I hope to have a number of posts on the topic of having children while in academic science, but before we begin, I just want to take the time to psyche you up and act the part of the cheerleader for a bit. Here is some wisdom about having kids that will hopefully help you.
Being pregnant or a mother of a small child doesn’t last forever, so it doesn’t define you. You have been working on your career for years, and yes, you will be a mother for many many years, too. But, kids change, they change very fast. Being pregnant is different from having a baby. Having a baby is different from a toddler. A toddler is different from a pre-schooler. Yes, they will need different things from you, so you can’t let these phases define you. You define yourself by your career, the science you do, and the mentoring you impart.
There is no good time, ergo there is no bad time to have kids. Interestingly, this was told to me by a man first, but I have heard it repeated numerous times. It is pretty true. There are probably times that are better or worse for you personally, but there is no specific time you can or cannot have children within your trajectory of academic science. I know “successful” academic WomenOfScience who had children as graduate students, as postdocs, as assistant professors, and after tenure. It is very personal for you, and there is no one trajectory. i hope to have a couple different stories from a variety of women who will say how they decided.
Your career, your lab, your job will still be there. This is scary because your research group is also like a child. You start it, you nurture it, you guide it. But, unlike a child, your research group is made of adults. Even undergraduates are technically adults, and they can make decisions and do work on their own volition. This also harkens back to the first point that these times don’t last forever.
So, my advise is to talk with your self, your family, your partner and decide if it is the right time. This advise is fairly stupid because that is what family planning is all about, right? You may have to plan. You may have to think ahead, but how is that any different from what you do daily in the lab and in your career? You are good at being organized and planning, so apply it to this situation.
I am hoping a number of you will write comments and guest posts to describe your personal experiences? Please do!