Helping Women Achieve in Academic Science

Having Kids in Grad School

Here is another very successful WomanOfScience’s story about how she decided to have kids in GradSchool.

Being half Mormon (other half Jewish–crazy mix I know), I decided to get knocked up at the tender young age of 30 when I was in graduate school at MajorMedicalSchoolinCA. Why? I went in for a general check up to obtain more birth control pills and the nurse, a non-native English speaker, asked me if I was planning to have children. I said the usual, “yes, eventually.” Her response: “Well, I wouldn’t wait too long or you will have mongrels,” (Yes, mongrels!) I think she meant mongoloid, as in Down-Syndrome, but that scared me into action. I thought about it on my way home: I had been with my boyfriend for ten years, I did eventually want to have kids, we weren’t getting any younger, and probably there was a lot less pressure in grad school than in the later steps of my career. In Utah, where I was from, I would be a grandma by now, whereas in San Francisco, I was a virtual teenager. The other thing that my women friends in school and I were noticing is that all of the women faculty that we knew at MajorMedicalSchoolinCA never had kids and many of them didn’t even have a significant other. While we looked up to these magnificent women, we thought it was time to push the process a little further and try to ‘have it all’. Damn the torpedos full speed ahead! See if it works, at least! I also had two other important graduate student role models in this respect, who also had kids in grad school.

Despite birthing the kids under the auspices of Student Health, which I am afraid we nearly bankrupt, I had a wonderful experience having my babies as a student. My boss, BigFancyProfessor, who was also starting a family at that time, was incredibly supportive and my lab was fantastic–bringing me in smoothies when I was pregnant and dinners after the baby was born. With my first daughter, my now husband had just finished his PhD and got to take care of her for around a year. I really wish that I got to do the same with our other child–putting her into a large daycare at six months felt too young. I did try to plan parenthood strategically–the first while writing up a publication and the second at the end of my PhD, so I could have more time off (while writing the thesis and fellowships). The other benefit I had was that I had worked in labs and industry for ~three years before and had money and stocks saved to help afford taking time off. Really, though, I think having kids as a scientist can work pretty well at any stage, as our jobs are more flexible than most. The main thing is having a supportive partner in crime, and I have been blessed that my girls have a great dad.

What is your story? Comment or post.

Comments on: "Having Kids in Grad School" (1)

  1. […] issues on this blog. For example: When should you have kids (see these blog posts: flexibility, grad school, pre/post tenure, postdoc)?  Should you take a job when you don’t have one for your spouse […]

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