Saturday, May 31, 2008

Who wants a baby?

I hear that women in academia have fewer children than similarly educated women in other professions. I am not surprised, though I hadn't really given it much thought. Other people with actual parenting/academic experience have commented on this, and as I am entirely unqualified to do so I will point you in that direction if you're interested.

However, this did make me think about my own plans and the fact that I have absolutely no peers or mentors who are FIELD SCIENTISTS who have (or had) children in their 20's or early 30's. Most of my peers are still grad students, post-docs, or are just entering their first tenure-track positions. Those I know who are expecting or recently had children are lab scientists; most of these people just started new post-docs or technician positions and won't be going anywhere for a while. The few field scientists I know who had kids did so in their early 40's. Which is great for them, but not something I want for myself; I'd like to have at least a vague chance of seeing any potential grandchildren, assuming I have a kid of my own.

I'll be teaching at a small liberal arts college (SLAC), so I know that I'd have an easier time than some giving up some research in favor of family. But I LIKE my fieldwork, I hope to keep doing it, and it wouldn't be easy to give it up entirely. How do other people make that balance...or do they just choose one or the other? That seems to be the only way to go, unless I can somehow convince Partner to be a stay-at-home dad. This is possible, I suppose, but it's still not very fair of me to take off to other continents for several weeks or months every year and leave him at home with the (hypothetical) kiddo.

I'm not too concerned right now. I'm hoping to get myself established before making those decisions, and I figure I have a few biologically relevant years left. Just one more bridge that we'll burn when we come to it.


Crystal said...

you bring up a good point. another thing i find interesting, is that for those of us who are in scientific field, who want to be in academia and who are trying to build careers, we are often not encouraged, or ashamed to admit that, shit, we also want love, children and families. to be honest, i want those things MORE than i want a successful career. and i feel like, admitting that to my peers, mentors, etc, makes me appear weak to them, as if i am a softy, not cut out for hard core science. know what i mean?

Liberal Arts Lady said...

That's very true. I saw that attitude in action recently when a fellow grad student was denied funding past the "guaranteed" funding deadline (regardless of the fact that most people do get funded past that deadline). A (male) faculty member made a comment that went something like: if she was serious about finishing her degree, she wouldn't have had the second kid (though there were other issues involved here as well, including a dicey student-advisor relationship). I wanted to say, she's in her early thirties and she's in grad she supposed to wait until she's 40-something and has tenure? But it was definitely seen as an indication that she wasn't interested in succeeding, which is bull.

Would I think that was better if a woman had made the comment? Probably not. I kinda think there's a generational gap in the acceptance of family balanced with work...I have a vague hope that these things will improve over the next ten years or so. But then maybe I just haven't been around long enough to become jaded. :)