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When is the best time to have kids?

06/10/2009

OK, so let’s say my husband and I have hypothetically decided to have kids. If you’re going down the science career path, it’s pretty evident that there’s never a GOOD time to have kids – so when is the least terrible time to have kids?

Some pros and cons for your consideration:

1.) GRAD SCHOOL.
Pros: Youth; flexibility in a (rigorous and demanding) work schedule; kids will be more self-sufficient during less flexible career stages.
Cons: Lack of financial padding; potential lack of parental responsibility; turmoil due to moving family in near future; flexibility means parents will switch off childcare and therefore never see each other; probable increase in time spent in grad school.

2.) POST DOC.
Pros: Still young; possibly more financial security; possibly more stability, responsibility, etc.
Cons: Demanding hours, travel to conferences, etc.; possible moves every 2-3 years; parents never see each other.

3.) EARLY FACULTY/CAREER.
Pros: Fairly young; (hopefully) more long-term stability; still more financial security; pretty damn responsible; possible flexibility in work hours due to teaching courses, doing research from home, etc.
Cons: Demanding hours; reduced possibility for advancement and tenure.

4.) ESTABLISHED CAREER.
Pros: Post-tenure and/or highly respected, so no one can guilt you into ignoring young kids; responsible, stable, and financially secure (i.e., shit is totally together).
Cons: Probably lots of travel; increased probability of complications due to being, oh, around 40; other cons that come along with being at the upper limit of child-bearing age.

This is just the list I came up with, and it’s certainly colored by my perspective. Maybe some other ideas would freshen things up. So what’s the verdict? Submit your opinion on which era is most kid-friendly below…

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 06/11/2009 1:25 pm

    I am definitely going to have kids, so I think about this A LOT. Haven’t decided on the best time yet. My partner was born while his father was ~2 years from a PhD in physics. His childhood memories are full of moving a lot and only seeing one parent at a time (his mom worked night shifts). He thinks this was too early to have kids. On the other hand, I was born while my parents were entering their 40’s and my childhood is filled with people telling my dad what a cute grandchild he had. These books helped me think about this decision, and I often refer to the first one as “Chicken Soup for the Female Graduate Student’s Soul”. They made having children young seem better, but never seem easy.

    Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life

    Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory: Women Scientists Speak Out

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