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Is there a best time to have kids?


Amanda Labuza
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I’m curious if anyone out there has advice about the “best” time to have kids in your career. Particularly for Americans who don’t get much maternity leave? I am fully aware that everyone takes their own path and a working woman should be allowed to have kids whenever she chooses to. I’m not trying to diminish that. That being said, is there a time that is (relatively) easier to take maternity leave than others? Does anyone have any helpful advice for young women choosing this time-demanding career?

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This is an interesting topic. Many many years ago I made the decision that I had to choose between the two
Cs : children or career because I knew I could not handle both. I chose my career and even though I was warned by many people that I would regret my choice I never did.
This is me.
Jaadeja

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There is no “best” time - decisions about work-life balance, particularly related to family, are best made together with your partner. The important things is that you and your partner agree about parenting, childcare, and schooling. I did 2 postdocs and had 1 baby per postdoc. My girls are the best part of me. Babies fit into all stages of your career - it is all about scheduling and support systems. If you have that worked out - have the babies!

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IMO there is no “best” time to have kids if you want to be in a demanding job like academia. Now if you have decided that you want to have both then grad school is prob a good time, when you know that you’ll be in the same place for a few years and relatively responsibility-free (as opposed to TT faculty job). You need to make sure that you can actually afford it though! kids are expensive :wink: an important factor is that you are much younger (again, comparing to TT job) in grad school, I can’t stress enough how different it is to have a child in your 20s vs. 30s and older, stamina counts! I had one kid in grad school and a second one starting my first postdoc, it was a lot to juggle (being married to another scientist too!) but I am a TT faculty now and could not imagine doing this with a baby or toddler!!! Ultimately, it’s a personal decision and you need to find what works best for you. I love having kids and I love my career as well!

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These are all very diverse answers. Obviously, I respect everyone’s decision. You definitely need to do what is best for you. I guess what I really want to know is why did you think the time you had kids was the best time. What were the pros/cons of having kids during a post-doc compared to faculty position? In your opinions?

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Gabriella Panuccio

I have personally delayed so long waiting for the “best” time to come that now it’s too late… Do I regret it? A little. If I could turn back in time, I would probably do it when still a PhD student or during my first post-doc. Unfortunately, at that time in my life I was in North America on a temporary work permit, with no rights about maternity and sick leave. Having to provide for myself, I didn’t have enough backup resources to support myself during pregnancy and the baby(ies) afterwards. My main concern has always been that I work with animals and I handle toxic chemicals, so mine would have been considered a pregnancy at risk, consequently banning me from conducting my daily lab activities and resulting in a 12-18 months unemployment period.
I think that everyone should follow their instinct and not think too much nor plan too much.

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