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I am on TT with four kids (the fourth was born at the beginning of my first semester, and at the time my university had no paid leave for faculty). My spouse is an upper level administrator at the same school, and grandparents are 1000 miles away, so life is tough. The things that have allowed us to survive:
1. for work purposes, try to join a writing group where you either exchange papers and offer feedback, or you just sit in a room together for a couple hours and write. Guard that time! Meet during work hours of course. Also, see if there is someone you can co-author with at your school (or elsewhere, maybe a former grad school colleague).
2. Think about co-authoring. This has been very beneficial for me, both in terms of just increasing research productivity, helping me learn the publishing game, and its just fun and less lonely.
3. Think of ways to make your research and writing co-inhere - write what you teach and teach what you write.
4. Limit your prep time for classes. less is more. Don't reread every time. Try to spend 1.5 hours or less for each 1 hour class. Robert Boice has data on this.
5. both parents being all in. This is the key for me. If one of us had to bear the majority of what sociologists call the second shift, this would not work.
6. as much as you can, farm work out. This is kind of dependent on 5, but if you are both working and have a little financial wiggle room, pay people to clean your house, mow your lawn, pick the kids up from school, anything that will give you some extra time for work. Obviously resources are limited, so pick the thing that will help the most. For me its having a college kid pick the kids up from school and help them with their homework, as this makes the evenings go much better.
7. If you own your own home and finances are a struggle, I would consider refinancing right with interest rates where they are; use the extra money for 6.
8. use your grocery store's online order and pickup, this saves a lot of time. Make a big crock pot meal on Sunday that can be either lunches or a second weeknight meal. Does your school offer faculty discounts in the cafeteria? At our kids under 12 eat free, so we go there once a week even though the food is just ok.

I know there are other things but that's what I have for now...

You can make it! (But it will be painful...)

I'm not sure if there's much to say that is helpful, but that the struggle is real. I am TT and my wife is a full-time lecturer, and we have two children (3 and 5). We have no family help at all and rely heavily on day-care. What's tough are the sick days.

But I think the most beneficial thing for us is that we have flexibility in our schedules: I teach on different days from her.

I also think that you don't need as much time to write as you might think. You just have to put in that 1-2 hours of work in a consistent way.

So it can definitely work, but it is tough and you have to be willing to sacrifice much.


I just have one so far, but I've been struggling too--it's definitely a huge change. I'll just list the things I've found that have helped. These are in random order, some big some small, and I know that not all of them would be financially feasible for people or feasible because of lack of partner support etc.

1. daycare. I mean, this is the biggest one. I think having a nanny would save even more time (no drop-off/pick-up), but 1) it's more expensive and 2) you HAVE to get out of the house. I used to work at home all the time, and for a long time I kid myself that I could have a babysitter taking care of my kid in my house while I did work somewhere else. It does not work. You need to be in a physically separate location from your child.

2. during the semester we have a babysitter come 2x per week for just an hour in the morning to take our kid to daycare on teaching days for us--it was so crazy trying to get us ready and him ready at the same time. She gets a lot of money relative to the amount of time she spends, but it's not a lot of money for us because the time is so short.

3. YMCA, or some other gym that offers childcare while you work out. Sanity-restoring. Technically, I have known moms who go there, drop their kids off in the childcare room, and then sit down at a table in another room and do work. (It might not even be forbidden as long as you're not doing this for like 6 hours a day.)

4. split shifts--I hate this, but it's the only way I get to spend time with my kid in the evening and still get anything done. I used to be done with work by 6 p.m. But now--because I spend an hour with him in the morning and then pick him up at 5 and he goes to bed at 8--I go back to work at 8 p.m. (Actually I often go back to work at 7 p.m.--my partner does the last hour and puts him to bed.)

5. I have been using one of the academic writing groups on AcademicLadder.com and it's been helpful for goal setting and accountability. Last semester I joined an academic writing group on campus but 1/6th of our time was spent on discussion and time is in such short supply that it was too painful to waste it. However you have to be realistic about whether it's actually still worth it--if you won't "really" write on your own, then join or create an in-person group.

