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To have decided to have a baby while on a temporary contract?

(22 Posts)
LisaSimpsonsbff Wed 07-Sep-16 15:52:27

I am 29 and an academic researcher (biological science). I'm currently four months into a three-year contract and DH and I really want a baby. We've been married two years. The general advice in my field would be to wait until you've got a permanent job to TTC, but I think that could easily be another 5-6 years for me from here. Doing it now seems sensible in some ways, as if I fell pregnant I could be back at work for quite a while before job-hunting again. However, I'm having cold feet/doubts - is it madly irresponsible to have a baby without having a permanent job? I've never been out of work since I finished my PhD, but I have had some really tough periods of job-hunting (my specialism isn't an easy one to move into industry as a back-up, by the way). We have a house with a pretty hefty mortgage. I know that we can afford the baby so long as I stay in work, but is this too big a gamble to take? I'd love to have more than one, so I don't feel like I have all the time in the world!

To pre-empt some obvious questions:
1) yes, I'd be entitled to the enhanced maternity package
2) DH has a permanent contract but we can't afford to live on his salary alone (for more than about six months, anyway - we'd exhaust our savings at that point).

RememberToSmile1980 Wed 07-Sep-16 15:56:36

Think carefully about your financial situation but other than that go for it. Discuss it between yourselves. You never know how long it will take you to conceive. Best of luck.

RunningLulu Wed 07-Sep-16 16:00:31

We use contractors in my fast paced industry & the advice is that if you have a baby on a temp contract then not to take more than 3 months mat leave, else you'll find it difficult to land another perm or temp role. It's different for perms as the company will provide their training & ensure their skills are uptodate.

If this wouldn't impact your future employability then go for it, otherwise I'd have a long hard think about your future. Can you apply for a perm role somewhere else & ttc in a year?

LisaSimpsonsbff Wed 07-Sep-16 16:09:20

Thanks for the thoughts so far! Just to clarify, I can't easily get a permanent job while staying in the same field. A permanent job would be a lectureship and while I can (and have) applied for those, I don't really have the experience to be a viable candidate yet. The only certain way I could get a permanent job any time soon would be to leave academic research and for me that would almost certainly mean some degree of retraining.

Vlier Wed 07-Sep-16 16:13:35

How will you cope if your contract is stopped because of this? You have to have a plan b. You're the adults, you have to be able to care for the child.

abigwideworld Wed 07-Sep-16 16:15:13

I got pregnant several months into my temporary contract.

The day I told them, the funding for my position miraculously ran out and my contract was ended.

Of course that might not happen to you, but it's worth bearing in mind.

LisaSimpsonsbff Wed 07-Sep-16 16:16:06

How will you cope if your contract is stopped because of this?

What do you mean? If I'm sacked for being pregnant? That would be no more legal for me than for any other employee.

Carmalia Wed 07-Sep-16 16:37:37

I waited (and am pregnant now at 34). It's easier as a lecturer, though still scary in terms of productivity etc, but at least I know my job won't go anywhere and all the clocks get stopped, so I can pick up again when I return with little hassle.

In your position, I would find out what happens with your contract when you are off - does it stop or does the clock keep ticking so your PI will lose the money unless they can replace you while you are off? Will you be banned from the lab while pregnant due to chemicals etc? This could mean downtime much longer than just maternity leave - not so critical at lecturer stage. How supportive is your PI and your department - do you have an Athena Swan award? The more supportive they are, the better for you. But fundamentally you don't know - they could say and do all the right things and there might be nothing for you at the end of your current project, or they can find a reason to employ someone else - you know there is always a way they can make out that someone else is preferable if they want to, academic job descriptions are so vague. And you may not have been employed long enough to even get redundancy etc.

If you need your salary to pay the bills you might need to be ready to consider moving uni or moving into a different role e.g. support staff or teaching focused. Or you might have to make the tough decision to downsize your house. Nursery fees, even at campus nurseries if you can get a place, are a lot as well - make sure you can afford this on top of your mortgage. It's not easy, and like I said I made the other choice to wait (and still intend to have 2) but our clocks all tick at different rates and you may feel that you really want to do it now! But with your job you are obviosuly capable of forward planning and thinking through the issues - figure out what makes sense for you. Hope it all works out for you!

Vlier Wed 07-Sep-16 16:49:12

I mean what happens after the contract runs out and they don't give you a new one. It's temporary so it ends. So how are you going to support the baby if that happens.

I'm not english so if my wording is strange I apologise.

OublietteBravo Wed 07-Sep-16 17:01:12

I had DD when I was a 28 year old PostDoc (molecular biology). I was 2 years into a 3 year contract when she was born. I took 6 months maternity leave and went back to work FT when she was 5.5 months old. The 6 months was added to the end of my contract.

I had DS at the end of my (extended) contract. This was much more problematic. I actually ended up leaving academia because of how badly I was treated.

I got a temporary lab job in industry outside my area of expertise (human physiology) when he was 8 months old, got made permanent 18 months later and then re-trained as a patent attorney (all paid for by my employer) about a year after that. I still work there as a patent attorney now (DD is now 12 and DS is now 10).

