Valuing Children

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Cross-posted from Brainstorm

I am in the midst of what I sometimes feel is an incredibly risky endeavor. Or rather, what some would have me feel is risky.

I’m having a baby. A second baby. On the tenure track.

My ears sense some e-groaning. My fears detect some e-judgment. Maybe, somewhat out there, there is a little applause, and elsewhere sighs of relief.

The truth is, I don’t know what to say—except that I’m completely happy and scared, all at the same time.

Why happy? Because having a family is exactly what my husband and I always wanted. And having our first has proven to both of us that professional success is entirely eclipsed by the sheer joy of watching our son learn to eat a popsicle, or experience his first swim lesson.

Why fear? Because it is far from clear what baby #1 means for my tenure prospects, let alone baby #2. Because I have already been the recipient of far too many stories about pregnant professors overburdening their colleagues when they take leave, of comments from both men and women who say “well, one kid pre-tenure is one thing, but two…?” Because the question of how I am to juggle a late December birth with a two-course teaching load come spring has not yet been resolved.

I know I’m in good company—plenty of American working women have more than one child, and do it while working far less cushy jobs than I. Many have to forgo the pleasures of nursing, a job that requires upwards of 30 hours per week initially by itself. And a scary proportion do it all without healthcare.

I am lucky, to be sure. I am also—however—completely freaked out. Maybe that will change? I’ll keep you posted.