6. If you have a partner, you should absolutely take turns with the kid on weekends. We still have mornings for family time, but then we take turns with him for the afternoon. As others have reported I became much more efficient post child so it's amazing what I can get done in 3 hours if I'm actually away from my baby.

7. I hired an academic coach (Katie Linder but there are plenty others). Again your institution might pay for this. She's been very helpful with goal setting and problem-solving.

8. Do keep a to-do list so that you know what you've actually done--my time is so fragmented that it can *feel* as if I haven't gotten anything done--then I look at the list and realize I have.

9. Philosophizing while _____. I used to listen to music while I ran or walked around. Now I'm typically thinking through a paper, so that when I sit down with it, I'm ready to start.

10. Omnifocus. For me, it's been crucial. It's the most ridiculously expensive app you'll ever buy but my number of responsibilities has increased so much that I'd be lost without it.

11. Cut what you need to cut. People always say they can't cut anything. Then I ask, "Well, imagine that your brother had CANCER and really NEEDED your help. You would help him, right? Even if it meant you had to back out of a lot of your current responsibilities? Okay whichever ones you would back out of if your brother had cancer--back out of them now." No one needs to be dying in order for you to prioritize your OWN goals, values, and needs.

12. This semester I have two new preps so I hired a graduate student to just do a bunch of logistical stuff for me and low stakes grading. Again I'm lucky that this could come out of my research funds. But I'd try to pay for it even if not. I am always going to pay for time over everything else--we don't spend a lot on travel, I shop at Goodwill, etc.

Tenure and two kids

I have two kids. One I had when I was a graduate student, the other as a postdoc. The circumstances under which I brought them up were far from ideal. With both, as babies, I've done the thing that people advise against and that is to write from 8 PM to 11 PM or so, a quiet time once they're in bed. One house we rented had only one coal stove, which went out all the time, and ice would form on the inside of the windows when it was very cold for there was no fire upstairs.

I question the idea that we need to be in an ideal situation to be able to give our kids the best thing they can. My father's an immigrant from a developing country, and he grew up in poverty with 6 siblings. His father died unexpectedly when he was 12; his mother fell into a depression, and he and his siblings was then raised by his grandma who still had dependent children at home (she had 11 children herself, fortunately quite a few of them were grown by that time).
As a kid I grew up in a blue-collar family, and we often were on the breadline. Were my grandparents wrong to have so many kids? Were my parents mistaken to be poor and have kids? How much do you really need to do for your children? Is satisficing (not doing quit as much research as you'd want and not quite giving your kids all the attention and perks you think that kids need these days).

thinking about kids

I'm finding this all very helpful. Thanks for the posts! Would folks be willing to explain what exactly it is about a TT job that makes such accommodations feel necessary? (even if not in fact necessary as Tenure and two kids suggests) What is the relevant difference between academic and non-academic positions?

Class 1

I think that "Tenure and two kids" reminds us that what one is willing to endure is largely a function of what one has experienced. If you have typical upper mid-class values and experience, the deprivations of parenting with little extra money seem impossible. But if your normal is something far short of that, you realize that good healthy lives can be had without many of the comforts that middle class families regard as necessities.

Don’t regret

As the original poster, I think TT isn’t necessarily harder, there’s just more at stake. I’m worried about losing my job. So while I might be okay with a mediocre performance in some aspects of the job which are less consequential —my teaching suffers a bit for a year or two, for example — if I don’t meet certain research standards, I’m done, and likely would have to change careers. But I’m not making a comparison here, since I don’t know what things are like in a non-academic position. I imagine it has its own challenges.

I also think the research aspect of a TT job requires a kind of concentration and intellectual facility that can be seriously hampered by pregnancy and post-partum hormones, as well as the lack of sleep that comes with a baby.

