Today’s post is a Special Request post for a reader who wishes to know how to handle pregnancy and the job search, particularly the campus visit.
This is a subject about which I’m not really qualified to write. I was never pregnant while on the job market. I was pregnant as a second and fourth year assistant professor, and I certainly have opinions about that.
But the demands of the job market are different, and frankly, the stakes higher, for the pregnant job candidate. There are so many assumptions about pregnancy, motherhood, and women that come into play when the highly cogitized realm of an academic department comes face to face with a conspicuously pregnant job candidate, assumptions that rarely work in the candidate’s favor.
Basically, bodies tend to make academics uncomfortable, and the pregnant body is hard to ignore.
I would suggest that at some point after the invitation has been made and the arrangements well finalized, you mention to whomever you’ve been corresponding with that you are pregnant.
“By the way,” you might write, “I just wanted to mention that I’m 6 months pregnant. This will not impact my visit in any way; I mention just so nobody is too startled when I arrive.”
My concern about springing a pregnant belly on an unsuspecting search committee or dinner group is that the truly minimal social skills that characterize so many academics could lead to wildly awkward or inappropriate (if well-intentioned) comments. Forestall that possibility with advance warning.
It is my observation that by and large, and particularly as more and more women enter the academy, departments do manage to successfully host pregnant candidates and take them seriously as contenders for the job. I’ve had clients who have also been pumping breast milk at the time of their campus visit, and asked for, and received, accomodation by the department.
Having said that, I’m certain that there are horror stories. And I want to hear them.
My purpose in this post is to solicit stories from those who have actually been there.
Readers, would you share your pregnant campus visit tales and advice, both good and bad, successful and not?
I’d like to create a resource here that will be useful to everyone confronting this challenge, both candidates themselves, but perhaps also the hosting departments, who may be just as desperate for reliable information about potential pitfalls and challenges.
I and my Special Requester thank you in advance.
I was on the job market this year; my wife is pregnant. It was perhaps the most visible male privilege has ever been to me — I could choose to hide or reveal the pregnancy at will. No woman in the parallel situation would have that choice.
It’s great to see this topic! I don’t have a pregnancy story, but I was agonizing recently over how to tell my campus interview hosts that I would be traveling with an infant and that I would need privacy and time to pump throughout the interview day. In the end, I decided to be clear and firm about my needs ahead of time, and things turned out very well. My hosts (male professors at an all-women’s college) were gracious and discrete, and made me feel comfortable with my situation. Perhaps my experience was not the norm, given the character of the institution where I interviewed, and the fact the job is a VAP and not tenure-track. Still, I can’t help but think of the Gandhi quotation: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” I agree with your advice, Karen. Avoid surprises, be clear and unemotional about your circumstances, and give people a chance to do the right thing and see you for who you are, a serious scholar who just happens to be pregnant.
Could someone also speak about the problem of finding out that you are pregnant after a job search/interview/job offer?
I found out I was pregnant on the same day I got a campus interview offer. I’ll be 7.5 weeks when I interview, and traveling internationally. My concern is not about hiding a bump, but about possible (ok, probable) morning sickness. How do I deal with this on the big day and while flying for upwards of 20 hours both ways? Ally, did it pan out similarly for you? What did you do?
I’m in this boat too. Because I’m not too far along, on a recent campus visit, I wore an outfit that (I think) pretty well hid the bump. On an upcoming campus visit, I suspect, it will be harder to hide. We’ll see what they say.
This raises a related question: in the standard campus visit conversation with HR, when one is discussing benefits, is it acceptable to ask about maternity/parental leave? I wouldn’t dare ask within the department, but am not sure how much HR reports back to the department or whether they are even legally allowed to? [This question, I imagine, would apply to a much wider number of folks than just those of us who are already pregnant by the time we are on campus, and the question of what one can disclose to HR could apply in a number of other situations as well…]
My advice, unfortunately, would be: do not ask about leave policies. You don’t want questions about pregnancy being raised by anyone at the vulnerable interview stage, when they dno’t have to be.
