Working mamas (esp Professors): anyone with more than 2 kids? - Mothering Forums
Working and Student Parents > Working mamas (esp Professors): anyone with more than 2 kids?
XanaduMama's Avatar XanaduMama 12:58 PM 06-15-2011

dh and I are both academics on the tenure track. Our working hours are flexible, but there's lots of work to be done, between teaching, publishing, and all the rest. We have two kids, aged 5.5 and 3.5, and not a lot of money (AT ALL).


We're in the thick of the struggle to decide whether to have a third kid, or whether to stick with the two we've got. I've got a strong irrational urge to have another, though rationally it seems like it would be a terrible idea for many reasons (emotionally/psychologically, financially, professionally...). I feel like a pretty crappy mama most of the time as it is, and worry that I'd be spread even thinner with a new baby.


And then there's the professional concern, which is why I've started this thread. Honestly, IRL, I don't know any academics who have more than 2 kids--at least, none that don't have a SAH wife or husband. Is this possible? Would you recommend it? Did you stop at 2 and care to share why?


Any thoughts about having 3+ *and* having a serious career (and mental health!) would be appreciated!

namaste_mom's Avatar namaste_mom 07:29 PM 06-15-2011

I earned tenure last year and had 5 children while on the tenure track. DH is a WOH parent. I'll say that I did enough to earn tenure but not much more and my productivity has tanked in the past 2 years. Two children were in elementary school, one was in preschool parttime and the 1 year old was shuttled between us (I lost the 5th one a couple of years ago and still struggle, hence the lack of productivity). THe summer has thrown our schedule into a tizzy. The decision to have more than two was irrational - we made it based on the fact that we are good parents and enjoy parenting together.

erh4 11:21 AM 06-18-2011

I have 3 kids with another baby on the way. I work full time as an accountant and pay 1500-2000 a month in daycare expenses.What little we have left brings me joy to bring something home every week even if it's minimal -and I'd have to watch a total of 5 kids (plus my 4) to make what I make which includes health insurance. So it's worth it. You can do it, think long term that's what keeps me working! 

mambera's Avatar mambera 01:52 PM 06-19-2011

Originally Posted by namaste_mom View Post

I earned tenure last year and had 5 children while on the tenure track. DH is a WOH parent.

Wow!!!!  Respect!!!  bow2.gif


XanaduMama's Avatar XanaduMama 03:00 PM 06-19-2011
Originally Posted by mambera View Post

Wow!!!!  Respect!!!  bow2.gif


Absolutely! Respect to all you inspirational working mamas! Would love to hear from more! I'm still undecided. Dh isn't the greatest dad, I have to admit, so much of the parenting work falls on me. I'm in good shape for tenure right now, but still a few years to go...

Ack! So hard to decide!
kerc's Avatar kerc 05:51 AM 06-20-2011

My kids are older (8 and 5) and dh is not on board with more kids. I'm consistently working on him, we'll see how that goes.....


Anyhow a few thoughts: even though everyone kept telling me 2 yrs was the ideal spacing, I think 3 or 4 works well too. My kids are super close as are the kids of other professors we know that are more like 3.5 years apart. In terms of managing financially: you stop paying full time daycare when your kids go to public schools.


Second, I think it totally depends on you and your kids. My oldest was super intense, well still is, but she's mellowed enough that we can do more things. But two kids like her and I might think differently about 3 kids + a job.


Third: most folks in my dept. pack it up and head home at 3 pm (except apparently friday because they've had faculty mtgs then for years?). So a few days a week I head in early (630/700 ish) and head home early. Dh and I usually switch off afternoon duty.

kerc's Avatar kerc 05:51 AM 06-20-2011

p.s. your link in prof moms doesn't work because there are extra characters....

Dmitrizmom's Avatar Dmitrizmom 09:50 AM 06-20-2011

I have 3 kids (and part of me would love to have one more).  Ds is 10, dd1 is 7 (8 in July), dd2 is 1 (2 in Sept).  I teach part-time (moving toward full time) and have my own business.  Dh works almost full time hours and doesn't make much.  The decision for us to have #3 was all heart... we knew we wanted/needed a 3rd child in our family.  We had discussed having 4 if there were more than 3 years between 2 & 3. At this point, I don't know.  Finances suck (should be improving within the year tho), dh is a great dad (does best with only 1 or 2 kids at a time tho and isn't much help with the rest of the household stuff), and time is an issue.


