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Author Topic: "planning" kids  (Read 27414 times)
kneesocks
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« on: September 09, 2010, 12:07:18 AM »

You may not recognize me in my current garb, but I'm a regular poster who'd like some advice off-moniker.

I'm 34, on the TT, and am now trying to figure out when to have kids.  My spouse is 40.  I'd dive in right now, but my research agenda (social sciences) has taken a new, exciting direction.  More specifically, I am planning to apply for a grant to do a brief stint of research in Far Off Location (FOL). 

Unfortunately, the grant I want to apply for went on hiatus just as I was about to apply last year.  I spoke with the program officer, who says that the grant will *hopefully* open up again in the next six months.  It would be a little over two years from now before I could do the fieldwork if I were chosen for the grant. 

Here's the deal.  I can't be pregnant when (if) I travel to FOL, and children/spouses are not allowed under any circumstances.  Imagine, for example (but not this), fieldwork at a military installation or on a submarine.  The fieldwork would be only for about 2-4 weeks, mostly during school break.  My spouse also follows the academic schedule and would be off during most of the time of the fieldwork.

There's no guarantee at all that I would even get the grant if I applied, but this is basically my only chance, ever, to go to FOL to do the kind of research I want to do.

My options are, I think, the following:
a. Try for a kid whenever I want and give up on this silly dream to go to FOL.
b. Try for a kid and if she comes, try to sort out later how to deal with the issue IF I even get the grant.
c. Try for the next few months, and plan that the baby would be old enough to leave (and I have no idea how old this is), and stop trying once that window has passed.
d. Put having kids on hold for the next year (while I wait to hear about the grant).  If I do this, I'm putting getting pregnant on hold for at least 2.5-3 years if I do win the grant.  I would turn 37 soon after returning from fieldwork. 

I have very few close friends and family with children, and am not close enough to my colleagues to ask about something so personal.  I know that many women must leave children for work for all kinds of reasons.  I'm just worried about how hard it would be to leave a young child for several weeks, even in the care of dad (and, I assume, grandma, aunts, uncles, etc.).  I can't count how many times I read in the memoirs of men doing research in FOL that their wives gave birth just before or while they were gone.  But I suspect I would feel different as a mother.

My spouse is also eager to have kids, but we're not "baby crazy" yet.  He's also extremely supportive of my career.  When we do have kids he will likely be at least 50% caregiver, maybe more.  I didn't feel even one tick of the biological clock until I talked to that program officer and started doing the math.

I'd appreciate any viewpoints from both fathers and mothers about my conundrum.
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larryc
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« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2010, 12:31:30 AM »

I vote C. But then I am some stranger on the internet advising you about your uterus. I am not sure how much weight you should give to my advice.

So what if you delay having kids, don't get the grant, and then cannot conceive? Are you OK with that?
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redhound
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« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2010, 12:42:12 AM »

I am also in the social sciences and spend my summers in remote locations doing physically challenging work. My advice is to go for it now. If you wait, you may not be able to have children and the likelihood of having complications (both with you and the baby) increases exponentially after you hit your early 30s. I can't really speak to what it is like to parent as someone over 35 because I am in my early 30s, though.

On the other hand, if this is a project that you can't imagine not doing and is timely/super relevant in your field, then perhaps you should wait the two years and get the experience out of your system. Once you have a baby, your feelings about field research may change. I know this past summer was incredibly difficult for me; it was so hard to be away from my daughter for 5 weeks. I had to go out and do my research because I received a grant  for the project before I knew I was pregnant. I did enjoy my research, though, but my sadness definitely made my days longer and harder. I was not the same person who used to be 100% into my project; I was only about 75% there. I think I will be back to 100% as she gets a bit bigger...it's just hard to be away when they are babies. What made it even harder was the lack of internet and phone service. It put a strain on my relationship with my partner, who was handling everything (including my daughter) by himself. We are fine now, but man it was hard.