WRT paternity/maternity leave – should be on the U website. More progressive deans have given me a pamphlet on it.
If it is important to you, ask a junior woman, on the sly, who has had a child in the pas 4 years.
IMHO, maternity leave and tenure clock pausing are important, but more important is a departmental tolerance for leaving to pick up kid, going to doctor appointment with kid, staying home with sick kid….
The department that hired me handled this VERY well during my interview. I played everything low-key – no mention of personal life – but most colleagues went out of their way to say “we’re not assuming or asking anything but if it’s relevant, you should know that we are very supportive of family life, as shown by x, y, and z”. I thought their way of handling it was wonderful, and will do similarly to future candidates.
Adjunct Mom says
Great topic, Karen. Can it be extended to include discussion of NTT pregnant faculty interviews? FT NTT interview situations are more similar to TT though more often local and therefore it’s more likely that the woman’s maternal profile is already known or harder to hide. I interviewed for a part-time position while pregnant (not showing yet) and disclosed my pregnancy — didn’t get the position; always wondered what would have happened had I not disclosed it. In a related experience, I interviewed for a FT NTT position as a part-timer and when it was well known to the interviewers that I had kids already and never taught early morning classes. I was asked a question about my availability to teach early morning classes. I don’t know if all of the candidates were asked that question, and when I checked into it, I discovered that the language they used was exactly what is recommended by HR consultants as a way to “screen” candidates without getting into legal trouble.
Wow, these are excellent questions. I hope that others will weigh in with NTT pregnancy stories. I’ll send out a request as well.
I thought I could hide my pregnancy for an on-campus interview as I was barely showing at 5 months. Unfortunately I was someone who “popped” overnight – you guessed it – the night I arrived at the campus hotel. My carefully selected interview clothes were all awkwardly tight, I was completely out of breath walking around campus, and I felt horrible, sweaty, and nauseated the entire time – could barely eat or drink, let alone impress anyone with brilliant scholarship. Not to mention everyone looked at me strangely for not drinking, as in the past I’d shared a few with people and now was an apparent teetotaler…sigh. It was miserable, and I’m sure it was a factor in me not getting the offer. It was poorly managed from my part, but I was so terrified I’d be out of the running if I’d said something that I basically shot myself in the foot trying to hide it!
Anyway, what I learned is – if you have to be on the market while pregnant, and you are past the 3-month mark, I wouldn’t try to hide it, even if you think you can. Managing impressions from the start (especially if you manage down, and then surpass expectations) is a better way to go than what I did, which was start from high expectations and then fail to meet them. I would never have said it would be a problem until actually doing it, but it was awful and I wish I’d just been open from the start. At least then I wouldn’t have had to endure three days of misery as WELL as not getting the job!
As a “do not despair” side note, I am now an assistant professor at a top-tier university in my field after a Skype interview at 7 months pregnant. When I explained why I couldn’t fly out for an interview, my current chair simply said “congratulations!” and that was that. The caveat being that my current university is in Europe, where people tend to be much more civilized about babies – and academia – than the US. So, grain of salt, and good luck.
Kelly McShane (@academicrealist) says
I was 8 1/2 months pregnant when I went for my interview on campus. The good news was that I was clearly pregnant and there was no way you could be unsure. I found that other than having to be mindful of when I could travel (you can’t really travel by plane after 32 weeks— I was in the same city as my interview, so no worries there), I didn’t have much trouble. I think if anything the interviewers were amazed at how I did considering I was pregnant. I was offered the position and negotiated for a later start date so I could stay at home with my son. Then, after working 6 months at the this position, I was pregnant again—- that got more looks and comments (public and private) then having interviewed pregnant.
You can travel by plane much later than 32 weeks…it’s really up to you and your doctor.
Actually many airlines will still restrict you if you are post 32 weeks, even if your doctor says it’s OK; also true if you look bigger then 32 weeks even if you are not.