Do I regret having dd2?  HECK NO! She is an absolute joy to have in my life.  love.gif

Did having her complicate things? Yes.  But she is so worth it!  energy.gif

Would finances be better without her? Maybe, but maybe not. I really don't see myself looking back over my life and thinking, "Gee.  I would have gotten so much farther professionally with only 2 kids.  I really should have stopped sooner."  I can see looking back and thinking, "I'm so glad for my kids. They have brought so much love and joy to my life."


Mentally, I don't know.  Right now I am in the trenches of trying to find a balance (If I figure it out, I'll write a book and make multi-millions, never have to work again, and render the search for balance unnecessary. LOL).  Some days are hard. Other days are easy. Some days, I hand the kids to my dh and disappear for a bit (other days, he does the same to me).

namaste_mom's Avatar namaste_mom 09:50 AM 06-20-2011

I don't know about respect, but I am happy we chose to have more children than just two (which was the original plan). I am a geologist so I have a serious time committment to going out into the field and collecting data and then bringing it to the lab and processing it. I write scientific papers based on these data. For tenure, I made sure that I had checked all the boxes -- made sure I had enough papers, brought in enough grants, was at least an average teacher, did service in my department and in my field. I tried not to go overboard in any one thing...just made sure I had enough. I treat my job more like an 8-5 job more than other professors. It is the only way I can get anything done. I work all during the summers, unlike some professors. Now that I have tenure, I still work a lot. I still have lots of stressors telling me that I need to do this or that. But, what gives me the most joy is to go home to my family, make the dinner and take care of them. I know I am not there during the day, I can't be two places at once, but I can give them all my attention and all of my energy when I am there. I started the ball rolling on have a #3 child because I went to Bhutan and I saw how happy those huge families were. I wanted my children to have more siblings. Sometimes it is really difficult but the youngest is 13 months and he is old enough now that he can play and be attended to by the older kids (or at least carried around). Every week it gets a little easier (until one child hits another phase). OK, now I do have to go work....grant proposal time for me.

emmaegbert's Avatar emmaegbert 07:55 PM 07-25-2011

Hi just found this thread and its very interesting for me!


Namaste_mom: WOW! It is inspiring to hear that others have done it. I feel so much joy when my fellow grad-mom friend actually get their degrees, and then when they get tenure track jobs- makes me feel like I *can* do it and its not hopeless.


I am in the final months of writing my dissertation. I had 2 kids while in grad school who are now 6 and 2. (#1 born my first quarter, #2 a month after my quals). And I am pregnant with #3- unplanned and conceived while using birth control. And talk about no money, its very stressful! I can't really afford any daycare and I am using family for help right now while I finish. I am at the end of support time so I have zero income and January, unless I can convince my program to pay me fees for winter quarter, I will also have to start repaying loans. DH works but doesn't make enough for us to live on his one income. We are currently eligible for some forms of public assistance (food stamps, WIC, medicaid for me).


I also do not know IRL any female professors with more than 2 kids. Actually, I know very few with even that many! I know one male professor who had a second marriage and third kid, but his other two were young adults already.


I know two other PhD mamas with more than two- one had 4, one had 3. Neither of them have gotten tenure track jobs yet, though they both did complete their degrees. There were quite a few mormon grad students at my campus, but they all are men with a SAHW... but that is another story all together and many of them were professional students, or were planning to move back to Utah where big families are seen as a positive.


