Babies of graduate students in biology

Timm Tracy jotracy at indiana.edu
Fri Oct 18 12:53:02 EST 1996


In article <53r3l8$d6t at agate.berkeley.edu>, hcorbett at garnet.berkeley.edu
() wrote:

> Out of curiosity, how many of you or your colleagues started their families
> while still in graduate school? I got married the year after my qualifying
> exam and was already one of very few in a large program to be married. It
> is a little harder to say for the men, though. I know no one who has had
> children before their postdoctoral position (though the majority of my
> French colleagues did just that) and I was wondering what your experience
> was. Do mention if the parent was a male or female student. It can't be
> very easy in either case, though I know it is certainly possible.
> 
> Heather

Just yesterday I was discussing the issue of "the best time to have
babies" with a colleague.  It is something I have given a *lot* of thought
to as I have watched a number of friends grapple with it.  Whenever you
have a baby life and work necessarily slow down and this is not always a
bad thing.  However, given the standards to which we and society and the
professional environment hold ourselves I have sadly concluded that there
is no true perfect time to start a family, especially since the
circumstances of everyone's life are so different. Nevertheless, I vote
for having babies earlier rather than later.  My own case is probably not
a useful example, but I had my son during the years after high school and
before college.  I started my undergraduate work when he was a year old. 
This meant that I depended heavily on university day care which, at my
undergraduate school, was wonderful and at my graduate school was dismal. 
While I never was able to experience a "typical" college life, having this
responsibility at home meant that I also was not able to work myself to
death in grad school.  It took me six years to finish, but I felt
emotionally well balanced through most of it and I thank my son for
helping me maintain that balance.  

Now as a postdoc I cannot imagine starting over with a new family, given
that I do know how much time and work it requires to do correctly (i.e.
babies, children, and teenagers do need you and your attention). I am
certainly still young enough, but I see this time as the true beginning of
my professional life.
Now, I need to add that I have been a single mother throughout, and I am
quite sure that my opinion might be different if I had experienced the
support that you would normally expect from a caring S.O.  But as it is, I
am very, very happy that I had my son when I was in my early 20's.  

-Jo Anne



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