Kelly, How did you negotiate your start date? I am 7.5mo pregnant and interview next week. I am due in July and the start date would be August in offered. Do you have any advice?
On my recent campus visit, I was 9 months pregnant. In fact, my doctors advised me not to go on the visit because it was too far away from the hospital and I could deliver at any time. I’m happy to say it made almost no difference at all. After I had already gone through a phone interview and gotten the call inviting me to campus, when plans were mentioned, I told the search committee chair that I would be 9 months pregnant at the time of the interview. I actually asked if we could push the interview back a few weeks so that there wouldn’t be too much of a chance of the interview getting interrupted for the birth. Unfortunately that couldn’t happen due to other factors, but as it was, there was no problem. (Luckily). It gave me great insight into the department to see how everyone made sure I was sitting, drinking water and not walking too much, while still only talking about and focusing on my research and teaching. I made sure that I did not ask for any special accommodation, and gave my job talk and answered questions standing. (Even if there wasn’t any conscious bias, I wanted to make sure not to leave any unconscious impression of not being able to handle a full day). Several people did mention that they had young children before tenure, but otherwise it wasn’t mentioned. So overall, I was impressed with the way the department handled my pregnancy and it helped increase the chances I will say yes if I get the offer. Now I am waiting to see if I get the job offer, so that could color the whole experience.
For future readers of this blog post and this question: I did get the job, so it can be done!
Congratulations! This is very encouraging, and I truly appreciate you sharing. I hope now 6 years later you are happy in your position or another one.
At my department we’ve interviewed pregnant candidates, as well as those who need a place and time to pump, and it never has been an issue. I never have heard colleagues mention these aspect of the search as any kind of factor in their decision. We are a very masculinized department but I haven’t seen maternity-related things commented upon, with one exception.
The single exception was a candidate who had given birth to her first child very recently. No problem with pumping, or giving her alone time to check in with her partner about the newborn. However, this candidate did elicit some negative responses from many of us (myself included) because of her unwavering devotion to telling and retelling the story of her child’s birth. At dinners and events at which we expected to talk about her research and teaching portfolio, she instead kept turning the conversation to the birth, including every possible physical detail. After she left campus, the conversation in the hall was not, “didn’t you think her proposed class on X sounded perfect,” but, “she told you about the stalled contractions and the pitocin, too??”
Word to the wise: don’t ignore maternity or pregnancy, but don’t insistently return to it either. You need to leave room in the conversation for academic topics, something that was hard to do with this candidate.
These are wise words indeed.
Oh God. I’m so sad for that person.
Those first few weeks after giving birth — all your brain can think about is baby baby baby. And even though I wasn’t like this, I know SO MANY people that would not shut up about their birth. Hell, in my 3.5 year old’s preschool class, tons of the moms won’t shut up about their birth.
I hope that that scholar was a victim of hormone rather than anything else.
Jill Scott says
I attended 2 on-campus interview pregnant and chose not to say anything about my pregnancy before I arrived. I had received this advice from my post-doc advisor, who said it was not something that should be brought up or discussed. Of course it was the elephant in the room and I felt very awkward. I will always wonder if the reason I didn’t get those jobs was because I was “prego.”
When I arrived for my on-campus interview for the job I now have, I had a 6-month old baby. I didn’t say anything about that either because I was so relieved not to be pregnant and not to have to talk about “family.” I now wish I had said something because it made me feel dishonest to hide my family status.
There is just no good way for women – we all say it doesn’t matter if a woman has to leave to pump or if she is pregnant. But it does. All the faculty are sitting there thinking: “Great, when’s her next maternity leave going to be, which will leave the rest of us picking up the slack?”
Although, I’d argue that coming in already having a child is to one’s advantage.
You’ve already demonstrated that you can ‘do it all’ — have kiddo and do good work.
Although this is probably a case more easily made with a 2-3+ year old and work obviously conducted/completed in that time period.
