inghame at AVA.BCC.ORST.EDU
Fri Nov 11 19:39:22 EST 1994
Just two cents worth on my own experience with regard to children and
graduate school. I went from college to my masters, to my Ph.D., to a
post-doc, to a faculty position and am now an Associate Professor. I had
one child just after finishing my masters, and another just after my
Ph.D. Because of the nature of my research, I could arrange my
own research schedule. Thus, I could juxtapose having a new baby and
doing research without having to give up either one. You have to assess
your research and ask whether you can postpone what you do (assays,
sampling, whatever) for
two to 24 hours when your child comes down suddenly sick and there is no
one but you to take care of the child.
You have to assess the ability of your spouse to do the same thing.
Consider whether you have some kind of alternative
support system in place that could serve the same function. One support
person is not enough. Two is ok (yourself and your spouse which is what
I had), three is even better, a whole family of reliable adults is the
If you think a child will cause you to go slower in your pursuit of a
degree, then discuss it with your major prof. Otherwise, it's really not
any of their business. Your major prof does not own all the hours in
your day and grad students do have a life outside the lab and school.
But your major prof may only have a certain number of dollars to support
the research you're doing, which means if you don't finish on schedule,
you may never finish. As a major prof myself, I worry about these
things. Outside distractions that keep a student from finishing in the
time I have funding for them may make me think about taking them on as a
student. But if I can be convinced that the student has considered how
these outside distractions will NOT be a problem, I'll give them the
benefit of the doubt. Babies are not the only outside distractions that
might prevent students from completing their course of study.
If your spouse does not seem really capable of dealing with
children, I'd be leery of trying to do both grad school and children
at the same time. In addition, you had better be organized. If you have
trouble juggling two crises at once, then both children and grad school
is probably not wise. But if you can
juggle lots of things at the same time, then I see no trouble with doing
grad school and children. It's entirely possible, but stressful.
If you want to take time off from your career to have kids, that's
probably easier, but then you have to get back into the career track, and
that can be hard. Consider what you really want -- if you're getting a
degree to become a technical support person, then take the time off to
have children. It's definately easier. But if you are going the
academic route, consider that some people may question your comittment to
the academic world. I've gone straight through the academic route, and
because I have children, some people STILL question my commitment. No
matter what you do, someone's always going give you trouble. Develop a
thick skin, and ignore them.
Consider which thing you have more trouble doing - juggling lots of
things, or pushing your way into a place where there
will be skepticism about your commitment to your career. If it
doesn't bother you to prove someone wrong, then take time off, have
the kid(s), and then come back into academia. If you aren't so good
at pushing your way through that, then try to juggle. Take the
easiest way for you --- and no one can tell you that but yourself.
One last point - at each step along the career ladder, you have less
time for yourself and your family. You may not believe that your major
prof, who just seems to sit in that office all day long talking on the
phone and writing, is really all that busy. But I'm at that stage -- all
I seem to do is talk on the phone. It's frightening how much is
sliding by the wayside because I don't have time to deal with it. If I
were thinking of having a child now - whoa! It's not possible! Not and
keep the prof position! Much less jump the hurdle to full professor!
Consider that all-night child care, and running after kids while they are
playing is a task for the young. In my 20's it was no problem going full
out all day, every day, for months on end. By the time I was into my
post-doc, I wasn't so sure that was possible. By the time I was an
Associate Professor, I'd spent too many hours at the computer, in
committee meetings, and not enough time out in the field running around.
I'm not saying it's not possible to keep up with a baby or a toddler when
you're in your late 30's or 40's, it's was just alot easier when I was
inghame at bcc.orst.edu
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