Also, my daughter is 1 right now and I know for a fact that I would have abandoned my research project if I had to leave her when she was younger than 8 months old. I was nursing her up until 9 months, and the logistics of trying to take a manual pump to the field and store breast milk would have been crazy to put it lightly. I was not ready to give up my nursing relationship at that point, but I had to due to health issues. I would have NEVER guessed that I would have felt that way towards a child or towards nursing. Never in a million years. Hormones do weird numbers on your brain after childbirth. You also don't know how your labor and delivery will go. I had to take a whole semester off due to complications that arose during my daughter's delivery. That's something you can't predict, so don't get yourself into a situation where you absolutely have to go out to the field no matter what.

One last thing: there is never a good time to have a baby. Something will always be in the way: financial constraints, work, etc. You find ways to get around these things and adapt. I think you need to do some pretty substantial soul searching and figure out how you might feel if you had to postpone or even give up your research project. You also need to consider how you would feel if you were not able to conceive due to waiting. Good luck - I wish you the best!
« Last Edit: September 09, 2010, 12:45:01 AM by redhound » Logged
redding
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« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2010, 1:01:58 AM »

Thanks so much for the replies so far.  Yes, It is a little embarrassing to have to turn to the fora for advice on a topic like this, but I just don't know anyone I can ask about this.  I just uprooted my life a few years ago to go on the TT, and I don't have anyone I can really turn to for advice.   I also just really want to know what other academics think.

I want to do the project very badly, because I think it would be a big contribution to my field.  I also really, really, really want to go to FOL.  I don't think I want it more than children, but I would love to figure out a way to do both.   I've generally been a big compromiser, and lead toward something like option C.  But I understand that I might feel differently with my own kid.

I'm not sure how I would feel if I waited and then couldn't become pregnant.  I guess I'd wait to build up some wealth and adopt.  I have no preference for adopting/having children, but my financial situation with loans, etc. is such that I couldn't adopt for several years.

Now that I think of it, it's possible I could put the work off for another field season.  Parents, would it be harder or easier to leave a 9-month-old or a 1 1/2-year-old? Or does either option sound impossible, especially for the mother?

Am I crazy to think that the grant and the baby both might be possible?
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redding
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« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2010, 1:03:43 AM »

Well, so much for the sock.  I'm the same as the OP.  My computer automatically logged me in.  Sorry!
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post_functional
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« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2010, 1:11:32 AM »

I suppose I'll get blamed for this one too.
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redhound
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« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2010, 1:13:08 AM »

Me and my partner also uprooted our lives for me to take a TT job. It's really hard to raise a child without family around. I have made a lot of mommy friends and been part of a babysitting co-op, which helps, but it's still not the same as having family around.

I found it much easier to leave my 1 year old. Our 1 year old is very active, very demanding, and, like her mama and dada, incredibly stubborn. She throws fits about a lot of things on a regular basis: if she can't go outside when dada leaves for work in the morning, when I go to the bathroom and take her out of her play area (aka our living room), when she gets put in her carseat, when a friend leaves, when she is tired, when she doesn't want a diaper change, etc. For me, that is way more exhausting than a baby crying in the middle of the night. Everything is a negotiation with toddlers. My daughter outsmarts me all the time.

But to get to your question about having the grant/research project AND the baby, no it is not impossible. Remember, 2-4 weeks is really a short amount of time in the big scheme of things. When your baby is 9 months or even 1.5 years old, they won't remember you leaving. You will remember it and it will be harder on you. But as bad as I feel about saying this, being gone for 5 weeks was a nice break from having a child in my home 24/7. I slept more, I read more, I used my brain more. It was quiet. I didn't change diapers the minute I got home from work or woke up in the morning. You get the picture. It was nice to be a semi-functioning academic/researcher for once.

Good luck again - feel free to message me if you have any questions!
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collegekidsmom
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« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2010, 1:28:20 AM »

Unfortunately, if you were lucky enough to have a child that you love and a job that you love, there will always be a way, but certainly never an easy way.
There is no good answer, and too many of us have tried to figure out the perfect way, but it is kind of messy when it comes to kids and full time careers.
If only you could see the future, and know if you even can get pregnant, or whether you would get the grant, or whether you will feel the same after having kids, it would be so much easier. But, anything can happen if you take that risk and go for the baby. You may not have the same priorities after having a child, or you may.
Another strategy is trying to picture where you want to be, and what you want to have accomplished, say by age 55. Instead of concentrating on now, how do you picture yourself  and your life in 20 years?