Great topic. I know someone who interviewed for her tenure-track position at a top school while 8 months pregnant. She got the position and spent the first year on paid maternity leave (Canada). She’s a fantastic researcher, coming from a top school, and her field (accounting) has very few PhD graduates and a dire need for more academically-qualified professors. Still, it gives hope that this is possible!
Karen, I would love to hear your thoughts or advice on managing pregnancy and the first year with a new baby while being a TT Assistant Professor. My university offers no paid maternity leave (only unpaid). As our family’s sole income earner, I’m not sure whether to take the financial hit and take unpaid leave for a term, or to try to negotiate some sort of alternative arrangement (e.g. a distance ed teaching class to replace my regular teaching?), relying on my husband / daycare to fill in the gaps. Would love to hear about your experiences!
I will weigh in on this in a blog post next week. I’ll see if there are other requests and thoughts related to a “Pregnancy and the TT” post, and try and respond to those.
Karen, I think that an additional discussion of ‘disclosing of family’ would be really fun.
Some of you might enjoy listening to an audio podcast that was just posted on the Harvard Business Review site. It focuses on when to tell your boss you’re pregnant.
OK, will do in a subsequent post.
You should get short-term disability insurance (I know, having a kid is _not_ a disability, but that’s how they sell it.) Many policies can cover expenses for 3-6 months (depending on what you buy) and some policies, especially those offered through employers, tend to provide a benefit that depends on your salary (you typically get 70-80% of your salary). Talk to someone in HR and see if the university offers these sorts of policies.
I was 7 to 8-months pregnant with my second child and I went on four campus interviews, 2 at R1’s, 1 at a state university that was not an R1, and 1 at smaller, more teaching focused college. I got none of the jobs. 1 year later, after having defended and while I was a postdoc at an Ivy League, I got a job at an R1 (I was pumping for my infant at the job interview). Not only did I land the job, I negotiated a delay in my start date by a year to finish my postdoc. I had my third child here while on the tenure track. Just passed the big pre-tenure review with excellent ratings.
I have many stories I could tell about these experiences. But, the one that stands out is the following. Dept. chair at R1 calls me up for an interview, tells me I am clearly their top candidate. I agree to come. I think I did tell her I was pregnant, there was no hiding it. I went to the campus interview, and thought it went well, and I completely expected the offer. Later, I found out I didn’t get the job, and the chair said that the faculty was split – half wanted me (the more research active half she said) and half wanted the other candidate (the more teaching focused). So, they decided to hire no one. The next fall, I saw the chair at a conference, and I said hello and asked about what happened. I was told that when the faculty discussed me, someone said that I “flipped my hair too much during my job talk” and another implied that I was “flighty”. The chair said that their response to the “flighty” comment was that I was pregnant, and all pregnant women are a little flighty. This whole conversation made me sick. When I told one of my friends, she said “well, at least it wasn’t your record!” I will hopefully achieve tenure in two years with three kids under the age of 8.
Hi! Did you negotiate your delayed start after you got the offer?
I am so happy to see a post about this topic. I was on the job market last year while pregnant. It was my ‘trial-run’ at the market since I was still very much ABD and I only applied to a few positions at different kinds of schools (R1, Small-Lib Arts, in my own discipline and in interdisciplinary units) so as to get some practice in how to sell myself and frame my work for what was to be a more serious run at the market when I was farther along in my dissertation.
On a campus visit (to one of the R1s) I was 8 months pregnant. I debated about whether to disclose this to the search committee chair before the visit. In the end, I decided that this was not necessary- I felt that it was of the utmost importance that I be perceived as the candidate that works on X, rather than the pregnant candidate who works on X. I felt that telling people beforehand would perhaps give them a chance to spend more time mentally categorizing me with the extra adjective. I also didn’t want any accommodations or changes in my schedule because of the pregnancy. I was also advised by my (all male) committee that it was not necessary to bring it up beforehand. None of them believed it would be an issue. One person mentioned, somewhat cynically, that faculty might mentally calculate that the timing of my pregnancy meant less possible maternity leave in the future for the department to juggle….