There is an interesting money-dynamic going on in the thread. Some of these tips are expensive. But I don’t know that it’s a class thing. I really don’t want “the best” for my kids in whatever sense it is meant above, and we make do with what we can reasonably work into the budget. People’s capacity to handle the extreme disruptions of parenting grows over time. And money can alleviate that disruption, so some have to grow more than others.


I completely agree with what Paul and others have said about daycare. As much as possible, pay for time.
I'd also add a few things that may be helpful:
- Write every day. Keep a log. I know everyone says this. They say it for a reason.
- Work regular hours. Make a routine for those hours that includes a few hours of research every day. Then, go easy on yourself if you fall behind and just re-commit to regular hours and daily writing.
- Where does your time go? Try time tracking with an app. You may find that the way you spend your time does not reflect your goals or values. For example, social media takes a lot of time.
- Related to time management, I use an app (Freedom) that shuts off time-consuming websites for 23 hours a day. I can also use it to schedule internet-free writing sessions. This app has been very helpful. I also use an email app that helps me process email quickly. And course management software makes quizzes and grading much easier.
- People say to "just say no" to service but in my experience that is unrealistic. If you can though, see if you can get money or course releases for any big and unusual service you are asked to do. You can use the money to buy time (e.g. paying a sitter).
- If you have any travel money through your job, and if you can make it work with your family, use the travel support to commit to events that will give you a source of deadlines and external accountability. Then have a plan for sending things out shortly after you present them.
- While you're traveling, use that time to catch up on all the little admin stuff, reviews, editing, email, and other things you've been putting off. Make a big list and save it for your trip.
- It's also good to use travel as a time to recharge and stay in a hotel room, which is very under-rated until you have kids climbing in your bed at 5 am. Don't feel guilty about leaving your kids with your family/partner. Lots of people travel for work. The kids will be fine and any inconveniences they suffered in your absence will be forgiven if you buy candy at the airport and bring it home to them.
- Unless you like folding, don't fold the laundry. No one cares if the kids’ shirts are wrinkled. Sort and dump it in your kid's drawers. It's going to look like that in a day anyhow. Make this your approach to all housework. Put all the toys, unsorted, in big bins. Packing lunches? Don't make sandwiches or use cute reusable containers you need to wash. Just buy things you can sort into their lunchboxes quickly or have them buy lunch. And of course, if you can afford it, pay someone to seriously clean your house once or twice a month.
- If you are trying to add something into your life, like fitness, start with a ridiculously low goal like exercising for 1-2 hours a month. It may take more than a month to even do this. That’s ok! You can build on 1-2 hours, but the hardest thing is just getting started. If you take an exercise class once a week, then you’re doing way more than most people who are in your shoes.
Family time
- Accept that this time in your career takes a lot of hours. Just try to create routines and meaningful traditions and space for them to see you around the same time every day. Find a time to do something fun every week or so. They'll remember movie nights and daily routines like family dinner/breakfast/story time and the fun things you did on the weekends, and you'll have a better relationship with them if you don't constantly see childcare as a problem to balance against work.
- It's totally great to feed your baby formula or to supplement with formula. It’s ok to give your kid a screen so you can grade papers/make dinner. If you put fruit or steamed broccoli on their plates then the meal counts as healthy.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself when it comes to parenting, especially for things like not doing activities. Focus on enjoying parenting and having a good relationship with your family.
- Someone mentioned a nanny. Based on my experience, I’d favor a center-based daycare, even if it means more sickness and a pickup/drop-off, because then your childcare situation is not dependent on one person who may get sick/go on vacation/quit.
- Then, on top of the daycare, see if your institution offers back-up care. Even if they don’t, find an on-call service like college nannies and tutors that you can use on the rare occasions that your kid is sick, your partner’s traveling, and you need to go teach.
- If you haven't settled on a daycare yet, choose a daycare that is open for long hours that will serve meals, potty train your kids for you, and open on holidays/snow days. Do not choose a cute daycare that sings songs in French and has wooden toys and art class unless they meet these conditions. When choosing a daycare, ask about staff turnover because that’s usually a pretty good indicator of how well it’s managed.
- For school aged kids, if homework is a struggle, use some of the money you are now saving on daycare to pay for tutors who will do homework help and enrichment. The purpose of tutoring should not be to make your kid a straight-A student. The purpose is to make it so that you don’t spend your limited time with your kid stressing about homework.
- You're probably going to be pretty tired all the time and also your family will have a series of colds all winter. And at some point, you’ll be two weeks behind on email despite also having not written anything all month? It will seem like no one else is going through this. You will wonder how some people do it. The answer is that they’ve also been there. If not, then they probably have a bunch of money from some other place that they don't talk about, or their partner doesn’t work much outside the home, or they have family nearby.
- Whenever your youngest kid goes to school things will get much easier, in a logistical sense, but parenting also will get trickier. Ann Marie Slaughter wrote about this dynamic. It is more important for you to be able to lean out of work when they're older because at that time their needs are more complex and specific to the kind of emotional support you can provide. Think of the TT with little kids as setting yourself up to be more stable and flexible later.

