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07/17/2023

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newly tt

I can't speak to this first-personally, as I haven't yet birthed children. Postpartum "baby brain" is something I worry about, and I hope some people have some insights!!!

RE: other stuff, though, I have found books like I Know How She Does It (about time management) and Professor Mommy (though OP is far ahead of this one in most respects) helpful - and I know some people have benefitted from Fair Play. I haven't read that last one yet because it is ALWAYS checked out of my local library.

still recovering

My comment is just good luck. Won't leave any particulars about my situation here for identification purposes, but I'll just say academia was NOT friendly to me through the birth/newborn stage.

Grad Student

It might not be the kind of advice you were looking for, but as a father (who is still in grad school), I think the most important thing to remember is that with all the difficulties, your child is more important than doing a stellar job, and your child will need you to sleep enough (or as much as possible) and not to be too stressed and depressed.

Now, other than that, the things that really help are help and consideration from your environment. You don't have family nearby, but hopefully, your spouse can take a lot of your burden. No baby ever died from getting formula or pre-prepared bottles at night, so your spouse can take some of the nights from you, letting you sleep. Your colleagues should understand that you're temporarily less available and take it into account, and if they don't, it's not a shame to remind them that they should.

With regard to the transition from 1 to 2, I only have 1, but in my experience as an observer, it really helps to remember to say hello to the older one first. The little one is too little to understand any of it and can wait. Also, it helps to tell the older one that you'll need his/her help now and let him/her be a partner in raising the baby as much as possible. The older one is used to be the centre of attention, and the more gradual the blow the easier it is to get used to it. Also, if the older one helps, you get two at the price of one, as you take care of the baby while still giving attention to the older one.

mom

First of all, congrats on the permanent job, and on looking ahead to growing your family! I gave birth to my toddler mid-semester during a postdoc, and I am due with our second in about a month. I will also be starting a 3-3 permanent job in the spring. So I can't (yet) speak to the 1-2 transition or pregnancy/birth in the midst of a high teaching load (with #1 I had a 2-1 load and gave birth in the spring), but I can share a few thoughts on my experience with #1.

First of all, don't be shocked if the department chair or other powers that be are initially unhelpful and/or flummoxed about trying to accommodate you. My department had, I'm pretty sure, never had a faculty member give birth while teaching there (!!), so when I initially approached them about my pregnancy, a lot of their response was outdated at best and HR violations at worst. This made me angry and I burned some bridges trying to get them to see how wrongheaded their approach was, and to be honest that's something I regret. I can see more clearly now that they were coming from a place of wanting to be helpful but clueless as to how. So be gracious but firm with department leadership, even if that means that a lot of the burden of planning and suggesting solutions will fall on you.

I was able to work out with my department that I'd be teaching on Zoom after the mid-semester break (a few weeks before giving birth). One big thing I did to prepare was pre-record short lecture videos in advance of this time, starting with class sessions where I'd be 37 weeks or so. I ended up recording about a dozen of these and not all of them got used, but once I went into labor the class switched from synchronous Zoom to the students watching the video for each class and then having a weekly discussion led by another faculty member. This went on until two weeks or so postpartum and then I went back to teaching on Zoom as normal. If there's anything I'd change about that setup, I think I'd continue to do the Zoom videos and just take over the weekly discussions, instead of trying to do full class sessions again. What that would mean is recording short videos for the second half of the semester in my case. Again, not a trivial amount of work, but those would be resources you could use again for all sorts of reasons if it's a class you will teach often.

I don't know if your institution has undergrad or grad TAs to help with grading or teaching. My personal experience: if you do, do not rely on them to help you. I had a very negative experience with this, but in general I believe that coordinating TAs to fill in for you is just going to be more management work than doing it yourself or involving another member of the department. On the grading front, I structured the course so that I wouldn't have papers to grade after giving birth, and the students would do more collaborative and/or easy-to-grade assignments. My sense is that the students enjoyed this change (who says all philosophy courses must have a final paper?).

I will caveat that I have had very easy pregnancies so far, so I can't speak to accommodations there, but perhaps some of the stuff around arranging for birth/postpartum will be helpful. I'm sure at this point you also know how much of a game-changer getting regular childcare is, but for anyone else reading this, ABSOLUTELY think about what your needs are there before you give birth. I had thought about it only amorphously and that made for many rough months postpartum trying to figure it out while also having a child to take care of and essentially being a stay-at-home mom and academic at the same time. Do not recommend.

Good luck! Also, if you want to chat one-on-one, I'm happy to have Marcus share my email privately.

Charlotte Duffee

Hi there, congratulations! I’ve had three kids in the past three years, and what’s helped my baby brain the most has been nutrition, especially homemade bone broth from grassfed beef. (The easiest way to make it is in an Instant Pot rather than a crock, the former being easier to handle than the latter).

As for your other concerns, I just started a Substack podcast/blog on these very issues. The project is nascent still, but the idea is to interview parent-scholars from diverse fields/career levels/parent roles and stages to see how different scholars have approached the challenges of balancing parenthood with academia. That’s the podcast portion. The blog is aimed at sharing very practical, detailed accounts of what’s worked (and what hasn’t) for me as I welcomed children in grad school and now as a postdoc.

The substack is called Anscombe’s Juggle and can be found here for anyone curious:

https://anscombesjuggle.substack.com/podcast

There, you can find some answers to your questions, and hopefully more answers in the coming months!

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