Valuing Children

June 16, 2009 | Blog

Cross-posted from Brainstorm

I am in the midst of what I sometimes feel is an incredibly risky endeavor. Or rather, what some would have me feel is risky.

I’m having a baby. A second baby. On the tenure track.

My ears sense some e-groaning. My fears detect some e-judgment. Maybe, somewhat out there, there is a little applause, and elsewhere sighs of relief.

The truth is, I don’t know what to say—except that I’m completely happy and scared, all at the same time.

Why happy? Because having a family is exactly what my husband and I always wanted. And having our first has proven to both of us that professional success is entirely eclipsed by the sheer joy of watching our son learn to eat a popsicle, or experience his first swim lesson.

Why fear? Because it is far from clear what baby #1 means for my tenure prospects, let alone baby #2. Because I have already been the recipient of far too many stories about pregnant professors overburdening their colleagues when they take leave, of comments from both men and women who say “well, one kid pre-tenure is one thing, but two…?” Because the question of how I am to juggle a late December birth with a two-course teaching load come spring has not yet been resolved.

I know I’m in good company—plenty of American working women have more than one child, and do it while working far less cushy jobs than I. Many have to forgo the pleasures of nursing, a job that requires upwards of 30 hours per week initially by itself. And a scary proportion do it all without healthcare.

I am lucky, to be sure. I am also—however—completely freaked out. Maybe that will change? I’ll keep you posted.

4 Comments

  1. Reply

    Claus von Zastrow

    June 16, 2009

    Congratulations on the second baby! My wife and I left academia some years ago because we didn't want to the kinds of judgments you describe.

  2. Reply

    Sherman Dorn

    June 16, 2009

    Congratulations!! In our last round of collective bargaining, we finally got parental leave (and a stoppage in the tenure clock), and I am convinced that in the long run (and probably the medium run, too), it will make us a much saner and better place. And more productive.

    Do what you know is right for you. If you can't be yourself and uphold your values, you're not going to be happy or productive.

  3. Reply

    Julie P.

    June 18, 2009

    Bully for you, Sara. Count me among those who sighed a combination of relief and hope when you announced an impending second. Still, I appreciate the nervousness you feel--especially at a research univ--and wish you peace and grace as you navigate the life you're crafting.

  4. Reply

    Ink

    June 19, 2009

    Congratulations! Having two children is wonderful, and everything will eventually fall into place schedule-wise.

    Don't listen to any two-kid-pretenure naysayers...I know lots of women who have had two en route to tenure! Best wishes to you.


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