Don’t regret

M, you are a hero. Thanks for taking the time to write this up, even though you don’t have time to fold shirts. I might print this out and tape it to my bathroom mirror.


ThinkingAboutKids asks a good question:
"Would folks be willing to explain what exactly it is about a TT job that makes such accommodations feel necessary? (even if not in fact necessary as Tenure and two kids suggests) What is the relevant difference between academic and non-academic positions?"

I think there are 4 things, 1 of them reassuring, the others maybe not.
I'll start with the bad news:

1. pre-tenure is viewed by many senior faculty members as a 7-year race. You're not EXPECTED to have work-life balance (at least at R1's, which is where I've been)--you're EXPECTED to work all the time. And when you say you have a kid, a lot of them will react that communicates that this is a problem that is suddenly occurring to them but that they have no idea how to solve. (They mostly aren't going to propose cutting back.) Either because they had a spouse who did most of the work or because they never had kids themselves.

2. A lot of after-work events. In my current dept and university it's particularly bad--there are constant talks, followed by receptions, followed by dinners, followed by post-dinner receptions (I am not kidding). At least one a week, but sometimes 2 or 3. Then that doesn't take into account travel expectations (I'm going to all 3 APAs this year) and weekend workshops, etc.

3. As another PP said above, doing *research*, for me, requires (or at least feels as though it requires) adequate rest and just adequate mental *space*. It is very hard to get those things with very young kids. (And forget it while you're breastfeeding.)

4. The reassuring one: I'll admit, if I had a 9-6 office job--well, I would just not get much time with my kid on weekdays. That's how non-academic parents do. That would be sad, but I would get more done during normal business hours. I think because as an academic my schedule IS more flexible, I spend a little longer with my kid in the morning and in the evening because it's hard to say no to that. But that means that I'm only in the office from like 10-4:30. So of course I need to make up that time somewhere else.


M gives some great advice. I recall a friend once said that he could tell when his father made their school lunches because the sandwiches were ripped in half, not cut with a knife.

Greg Stoutenburg

I'm not on the TT, but I teach 4-4 plus several overloads, usually for a total of about 11-13 courses per year, and I publish a fair amount.

Academics have unrivaled flexibility in their day-to-day lives compared with people working "desk jobs" or anything involving labor. Outside of extreme circumstances (perhaps some of which are mentioned in comments above), it is far easier for us to balance family and work life than it is for people in other professions.

Your children will be young for a very short time, and it would be tragic to squander that time just to get another C.V. line, or to impress a peer at a conference. I suspect the issue of "how to be an academic with children" comes down mostly to values, as others have suggested.

