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Author Topic: Should I take a semester off after giving birth?  (Read 2742 times)
mobarron
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« on: December 14, 2012, 12:28:35 PM »

Hi,
I'm expecting to give birth end of June, at which time I will have completed my first year as TT professor. Although I will have a little bit of time to recover over the summer, I'm wondering what to do about the fall semester. I did IVF to conceive during the first part of the fall semester and the treatment took up a lot of time and I was tired all the time due to the hormone injections. I taught two new classes and had one course release to do research but I didn't have energy to do any research though have two papers under review that I prepared over the summer. I did manage to keep up well with teaching and with all my other responsibilities and even served on an important committee. I think I could arrange to take a semester sabbatical (unpaid) but based on my experience this semester I doubt that I would get any writing done taking care of the new baby (my first). I also have some physical health problems and I'm older than the average mom so it might be tough. Perhaps it would be best to take the sabbatical but I worry about feeling isolated (I leave in a really boring place where I don't know anybody) and feeling depressed about not getting writing done despite being home all the time. So I'm considering NOT taking the sabbatical, just do the teaching, with no expectations that I will be productive writing-wise and try to work really hard next semester to get some papers lined up (my university has pretty low tenure publication expectations, I've been told two journal articles per year would be fine). I'd be grateful for any input from mothers who have faced similar decisions.
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ruralguy
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« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2012, 12:41:40 PM »

By "sabbatical" do you really mean an academic sabbatical, approved by faculty committees and the Dean and all, with a project in mind , or do you mean something more like FMLA leave (if you are eligible to take it as late as next fall--probably are)? If you are eligible for FMLA leave, thats probably better than asking for an academic sabbatical and then not accomplishing the work.

That being said, most of the time with the infant basically thethered to you is the first several months, and even that can be alleviated if you aren't nursing, have a partner/spouse/other family/friends who will be helping or have day care for infants in your area.

Also, can you "stop the tenure clock" for next year and just go up a year later?

These are matters to be discussed with your Chair, Dean, HR and probably other women on your faculty who have recently given birth (ask around).
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mobarron
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« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2012, 1:16:15 PM »

Thank you for your reply ruralguy.

I was using term sabbatical in an informal way - I didn't mean a formal sabbatical. So it's more like FMLA leave (though longer). The problem regarding with the tenure-clock stop is that although this has been put on the agenda for a revision of the faculty handbook (which has been delayed for years and may not come out until later next year), there is no such provision yet at my institution.

Also, I do plan to breastfeed and I have no family or friends who can help out (my family all live abroad and all my friends are busy professionals plus they live one hour or further away from here). My husband works full-time and we depend on his salary so this is not an option either. I will try to get some paid help but financially this will be easier if I we are both working.

Btw, there is only one other female faculty with children in my department (it is a small one) and her husband is a stay-at-home full-time dad. I don't know many female faculty at the university- overall the faculty seems a lot older and mostly male and I have only been at my current institution for one semester.
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seniorscholar
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« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2012, 3:28:20 PM »

Obviously I teach at a university with a different atmosphere than yours -- and I've never known a woman in my department (English, so there have been a lot of women, most of us feminists) who took more than the six weeks (paid, under our union contract) leave, and with the summer to get started, breast pumps, and a good day care, you'd be in an even better situation than those who deliver in September. But then, I also remember the time we were searching for an outside chair, and the department chair, whose baby had been cranky that morning, pulled her shawl over her shoulder and nursed while we were interviewing the candidate (whose visible horror was not the ONLY reason we didn't hire him).

And if you depend on both salaries -- would your department pay you while you took the semester off? That would not happen here, though the six weeks "medical leave" is covered; anyone who took the whole semester would need to take an unpaid leave of absence, which would automatically stop the tenure clock but would also mean paying in full  for that six months' worth of their health benefits.

And incidentally, full-time day care for infants, though generally less expensive than paid help at your home, takes time to find. If there is not a  campus day-care program, you need to investigate, check all the state certifications and inspections, get information from friends (or perhaps from people in your medical practitioner's office or waiting room, who may well have faced the same problem), and then reserve a place several months in advance, at least in the cities where I have lived.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2012, 3:33:57 PM by seniorscholar » Logged
pink_
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« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2012, 9:34:28 AM »

Hi,
I'm expecting to give birth end of June, at which time I will have completed my first year as TT professor. Although I will have a little bit of time to recover over the summer, I'm wondering what to do about the fall semester. I did IVF to conceive during the first part of the fall semester and the treatment took up a lot of time and I was tired all the time due to the hormone injections. I taught two new classes and had one course release to do research but I didn't have energy to do any research though have two papers under review that I prepared over the summer. I did manage to keep up well with teaching and with all my other responsibilities and even served on an important committee. I think I could arrange to take a semester sabbatical (unpaid) but based on my experience this semester I doubt that I would get any writing done taking care of the new baby (my first). I also have some physical health problems and I'm older than the average mom so it might be tough. Perhaps it would be best to take the sabbatical but I worry about feeling isolated (I leave in a really boring place where I don't know anybody) and feeling depressed about not getting writing done despite being home all the time. So I'm considering NOT taking the sabbatical, just do the teaching, with no expectations that I will be productive writing-wise and try to work really hard next semester to get some papers lined up (my university has pretty low tenure publication expectations, I've been told two journal articles per year would be fine). I'd be grateful for any input from mothers who have faced similar decisions.

OP,

You might get more feedback if you asked the mods to move this thread to the tenure-track section of the fora.

Seniorscholar raises important points about health care and what might happen if you extended your family leave beyond the covered period--a reason that it's important to talk to HR to find out your options before getting too set on a plan of action.

Also seconding the advice to talk to women at your institution--certainly you aren't the first to go through this, even if your circumstances are more complicated (and they may or may not be--you never know).
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seniorscholar
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« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2012, 11:29:46 AM »

Seeing that this thread is still alive, a holiday card telling me that a former PhD student's eldest child has been admitted to four top-ranked colleges and is rushing to make up her mind reminds me that I have always wondered at the ability of that student (now a full professor)  to have three nicely-spaced children in June and never take any leave at all. After baby #3, however, she did have an au pair from overseas for one academic year: by that time they could afford to provide housing, spending money, and community college tuition for the girl (who was herself taking a gap year before going to university) to take several courses at times that one parent or the other was now at work. In other words, this may be one other option worth exploring, and one which (like all the options) takes time to set up.
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