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kids and careers?

wijsman at max.u.washington.edu wijsman at max.u.washington.edu
Sun Aug 29 20:46:13 EST 1993

> For a few months now I've been reading this group with interest.  It
> seems like a good place to ask a question that's been bugging me - when
> to have kids?
> It seems like there will never be time.  I'm 26 now, and have three or
> four more years to go on my Ph.D. and then maybe a post-doc or two and if
> I'm lucky enough to actually get a job when I'm done then I'll have to
> work like crazy for five years to get tenure and wow!  I'd like to have a
> family at the same time somehow without spontaneously combusting.
> How do you do it?
> Kathie Hodge
> grad. student in mycology
> Cornell University
> kh11 at cornell.edu
There is no "good" time to have kids, at least with respect to other
activities.  Thus if you want them (subject to the caveats already
expressed in this newgroup about husbands who REALLY do their bit) have
them.  From the point of view of body/energy level/maturity late 20s is
pretty good.  From the point of view of the time necessary to take care of
kids:  it probably is pretty unpredictable which stages of childhood are
the worst in terms of conflicting demands of home vs. work.  Some babies
sleep a lot, some not.  I found infancy & toddlerhood pretty demanding. 
The school years (and later preschool years) have been MUCH easier.  We
haven't hit the middle-school years yet, so I have no direct information
about how much more "ferrying" is necessary as the kids get older.

Looking back (20-20 vision is always easier), I would say that the grad
school and postdoc years are probably a pretty good time to have kids
(especially post preliminary exam when you are working on your thesis). 
There isn't much long-term penalty for taking a little more time to do your
Ph.D. and/or a postdoc, and if you trade some of the social life which is
pretty typical of most grad students for family life, you might not find
yourself slowed down that much at all.  I found that my schedule was pretty
flexible while I was a grad student & also a postdoc.  I have much less
flexibility and time now as a faculty member, and it is getting worse
(assoc prof is worse than asst prof is worse than postdoc ... the trend is
obvious).  The increase in necessary travel alone is a killer once you
leave your postdoc years, if you have a baby or toddler at home.  One
danger, however, of having kids now is that if your spouse goes the tenure
route in the meantime, you might be derailed.  Some explicit discussion of
this issue with your spouse would probably be in order to figure out who
gets what priorities and when (better now than later).

Ellen Wijsman
Div of Medical Genetics, RG-25
and Dept of Biostatistics
University of Washington
Seattle, WA   98195
wijsman at u.washington.edu

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