When put in contact with the person that was to pick me up at the airport, however, I did mention it, as it was kind of an obvious way to identify me as I exited the plane. I figured that this person would have ample time to get on the horn and tell everyone about it in the event that it was a ‘problem’ for the committee.
The tenor of my on-campus visit was nothing short of professional. I made sure to agknowledge the pregnancy in my meetings with people in a brief and light-hearted way so that it wasn’t the elephant in the room and so that they wouldn’t be worried about breaking hiring rules by acting human and saying something about it. People were extremely kind about making sure I got frequent bathroom breaks, snacks, water, etc.
Many on the faculty (again almost entirely male and the search committee had only one woman) had families themselves and I believe that my pregnancy actually did away with the acting like a graduate student pitfall that Karen has addressed here. It made me more of an equal in the eyes of potential colleagues, many of whom where at a similar moment in their lives with young families. Amidst well-intentioned mentions of how great the daycares here were and how good the town was for kids, I made an effort to keep the conversation where it belonged- on my research, teaching, and the institution and department.
I was concerned that my pregnancy and my ABD status would raise flags with the committee as to whether or not I could successfully finish and defend in time to start a position. I fretted about this considerably. I decided that the only course of action was to do what is required of any candidate– to knock the job talk out of the park, not waffle on the Q and A, talk confidently about courses I wanted to teach, and not even mention the possibility of not finishing. It must have worked because it did not come up once in the course of my visit.
I refused to be ashamed of my pregnancy or my desire have a great job and have a family. I owned it, was proud of it. I felt like superwoman. Where possible (subtly and tactfully of course) I tried to convey this feeling and confidence in conversation. If I could finish a dissertation and get a job and have a baby all in the same short time period, imagine how productive I would be as a faculty member and researcher.
I got the offer, was able to negotiate a course release in my first year with no problem. Now, figuring out how to balance a baby and a new job, that’s another topic… For me though, as soon as I had my son, I got an instant sense of perspective on how important academia really was to me in the great scheme of things. This was a very good thing and even in my first year as a TT-faculty member and the considerable pressures that involves, I refuse to get too embroiled in this rat race. I don’t love academia enough to give up having a normal sane life as a mother and partner.
So, based on my experience my advice to you pregnant job candidates is to be proud of yourselves. You rock, ladies! And if you see it, and believe it, I think search committees will too.
I’ve made this point in conference threads, but I also believe that having had a child while in grad school did a lot for making me not ‘act like a grad student’ and created bonds with faculty members, especially women, also with young kids.
I don’t doubt that this is true, but as a single woman in academia, I do bristle when I hear things like this for there are many people who, simply because of the draw of life, don’t have kids (in grad school, on the TT, post-tenure, whenever) and it’s very easy for the “showing the positive side of a possibly challenging situation” to become “mud in the face of those who aren’t in that situation–by choice or not.” I’m not suggesting you are doing this, but I’m very wary of arguments made about the upsides of having children that deny those who don’t have children the mere possibility of achieving the same things. I’m sure having kids creates bonds that transcend academic status; however, that can become a very oppressive and divisive tool/status/wedge between those with children and those without. So please, wield the logic carefully; maturity comes in a lot of forms, via a variety of experiences.
Point taken Jordan.
As an academic mommy, I feel like, for the most part, having children is a hindrance in my academic life. (That I chose, of course and I love my kid dearly!)
– I can’t work as much as people without young kids because of the time involved in childrearing and household stuff. (Even with very little screwing around, every day is a huge struggle to get things done professionally and personally, and that’s when a wrench like a sick kid isn’t there.)
– I can’t go to conferences as easily because of childcare issues.
– All things held equal, I have less disposable income because of an additional mouth to feed/body to clothe and thus don’t have the “luxury” to go to as many conferences, or take a lower financial paying position that will have career benefits (like postdocs).