Practically speaking:
--Wake up at the same time every day, before the kids, and get a little writing done. A little x365 = a lot.
--Don't teach every repeat section of a course as though it has to be redesigned from the ground up
--As much as possible, say no to things that don't move you forward personally or professionally
--Find good childcare, that your kids like, that is close to home. It will be expensive. There is no avoiding it.
--Try to enjoy being a parent! It is actually a lot of fun.
--Almost none of this applies to when the kids are under a year old. For that, buy lots of coffee. You will go from having lots of freedom to far less overnight, and it is an adjustment. But it is only a warm-up for having a three-year-old. Still, no other life circumstances make it permissible for you to play in public fountains or pretend to be a dinosaur, so live it up.


I'm not in a great position to say much, but my partner has a child (but we don't live together.) I would just like to second the advice about using college kids for childcare. Most people I know who do this say it is a major help. But for some reason, a lot of people I know seem really resistant. It's not like you have to do it every day. Just twice a week could make a big difference in your stress levels and give you breathing room. And at most of the college towns I've been in, the college kids looking for this work far, far, out number the positions. It is basically the philosophy job market, i.e. a major buyer's market. Hence, you can screen the kids extensively.


I'd add if you can afford day care and it works for you, great. But day care is often really, really, expensive. The day care in my partner's area charges by the month, regardless of how much you use it. So to have two days a week of day care, you pay literally 5x the amount of a twice a week college babysitter. College kids are cheap!


Lastly, I'd remind people that *most* academics have children. All the departments i've been in 75% of professors have had children. So of course it's hard. But of course it's also possible, since most people do it. If you really want children, have them.

That said, the stats (not surprisingly) favor men. According to this article, 70% of tenured male professors have children but only 44% of tenured female professors. Still, that means almost 1/2 of female professors manage. Also, the numbers most likely are higher than they appear below, because those are stats on how many professors at any given moment have children. Of course, some of those in the stats don't have children now but will have them later. This is probably more likely with men, since men can have children much longer than women.



Oh ThinkingAboutKids, one other thing--although I certainly have friends in non-academic jobs who work some weekends, most of them mostly have weekends off; some of them literally never work on weekends. Whereas, pre-kids, weekends were when I got probably a majority of my research done--I put in 8 hour days of writing (and I loved it), whereas now I'm lucky to get an hour in.

I do know one academic (without kids, actually) who doesn't work on weekends, but most of them seem to use the weekend for work. Which you basically can't do when you have kids.

Nicolas Delon

It’s possible. In fact, as some have pointed out, it’s typically easier to raise kids as an academic than with a non academic job. We have amazing flexibility, time (seriously, folks, have you heard of doctors, lawyers, etc), generally more than decent benefits. It is hard to have kids, and it’s hard to combine work and kids and personal life. But academia doesn’t create uniquely difficult challenges. We don’t really have to work 70 hour week or during the weekends. I don’t. I have two young kids, I run and cook. I realize folks with a 4/4 no doubt have a harder time and may need to work overtime. But generally research expectations vary accordingly.

The most challenging time for me was my first daughter’s first year, while I was on the market. She destroyed my productivity. I couldn’t get much work done. I had to learn how to do it. She was only part time in daycare (we simply couldn’t afford full time in New York). We lived in a studio apartment. My wife was studying full time. I learned and got lucky. But it was one of the best years of my life.

Also, having kids is lots of fun. They’re wonderful. I’m so glad I’m forced not to work during the weekends.

Don't regret

I love that I get to spend tons of time with my kids. Part of the reason I do spend so much time with my kids is that I simply can't afford to pay someone else to take care of them. I really like the academic way of life and see how 'family-friendly' it can be ... but that's different than being able to do both things well. And I'm feeling like my work is suffering—because I don't have time or mental space for research. And because of the intellectual and mental health issues caused by pregnancy and childbirth.

I know the comments here are meant to be helpful, and I'm sure this phase of life is easier for some people than it is for others. I'm trying to figure out where to cut corners, because life feels totally maxed out on all fronts. For this, M's comments were really very helpful.

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