I'd say go for it, and see where it leads you. Best to take maternity leave when you have time left on your contract, rather than close to the end of it.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 07-Sep-16 17:03:01

Agree, you can't be sacked for being pregnant.

As for the possibility that you might not get another contract - yes, but equally, you could be made redundant from a permanent job, and often people are. You have to risk these things.

FWIW, DP and I are both on temporary contracts and we're having a baby. I'm an academic; she's a research assistant in a biology lab.

Honestly, if everyone waited for permanent contracts, academics would never have babies, and you cannot second-guess every eventuality.

The way I rationalise it is: I love my job, and I do hope I will get a permanent job in the end, but I want this baby, and if I end up doing something else with my life, that is fine too, and there is no reason I shouldn't be employable elsewhere, if I work at it.

HyacinthFuckit Wed 07-Sep-16 17:03:56

No, I don't think so. Plenty of us have successfully job hunted whilst on ML.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 07-Sep-16 17:06:02

Oh, and we are 31 and 35, FWIW.

I really do think what you say about how long it would take for you to get a permanent job, is key.

Fine if you're in a field where you could get a permanent job in a year or so, but you don't think this is the case, so I don't think it is sensible to wait.

milkjetmum Wed 07-Sep-16 17:13:38

I had dd1 on my second post doc (3yr contract) and Dd2 in my 2nd. Took 9 months off both times. Just got lectureship (Dd2 is 2.5 now) so it is possible! Not easy though by any stretch...

As others have said you never know how long it will take to conceive so my vote is to go for it if you feel ready. I love my career and have worked very hard to get where I am, but my life outside work needs to be good too!

Now hoping for dd3 to come along soon...

NappingRabbit Wed 07-Sep-16 17:14:40

I'm a post-doc and had DS on a temporary contract. I took a year's mat leave and returned with around 18 months left on my contract. I'm now TTC #2 and applying for grants to take me beyond the end of my contract in the hope of securing myself a bit more stability, albeit still on a temporary (5-year) contract. It does stress me out knowing that my position isn't permanent but I am confident that I could get some sort of job, even if it's outside academia, if push came to shove. I don't know how long it will take to get pregnant and I don't want to put it off and regret it later. We could just live on DH's salary alone but we would struggle.

Goldrill Wed 07-Sep-16 17:18:36

I've just spent a few years working for gov agency moving from one temp contract to the next (also biologist). An awful lot of people in the organisation were in that position, and it seems unlikely to get better. One of our team went off pregnant on a one year contract which was unlikely to be renewed - but had reappeared again in a different role before I left.

Also, I'm in my early forties and we were encouraged to make sure we had our careers well under way and husband secure etc etc before having kids. Fair enough. But when you start trying at 35+ and have difficulties it's a very different place to when you're 30. I have too many friends and colleagues who struggled or had to accept it was not going to happen.

And finally - don't know which field you're in and you might be fine, but brexit... well, in our field all bets are off. What seemed a likely career progression has evaporated. Some really good advice from PPs!

LisaSimpsonsbff Wed 07-Sep-16 17:31:14

Thanks so much for this advice, all! It's really helped. I've read the guidance from our funders on mat leave and it seems to suggest that my PI could choose either to replace me temporarily while I was on maternity leave or to add the time onto my contract at the end. I would imagine he'd pick to extend me as I don't think they'd get much use out of someone for the sixish months I'd be gone, but obviously I don't know.

I think actually one of the most helpful things this thread has done is to clarify my own feelings. When a few of the first posts seemed to advise against I felt quite upset. I hadn't realised quite how much I'd been hoping for 'go for it!' responses!

LisaSimpsonsbff Wed 07-Sep-16 17:44:29

As for the possibility that you might not get another contract - yes, but equally, you could be made redundant from a permanent job, and often people are. You have to risk these things.

This is what DH thinks: he says that if you only had a baby if you could stake your life on still having your job in three years' time no one could ever have one. I'm much more of a worrier than him, though!

thatstoast Wed 07-Sep-16 18:12:58

if everyone waited for permanent contracts, academics would never have babies

Totally agree. I think with a 3 year contract that's good. I wouldn't wait for a permanent position.

Do bear in mind that although it's not legal to sack you, it still happens a lot.

Hobbitch Wed 07-Sep-16 18:27:32

I'm in your situation, on a temp contract for 3 years. I started in April. My husband and I decided to try for our second baby now as we don't want a big gap between them, there's enough time to go back to the contract after mat leave, and the place I work for has good terms and conditions.

I'm now pregnant and even though I have a slight feeling of dread about telling my boss, ultimately I'm excited for my family and all being well the timing will be ideal. Do what's right for you!

LuchiMangsho Wed 07-Sep-16 18:41:35

It's fine. As an academic I can tell you that it is FINE. I got pregnant on my first post doc. I got a permanent job while on mat leave. The husband is a scientist and someone in their lab on a 3 year contract has gone on mat leave twice and got an extension for her contract because she is good at what she does. It's how academia works- you go through several short term contracts before landing a permanent job. Just make sure you are ready for REF2020.

LuchiMangsho Wed 07-Sep-16 18:43:56

And yes do think of nursery/CM fees. I paid 1100 a month for 8-6 care.

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