– Childcare is a huge emotional and financial challenge that takes up a lot of time and money.
– There are plenty of old school types that will hold my status as a parent against me.
So, yes… this is very much a “showing the positive side of a challenging situation”…
I cannot imagine this going on a slippery slope of “there is a club of parents and you’re not invited” sort of thing.
I couldn’t see a situation where that bond would matter more than a bond that two scholars have over a shared admiration for their work or something.
KP, I appreciate your thoughtful response to Jordan.
As readers know I have two kids, and they were little during the time of my active years.
I’d say that in fact, the “club of parents” thing does exist, although not to the level that it’s a cabal or an unambiguously positive thing in its outcomes. But just as old boys bonded over cigars and golf, so do junior women, and junior women and senior women, and to some extent, parents of both genders and ranks, have the opportunity to bond over child-rearing. it’s not going to displace the bond of scholars over scholarly work. but just as cigars and golf provided the context for power-brokering, so do, on occasion, the playdates or daycare pick=ups, or exhausted commiserating provide the context for an intimacy that brings career advantages. At one of my jobs I somehow, can’t quite remember how, got to chatting with our Dean about our kids. (In addition, my irrepressible partner also got her laughing uproariously.) I think she was so delighted to have someone just TALK to her, as opposed to harangue her, pressure her, manipulate her, criticize her, etc. etc., that thereafter, she would “hang out” with me at public events, even though we weren’t friends per se. One time, the fate of one of the interdisciplinary units came under threat. The Director of that unit, a childless younger male, was fretting to me at a cocktail party about its fate. He didn’t have the ear of the Dean and didn’t know where she stood on the matter. I said, “leave it to me,” and walked over and struck up a conversation with her about it, and put in a word in its defense. I got the answer we wanted, and reported back to the unit director. That was the first time that I really registered how a kid-based connection operates. Now, I was already a dept head at that time, and had also established a record of credibility for being relatively competent, savvy, and rational, so it’s not like the kid thing would replace any of that. But sure enough, there was this little “extra” oomph that I had.
I was also, of course, as you describe, KP, exhausted, underslept, ridiculously time-stressed, chronically broke (really broke–because of $1000 a month daycare bills), and place-bound. I do believe my research productivity suffered from having kids. Fieldwork, for me as an anthropologist, was a nut I simply could not learn to crack, with children. So again, it’s not an unambiguous gain. I think it’s good though for people with kids to be aware of how they can be perceived as having this one kind of advantage.
secret reader says
I’m a first-year grad student, and at a conference recently had a personal conversation with a group of colleagues on a long car ride. There were few grad students at the conference in the first place, so I think people forgot sometimes about the power and probably age gap. A tenured prof at another institution told an anecdote about his child, and then others in the car mentioned their children as well. I was stunned when the first prof then said to me, “You don’t have children, do you?” in a way that made it sound within the realm of possibility that I did. I totally felt that it was an inside nod, that he considered me a person who could talk about my family rather than as a person who likely didn’t have a family yet (ie: a grad student). FWIW, all other people in the car were men, and I’m a woman. So I agree that many professors see this as a natural division between grad students and professors, but in my case it applied without my having children. (Who knew?!)
I love this story.
Great story Karen.
FWIW, I did fieldwork pregnant. (Was awesome to email advisor with the news versus f2f. And no one at fieldwork site noticed if I skipped seminar.)
As far as fieldwork with kids, I think it’d be doable with an infrastructure/network that can scope childcare, but very expensive to pay for kids’ plane tickets, bigger housing, and probably hold onto house back home… And childcare spots.
