Am I crazy, or just happy?
Dr. Mr. Palimpsest and I are expecting our third child in May. This is neither wholly unexpected (we'd discussed the possibility), nor fully planned (I didn't expect to get pregnant when I did), but the timing works well. I'm due the first day of finals week.
My graduate adviser once told me that "everybody" understands if an academic woman wants to have one child, and two children is "normal", since that's culturally-defined as a "standard" family size. But more than that, she told me, would make it very hard to pursue an academic career. Indeed, I know only a small number of women who have managed it. (Men, particularly those with non-academic stay-at-home spouses, are another story.)
I believe the idea that "three is too many" comes partly from cultural values, particularly among middle- and upper-class white Americans, who make up the majority of academia, and who sometimes equate small family size with high moral standing. That said, I'll admit there are true challenges we face with three. Travel (to the field, to conferences, to museums, etc.) will be difficult and (possibly) prohibitively expensive. Most critically, my publication productivity takes a hit for at least one year, even two, after each baby. This is my own choice, since I spend as much time at home with a new baby as I can, but it means my ability to get tenure at a research-focused university takes a hit. I'll get tenure here, but if I moved to an R1, I would have to increase my productivity just at the time when I'm most invested in family. So, I've decided not to apply for new jobs this year. I'll stay where I am, at least for a couple years, and raise a baby.
The long and short of it: the third baby is not academic career suicide (I hope!), but probably is the death of my plans to leave the liberal arts and move toward a research position, at least for the foreseeable future. It's a trade-off I'm willing to make, especially since Dr. Mr. Palimpsest's job opportunities here are looking up, but it doesn't make me blind to the fact that it's a trade-off many academics (cough, cough - most men - cough, cough) don't need to make.
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