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redding
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« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2010, 2:05:55 AM »

Collegekidsmom, what a great thought experiment!  I guess from the "now" standpoint I would say first, that I have always imagined I would have kids.  From the time I was a child myself, I imagined a future with kids.  I still see myself that way.   But it was always in the future.

Since then, I've developed a whole research program. I want to do both, but in the best way possible for us.

Maybe I'm overthinking this.  My husband and I just had another conversation about it tonight, and he absolutely took it as a given that he could be with a baby while I'm gone.  Redhound's experience is very helpful.  Are there any others out there who will weigh in on leaving a baby with the spouse for a few weeks?
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shrimp
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« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2010, 2:37:24 AM »

I would vote B since you have no idea how long it may take to conceive and you don't know if you will get the grant.  I completely understand how hard it is to plan for both babies and careers.
I did leave my baby for 1 week of field work.  She was 18 months at the time and it was difficult but also somewhat invigorating (is that terrible to say?).  After a couple of days adjustment, she did fine while I was gone but was clingy for a long time after I returned.  No signs of irreparable damage yet.
If you were younger I would say wait till after the grant, but risks of infertility, genetic issues, complications etc increase so dramatically after your mid-30's.
Best of luck and I honestly hope you can have it all!
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testingthewaters
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« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2010, 5:37:40 AM »

Obviously, there is not going to be an answer that is good or right here, and frustrating as it is, you're the only ones who can make this decision. Which is not to say the fora isn't a great place to turn to. Collegekidsmom had a great suggestion with the "think about yourself at 50" idea.

Personally, given all of the uncertainties in the mix, I'd go with option B.... try for both and let the chips fall as they may. But I'm like that. We waited until we were financially secure to start trying for a baby (or at least no longer a financial disaster area), and also at 34, I'm not willing to wait for anything else. Again, it's a very personal decision. Taking a step back and looking at your life as a whole, rather than at right now, is an excellent first step.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2010, 5:38:09 AM by testingthewaters » Logged

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hegemony
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« Reply #11 on: September 09, 2010, 6:23:29 AM »

Go for B.  You can play it by ear once you know whether you get the grant and how old your little one will be, etc. etc. etc.  There does seem to be a mythos that you can't leave small children for shortish periods of time (or rather, that mothers can't leave small children for shortish periods of time).  But I personally don't subscribe to that.  And I went off to a foreign country for three weeks when my child was three, leaving him in the care of his dad, and all was perfectly fine.  I have a friend who went to Mongolia (!) for a few weeks when her daughter was two, and all was similarly fine.  What you don't want is one of those intensive baby/mother situations where the child has never been allowed out of the mother's sight for the first few years.  I personally am in favor of a kind of takes-a-village scenario where the child also grows up with extensive time with the dad, with extended-family members, with a consistent caregiver, or whatever the situation allows.  This is the kind of scenario where one of the principals can take some time away for a bit, and the child's world will remain unshaken.  So I say: go for it.
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prytania3
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« Reply #12 on: September 09, 2010, 6:29:40 AM »

If you really want a baby and you're 34, I wouldn't wait. It does get harder and more complicated the older you get. I'm with Larryc.
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newbie
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« Reply #13 on: September 09, 2010, 8:44:45 AM »

Another strategy is trying to picture where you want to be, and what you want to have accomplished, say by age 55. Instead of concentrating on now, how do you picture yourself  and your life in 20 years?

I found this to be very useful as my husband and I were still wavering on whether and when we'd want to try to have a child.

I also vote for B. It is really difficult to predict how long it will take to conceive, or even if it will be possible. Waiting until you return and are 37 to try to have a child could be fine, but it is also more risky.

Do you know if you can defer the grant for a few months if it seemed necessary? In other words, how specific is the timing on the grant? Also, do you know how competitive it is?
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undisciplined
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Okay then.


« Reply #14 on: September 09, 2010, 10:11:45 AM »

I say (b). In a slightly different twist on this issue, Mr. Undisciplined took Little Undisciplined to visit his family in Very Special Country (VSC) for 2+ weeks when LU was 14 months old. I used that time to travel domestically for fieldwork. Not quite the same scenario, but he was definitely in charge of the child care (of course, he had a lot of family help in VSC).
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