This blog and others related to work-life balance in academia have been profoundly depressing for me. I’m in my first-year on the tenure-track, awarded my first federal grant, but completely overwhelmed by teaching and service obligations (my institution is one of those trying to make the transition from teaching to research university w/o proper infrastructure in place and it is tough for jr faculty – I’ve been working 80-100 hr weeks since we started and I am burning out). I was uncertain going in whether academia was for me, and am frankly increasingly tempted to leave b/c I would like to have a family within a couple of years and can’t see how I can in my current position while pursuing the research that is my first passion. My Dean is a childless woman notoriously unfriendly to young, female tt faculty who decide to have children. I would love to hear from other junior faculty how they have balanced this (yes, I read “Professor Mommy” and it made me feel less hopeful rather than more).
Can you go to a place with less teaching obligations? Teaching and parenting is more of a drain than research and parenting, IMHO.
I will say I direct younger colleagues and hopeful doctoral students to this website (and other resources) so they can be more planful in their careers than I was. My husband and I wanted to be in a very specific location (for family-related reasons); therefore, when my current position became available I applied early for it (and it was the one I applied for b/c I hadn’t planned to do a full job search until this year).
“The Professor Is In” is correct in that most doctoral programs prepare you to do research, but not about how to plan a thoughtful career trajectory or any professional development skills. What I will also say is that if your education has been in top-notch research-oriented programs, you will not be prepared for the reality of what you have taken for granted / what it is like to be located in a different type of institution (no matter how much you have read and thought it through) until you get there.
In retrospect, I would have applied for a broader array of jobs no matter what. My husband and I will definitely stay where we are for at least another year (again for family reasons), but unless my situation changes dramatically within the next couple years, I am eventually planning to leave academia entirely for a full-time research position in the private sector. I hate to uproot my husband again, but he has seen how miserable I am and is supportive. He is not an academic and has professional skills that make him mobile, so in that respect I am much luckier than many other academic women. I hate to leave, and if I do, it’s not because I don’t think I can make tenure, but because I don’t think I will be happy continuing along that trajectory. (Again, acknowledging that I am much more research-oriented / love research than other faculty in my situation might be).
Having worked in the private sector before entering my doctoral program, I will say I am also struck at how much more isolating academia is (I had a senior colleague describe it operating your own one-man business; if you are lucky enough to be affiliated with an interdisciplinary research center, that may be less true but in a small department it is definitely the case). There is also considerably more role ambiguity and lack of boundaries between work-life than most other professions.
It is possible that my dissatisfaction derives from my current institution rather than academia in general, but I’m not so sure. I will say that I believe the quality of mentorship available to faculty probably does make a difference, at least in terms of emotional / relational support. However, I’m not certain that’s enough to overcome some fundamental question marks I have about the nature of work at the academy and whether it’s worthwhile given changes in private sector work that make work hours there more flexible and less burdened with the resource constraints and overwhelming additional teaching and service obligations in the academy.
(I’d welcome any comments disagreeing / other perspectives – just my two cents based on my impressions thus far)
Dear Em, first off, you probably don’t need to read this because you’re living it, but did you read the guest post on the blog “Behind The Scenes of a Job Search”? It is from a guy in a similar place to what you describe. It seems to me that first, are you sure everything you are doing is essential for you to do? Have you learned to say no? And second, have you considered moving to a research oriented R1 job? I know that applications and another move are stressful, and getting one of those coveted jobs very difficult indeed, but if research is your first passion, you will definitely be happier at one of those. I know from your other comment that you also have the private sector/industry option, so that may also be an improvement. good luck.
I appreciate the commentary! I did read the guest post, and it helped crystallize my thinking around the “type of institution” in which I found myself and whether it was the right fit for me.
Re: research, I will say that as a junior faculty member, it can be hard to continue developing a real, productive research trajectory without feedback from high-quality senior mentors. I am lucky in that I have a strong network of senior colleagues who are willing to help me — but none of these individuals are located in my current institution (they are all individuals I met at conferences, or from my PhD granting institution), and I am not sure how sustainable this will be in the long-run as I am in the type of field where interdisciplinary research and grant applications are a must if you are to be successful.
