Graduate school and parents

Barb Lewis barb at
Fri Mar 10 15:11:14 EST 1995

In article <Pine.OSF.3.91.950309192952.23948A-100000 at>, Mary
Jane Nather <natherm at> wrote:
> I will be getting married this July.  My fiance and I are both in graduate
> school.  Hopefully we will have our PhD's in 2-3 years.  We both want
> children.  Currently, I work with chemicals I would not want to expose my
> child to if I were expecting (ethidium, polyacrylimide, radioisotopes,
> etc).  I do however want to have children while I am still fairly young
> (I'm only 24 and I can already tell I'm losing energy ;) ).  My fiance
> will probably go into academics and therefore look for a post-doc upon
> graduation, but I'm leaning more towards working in industry so I'm not
> sure if I'll look into post-docs or not. 
> So, my question is this:  For those of you with families, did you have
> children while you were in graduate school or wait until you had started
> your first "real" job?  If you could do it over, would you do anything
> differently?  I've been thinking that conceiving after most of my work at
> the bench is completed, but before defending would be ideal (I wonder if
> the stress would warp the poor baby?!).  Oregon State has great student
> health insurance, so that's not a consideration. 

I think this a great plan. Having had kids in my mid 30s and after a
postdoc, I wish now that I'd done it earlier.

Several women I know have been pregnant while writing their thesis - it's a
great time because a few extra months or a year or two at this point are
really not a big deal on the resume. Later than this, then I think you risk
getting into worse career-family conflicts, unless you wait until you are
very securely established (i.e., tenured or such). And possibly less
fertile then.

It's great that you are thinking about chemical safety, too. I had the same
concerns myself, and I felt so much better knowing that I was doing my best
to avoid any bad stuff during my two pregnancies. There was as thread on
this subject here a month or two ago - several very different opinions
about *requiring* women to avoid teratogens, but all agreed that one should
take personal responsibility for safety.

Best of luck with your family and thesis! 

Barb Lewis
part-time research biochemist
Mom to Katie (7/1/86), Michael and Justin (both 7/29/89)
e-mail: barb at - My own opinions, of course

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