time is precious however you spend it, so please do what makes the most sense to your life projects, and stand up for what you need.

Professional philosophy should be a space that supports whole people, not just the ones who choose to make their whole lives only about their publication record.

Amanda

FWIW, I know a lot of people at my university who hire college kids to do nanny work, and they are pretty cheap, at least compared to other childcare options. I have no idea if my university's situation is unique, but I thought I'd mention it.

There are some departments who wouldn't imagine treating a woman differently because she had kids. And other departments that are... very different. I hope you can get a sense of the culture at your place.

Rosa

I echo others saying to have kids if you want to have kids. Two things to add, though:

1. I think it matters less how long you're teaching and more how much research you have in the pipeline. You won't get all that much done for the first year if your experience was like mine, and it will be good to have a bunch of R&Rs and drafts you can work on.

2. I would *not* go up for tenure early, if you can help it. Lots of schools understand there to be a higher bar for going up early than for going up on time, and so it's more likely to get denied if you go up early.

Good luck!

Really?

I don't think that wanting kids is sufficient reason to have them.

Anon

Thank you so much for all the helpful advice! (I'm the anonymous poster). These are all incredibly helpful suggestions. I have a ton to think about and plan. It's really awful that academia is not structured well for people who might want to get pregnant at some point on route to tenure, but hearing about success stories and strategies for how to navigate both family and academic life are encouraging. Thanks again.

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