Please tell me about how having children affected your academic life(?)

(74 Posts)
Boozena Thu 21-Jul-16 11:34:36

Hello
I applied for my first post grad job and have just had the rejection email.
I haven't submitted my PhD yet so knew I was already on the back foot but my research interests and publication history fitted perfectly. I also know it was only my first application so I need to get a grip!
DH and I were discussing starting our family. We sort of said if I didn't get this job we would start trying. I'm due to submit at the end of the year. Would this be career suicide? I'm worried ill be "out of the loop" if I have a baby now. Would it be better to get a job and settle in first?
DH is starting a much better paid job in Aug but regardless he has supported me throughout my studies even on low wage. So finances not a huge issue but could/would be much better if I worked.
Rambling now! Any thoughts?

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Thu 21-Jul-16 11:44:49

You don't want to hear my story, but yes, get a job first. If you want the academic career you need to take it seriously, prioritise it, don't just let it take a back seat in the hope it will fall into place, because you need both commitment and luck. You might have to fight for your needs within the relationship even if your dp is lovely and supportive, and that only intensifies once there are kids.
Commiserations on the first job rejection but rest assured it is very normal and best of luck with the next lot of applications x

worstofbothworlds Thu 21-Jul-16 12:02:29

Due to various issues we didn't start our family till I was well settled into my job. I am glad we didn't because you are so much better off having employment when you have children.

You may be looking at a lot of applications (field dependent) before you get a job offer so don't think of this as "the job", just keep applying for "a job".

It's also a lot easier now to move/commute than with children.

Boozena Thu 21-Jul-16 12:43:27

Thanks for the input both smile
I wouldn't say I want an 'academic career' as such- I'm not going for prof or anything. Idally I'd like a paid research job for around 5 years. We'd like to get a mortgage for a bigger place and start our own business in the next 2-3 years, so I want a job that will see me through that, then leave to work for us.
I just know I don't want to wait 5 years but don't want to have dc now and 'regret' not getting a job first. Think we've got a serious talk to have.

OneArt Thu 21-Jul-16 12:45:04

How old are you, OP?

BestZebbie Thu 21-Jul-16 12:47:59

Have you ever had paid professional-level employment? If not, I'd seriously suggest getting some before your maternity leave, as 1) a PhD ages quite fast without work experience to go with it and show you are bang up to date, and 2) it will be harder getting a first job without showing some previous employment history so you don't want to make it even harder by being older and having had time out when you start looking.

Boozena Thu 21-Jul-16 12:57:04

OneArt I am 26. I know, I know, loads of time. But it's an urge that's not going away iyswim.
Best no not paid professional. I'm currently pt doing something that helps both my PhD & future business plan.
I see what you're saying re phd aging, i dont plan to be sahm for years on end but appreciate times move quickly. The topic is something I'll be "practicing" in our business when we set up so useful for that more than anything, but better paid jobs seem to request one. I'm also keeping up with publishing, wondering if that is something I could keep going with on mat leave to keep "in the loop"?!

worstofbothworlds Thu 21-Jul-16 13:47:46

Most women think they'll publish loads on maternity leave. Almost nobody does.

TheWindInThePillows Thu 21-Jul-16 14:04:02

First things first, get the PhD submitted and get any corrections done. This may take longer than you think, depending when you submit and if you get any corrections of course, but I would definitely get that done as any job is absolutely going to want you to have submitted, even if you haven't had the viva. I wouldn't interview anyone who hadn't submitted, as lots of people end up delaying/putting it off. This more than anything will hold back your application, as if you are going for short-term post-doc type stuff, they know you will spend most of your time writing up your PhD.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Thu 21-Jul-16 14:04:45

Agree, hardly anyone does. Of course some people do miracles but it's out of your hands to a degree, because it depends on your baby and sleep. There's a thread going at the moment about the silliest thing you ever did when sleep deprived. Have a read of that and see if you think you could do research while in that state! grin
If you do get lucky and your brain remains intact during the first year then great, but no matter how determined you are, if you can't sleep you can't research and write.

