I had my first child (now 4 years old) in the middle of completing my PhD (in a science field). I finished a little over a year ago, and have been fortunate to continue as a part-time post-doc in the lab where I did my PhD. My son was with babysitters about 18-20 hours a week as I was finishing up, and we have the same arrangement now (regarding my working hours/time away from him). My husband's job is pretty demanding and often not very flexible in terms of going in late/leaving early.
My time in my current lab is ending at the end of 2013, and I need to figure out what I am doing next. The next logical step is probably to a get another post-doc in a different lab. The catch (a good catch :-) is that we are expecting our second baby in January (just after I finish my current post-doc). My thought had been that I would be between jobs/home with the kids until fall or 2014 or, preferably, until the baby is a year old (January 2015).
Because I recognize that I have more time now than I will after she is born, I am trying to see if I can line something up now to start in a year or so. Even when the baby is a year old, I do not relish the thought of needing to put her in full-time childcare. I have never had to do this with my son, much less when he was an infant. I would love something like another part-time post-doc and am also considering other options like teaching part-time at a community college until she is older. Honestly, it would be great if I could just stay at home until she starts school, then dive back in, but I can't imagine that's very plausible. (Please note: I am NOT criticizing those whose kids are in full-time childcare. Just stating my personal preference.)
I guess my questions, for those who are or have been in similar situations, are:
1) How long do you think someone can reasonably be out of this kind of work and still pick up where she left off (assuming one is still publishing papers from previous work, but not actively employed?) 1 year? 2? 4? Less than that?
2) Do you have any suggestions for "keeping your foot in the door" while spending time with one's young children (free-lance scientific writing/editing? part-time teaching? etc.?) Or once these routes are taken, is it difficult to apply for and get a faculty job at some point (more difficult than for the average person-- I know it is difficult period!)?
3) Any other useful tips/suggestions?
Thanks in advance.