So, this wasn't a decision I actually made, and I have no words of wisdom about it. But it is the situation I am finding myself in. If/when I get a job- not so sure a thing in the current economy/job market- I am worried about how to balance three kids and academic work, though I partly made the career switch into academics b/c my previous job was totally unbalanced and I could never see how I was going to have the family life I wanted. I am also worried about how people perceive me in the academic workplace. I am not even going on the job market this winter (baby due Oct 24 and I am aiming to defend in late Feb/Early March)... I do however plan to apply for post-docs. But I wonder does this sort of thing come up in the interview process? And in terms of how I am perceived if/when I get get a job? I have definitely felt that some (not all, but some) professors and fellow grad students don't take me as "seriously" b/c I have children (though people were to pc/progressive to say much to my face).

erh4 11:52 AM 07-27-2011

I think the important thing to remember is that it doesn't really matter how much more money you make you will end up inevitably spending it on something because we are human. If you are the small population who saves their money, I applaude you. But for us having 4 kids brought greater joy than any job could ever! 

porcelina's Avatar porcelina 06:15 PM 09-10-2011
I just had to reply after seeing some of the responses! I have DS1 age 3 and DS2 aho is almost 1. Originally, DS and I were planning on 2-3 children. The way I saw it, I wanted to have 3, but am not sure how to make it happen, given how intense #1 was! The transition Fromm 1 to 2 was very difficult! And, that is apart from the fact that I had the first in my first year of a phd program and the second in my last year. I am now done with the phd (yay!), and my own anxiety is that I really wish I could have more time with the kids-- chose a part-time postdoc position permitting that, but it has turned into full time, as my advisor found more funding. I felt I had no choice but to agree, as he is my main advisor!

Anyway, I was going to mention a paper that relates happiness and children, which finds that the first child brings an increase in happiness to the woman, but additional children are actually associated with increasing unhappiness. It turns out, my prof is a coauthor, and in his words, "it's all downhill from there". The irony is, he had his third child 2 yrs ago. One time he mentioned, "yes, we didn't take into account our own research findings when we did this" (meaning having the third). He has said that it takes away any free second of free time they may have had before (his wife is also an academic).

But, it is so true that looking back on everything, chances are, you will never say, "gosh, if only we hadn't had child #3, we would have gotten further academically." But, when you are 65, you will be thrilled to have a larger family. This comment by Dmitrizmom has really put this all into perspetive for me! I have always thought that I would love to have 3 when I am 60, but the thought of having 3 young children is really overwhelming (just had second at 36).

Anyway, I say go for it. You already have the tenure track jobs, and if you can handle the insanity while they are little, the rewards will be huge later on!
tccandlsccmom's Avatar tccandlsccmom 12:36 PM 09-13-2011

I think these are all wonderful posts...


From my perspective (as a tenured prof with 2 kiddos, 9 and 6) I have all I can handle.  The oldest was born pre-tenure -- and I was advised by a number of colleagues to stop with one. IMHO it depends a lot on your particular setting as well as your discipline -- I was just lunching today with a colleague in another department, and women with children in that department rarely make tenure.  Seems amazing in this day and age...but....


So, my advice is go with your heart, you can manage just about anything, but assess realistically what it will mean in your particular department and school...


P.S. As someone who found myself a single parent this past year (and would never have imagined that would have happened when my kiddos were younger) I have to say it is now even harder to do my jobs (parenting and professoring)...but I am very grateful for the flexibility being a profesor affords me in this new chapter of our lives.

hakeber's Avatar hakeber 07:55 PM 09-14-2011

I stopped at two because pregnancy does messed up things to my brain and I cannot correct piles and piles of essays on so few hours of sleep without becoming an obnoxiously snarky commentator in the margins.


I just really like my family at two kids.


Mostly though because the mental toll pregnancy takes on my body and the emotional toll it takes on our relationship as a couple is just not worth risking again.  I love the two kids I have but you'd better believe having another would mean more work, more patience, more sleeplesness that I can't handle.


I coerced DH to close the factory before my memories of the last two years begin to fade and I think it would be a good idea again, like when DS turned 3 and I started getting broody again...LOVE dd, but HATE being pregnant. 


I am glad that my maternal hormones can't over rule my more sensible judgment anymore.

mambera's Avatar mambera 03:08 PM 12-19-2012

Bumping this oldish thread to fish for more experiences.  I'm in my second year of postdoc with two kids (3 and 1), starting to poke around looking for a real job, would really love to have that third kid (I always wanted 3) but strongly suspect it would be career suicide.  Hm.

prosciencemum's Avatar prosciencemum 03:18 PM 12-29-2012
I know a college professor (female) with 3 kids, I think the first born as a postdoc. I have 2 - still a postdoc (ish). I say go for it if you want to. Three doesn't seem that different to 2.