GentlyGentlyOhDear Thu 21-Jul-16 14:16:25

I would also urge you to start work first.
My situation is slightly different in that I didn't want an academic job and I had two children while I did my PhD (I should add undergoing my viva with an 8 week old to that sleep deprived thread!), but now I'm really struggling with looking for suitable jobs. I just don't have the desire to put the hours in and push on in a career with young children and do not want to relocate. Do it while you don't have extra commitments.

OldLagNewName Thu 21-Jul-16 16:14:41

Are you sure you want a job in academic at all? There are research jobs and jobs containing lots of research outside academia for some fields (not just sciencey ones, but working for thinktanks, policymakers, voluntary organisations, high powered civil service jobs).

I tried to have kids while I was doing my PhD but couldn't (fertility problems). In the end it took 5 years to have DC1 so I'd had a permanent job for about 18 months by the time I got pregnant. It wasn't at all what I wanted to wait so long but I do suspect I wouldn't have got my lectureship if I'd had children along the way. I'd have just been too tired, too unfocused and too emotionally unable to prioritise my own career, even with a partner who parents completely equally, as mine does. And this was 10+ years ago now and it's got so much harder to get a first job now than it was when I started.

Boozena Thu 21-Jul-16 20:25:20

That's a good point pillows there's still a fair way to go with my PhD yet and am anticipating corrections (hoping not but gather it's quite common).
I've been meaning to read that thread grin hoping I'm not too disillusioned in my expectations of motherhood and certainly don't think I'll be knocking journals out at a rate but had hoped it might help to keep writing, reading etc.
Good point Gently I'd hoped not to relocate- I'm in a good place geographically in terms of being within an hour of several good universities so again had hoped this wouldn't be too much trouble.
No Old it doesn't have to be in academia and I'd actually like to work within policy making/charities but struggle to find relevant jobs- I think I'm just in the habit of searching jobs.ac.uk and not knowing where else to look!

timegate Thu 21-Jul-16 22:41:17

My advice would also be to try for a baby once you have your job and have at the very least submitted your thesis. Pregnancy is so unpredictable - it's hell for some, and others just sail through it. If you are not too fussed about publications etc and climbing the career ladder, then just fall pregnant as soon as you've got the job! Best of luck smile

FoggyBottom Fri 22-Jul-16 11:48:13

I'd seriously suggest getting some before your maternity leave, as 1) a PhD ages quite fast without work experience to go with it and show you are bang up to date, and 2) it will be harder getting a first job without showing some previous employment history so you don't want to make it even harder by being older and having had time out when you start looking

This.

Get a job first. You'll also have the benefit of basic ML.

geekaMaxima Fri 22-Jul-16 13:05:38

Yep, get a job first.

A PhD finished a couple of years ago with no postdoc work is a death knell for postdoc applications when sifting through a mass of CVs. It looks too much like someone in unemployable, might have only scraped their PhD, etc.

A PhD followed by a postdoc, even with a couple years break thereafter, is usually fine. It shows you're employable and a career break is not unusual once you've had a job under your belt. Plus the mat leave benefits are handy once you're employed!

FoggyBottom Fri 22-Jul-16 13:50:44

Indeed. We recently recruited two people - had about 100 CVs to sift. And anyone with a PhD but no post-doc professional experience didn't really make it to the long list.

TheWindInThePillows Fri 22-Jul-16 17:08:20

This is why I don't think it's worth applying for jobs when you haven't done your PhD viva yet, it's hugely competitive at the moment, and so basically we sift through and get rid of anyone who hasn't completed their PhD (as why take a chance?) and then look for someone with a year or two of post-doc or a post-doc grant, and a couple of publications at the very least.

I agree with what everyone said, I also think it's not that sensible to be writing detailed long applications right now and putting your energy into that when you haven't submitted. Submission is the top priority over everything even publishing.

DoctorDoctor Fri 22-Jul-16 17:25:00

What everyone else says. At 26 you have time on your side, and saying you'll start ttc if you don't get the first job you applied for is definitely jumping the gun. If you get into a job that is a 3 year+ contract or permanent, I think then start trying. If you get offered a 2 year post or shorter, that's a tricky one, and I would be inclined then to hold your horses and try to get that contract done and be into the next (hopefully permanent) one. That way you should be paid during your mat leave, have a job you can come back to, and have the beginnings of a publications and research profile beyond the PhD.

No matter how good a fit you might seem for a job, not having submitted is a barrier. I suddenly got invited to interviews when I was able to put 'submitted, awaiting viva' on applications. That should be your primary goal. Also, being on mat leave and having a tiny baby to look after was more gruelling than any research project including my PhD. Don't expect to get anything done during that time as you're just setting yourself up for disappointment.

esornep Fri 22-Jul-16 18:10:02

I'm a bit surprised that somebody who doesn't want to be an academic longterm would apply for post-doc positions - they are very competitive, not paid particularly well and are fixed term contracts. Even if you get one, you would have to work hard and be very productive to get another one, to stay in research for five years. It's very hard indeed to have children when establishing yourself in an academic career on fixed term contracts. Actually I think it's pretty hard to have children in academia at all - yes, you can work flexibly (which is a positive) but most successful academics work long hours to produce high quality research, generate research income, teach, carry out admin tasks etc.

BTW the fact that you don't see a future in academia could harm you if you get to interviews. (Even if don't tell the interviewers this directly, they will almost certainly pick up on it.)

WilfSell Fri 22-Jul-16 18:23:26

Have you got any publications? If you haven't, you've no hope of a lecturing position in the current climate. Post-docs are horribly competitive too as everyone else has said and I REALLY wouldn't advise planning a publication schedule during maternity leave. For every woman who's said she went to three conferences and wrote a paper, there are 35 others who lost the plot, could barely get themselves dressed or fed for 6 months or who had sleepless or challenging babies.

I think - like everyone else - get a job first. There will also be a shift in power (probably) in your relationship if you're doing the caring and your partner is out at work. It can be hard to get back into the kind of brutal world view academic requires to succeed when you've been out of it. And if things change at home too, you might find the changes are not going to work with academic work.

Women who do well in academia have a publication plan, a good network of fellow researchers in their field, a focused drive to research one area, teaching/professional experience.

In my own case, I faffed around on most of these things and my career suffered somewhat. It isn't fair at all that it is hard to manage kids and an academic career - and everyone thinks it is the opposite! - but it is, unless you're VERY well supported with those kids (not only partner but friends and family close by who can help) and in a progressive, supportive environment and you're very focused. But even if it isn't fair, it isn't going to change any time soon so you must put yourself in a good employment position if you want to do it as a career.

BackforGood Fri 22-Jul-16 18:31:57

I agree with everyone else. Job first, then go on maternity leave once you are established.

Cocoabutton Fri 22-Jul-16 18:38:44

I had the baby urge from about 26 and had my first DC at 30, PhD was done, had done post-doc and was on my first RA position. I ended up a single parent four months into my lecture job. With one DC, I did manage to write a successful research grant and get the lectureship on mat leave (DD was six weeks old at interview) but I found out later it was a toss up between me and another candidate, and I only got it because I had a book contract. That was a few years ago and the climate is MUCH tougher now. The candidate who didn't get the job went on to advance faster professionally than me elsewhere, though, and in many ways, I was blessed to get the position (would have been stuffed otherwise)

You have time on your side.

Memyselfandthatotherperson Fri 22-Jul-16 18:50:17

I finished my PhD, got a research job and was pregnant 8 months later, so qualified for paid leave. Not planned that way but it worked well in terms of childcare vouchers, entitlement etc. Nowadays there's the shared parental leave option too.

It's worth thinking what it is that's most important to you. For me, once I had my dc they became my world. I don't work the long hours, go away for work or show the commitment my (male) coworkers do. It hurts my career but at the end of the day I'd rather play duplo with my dc grin

wizzywig Fri 22-Jul-16 18:53:55

I dont know if my opinion is worth anything. Im doing my dissertation with 3 kids. It is not fun at all.

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