I have indeed thought about R1s but will note that academic positions in those institutions are fraught with their own problems and that there is variability in how they are funded and the % of salary coming from hard vs. soft $ and how much you are expected to bring in grants and contracts before you are branded as “unproductive” and you are either let go or your teaching load escalates to the point where you effectively turnover.
I then contrast this to my peers (most of my own PhD cohort went private sector) who actually have reasonable working hours, get paid better, and enjoy real work-life balance. I realize that many of these places engage in contract research which also comes with its own pros and cons, chief of which you don’t always get to dictate what you research, but the expectations are not so different from an R1 and they lack the teaching / service burden.
Obviously, I saw attractive in academia or I wouldn’t be in my current position. But, it is something I am constantly juggling in the back of my mind. Of course to some extent this is a “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome that is part of the normal fantasizing that happens when jr faculty are overwhelmed, but I do think there is a fundamental underlying question of “when is enough enough?” that at least the other junior faculty I know grapple with.
P.S. I really love this blog and am glad it exists – reading your posts and also seeing commentary from others is really helpful in getting perspective on some of the tough issues that can be difficult to verbalize in one’s home institution. 🙂
i am glad it’s helpful!
Jyoti Mohan says
I had both my kids in grad school- not a choice. My advisor was giving me the classic run-around and I chose not to delay my life just because my professional life was being held up. I do remember the story of a very famous female professor who litterally lived for her academics!! She routinely advised her female grad students who chose to become pregnant that they ‘had choices’ and ‘could always do something about it’- not suprisingly she lost virtually all her female students after 2 such episodes. Her profile picture now shows her looking lovingly at a little kid!! My own advisor ‘forgot’ my prospectus defense, and after I carefully arranged my daughter’s schedule around my defense, I ended up breastfeeding her in the supplies closet of my department while waiting for my advisor to show up. I was immensely apologetic and soooo embarassed- many years and soe wisdom later, I realise that I SHOULD have been outraged!!
THIS story is classic. I hope all female grad students read it and learn.
I wasn’t pregnant, but nursing a 5 month old when I interviewed for my current job. After they extended the interview offer, I scoured the website and found the (female) office secretary and called her up. I told her I had a little baby and that I needed periodic breaks in my schedule and a secluded room so I could pump. She was very accommodating and sent me several iterations of my schedule to make sure it was okay with me. I would suggest putting several breaks in your schedule for ANY pregnant woman as well — just say you need them, you don’t have to say why. Being pregnant is exhausting and interviews are always exhausting.
I thought after I told the secretary that everyone knew about the baby. But, she didn’t tell anyone. It was great. I only brought up the baby if I felt really comfortable about it.
As a childless person, I have a question about breastfeeding and interviews. Recently my department had a candidate arrive with a very small infant. She rightfully received space to breastfeed but it was our department’s very busy break room. I’ll admit we aren’t a very child friendly department because very few of us have children. Should she have been given a truly private space? Aside from the department members who okayed that space, no one knew she’d be using it and there wasn’t a sign or anything to keep people out. Just curious about the preferred protocol?
Yes, it ideally should have been a completely private room. Or else a hangtag or something created to hang on the outside of the break room door to make it completely “no access” while she’s there. It’s not that total privacy is needed for breastfeeding, but rather that the subject position of a job candidate is such that there should be NO possibility of exposed breasts in front of potential colleagues/evaluators, for obvious reasons.
I once had a conversation with a faculty member who recalled a job search from years past in which a breast-feeding candidate came and that they had to schedule “pumping” times for her. He said that while no one said anything to her face, it was extremely awkward and that they couldn’t get that image out of their head, which affected how professional she seemed. She ended up not getting an offer. How much of that was contributed by the breastfeeding is questionable, but still.
Yeah, this does not surprise me. I do think things have improved to some extent, both as more women move into the academy and also as breastfeeding has become more mainstream. But there is always that question mark.
When posting about pregnancy and the TT, it would be great if you could also discuss the politics of showing up pregnant to a new TT – I just accepted a position, have one child, and want to get pregnant again. When/how/should I discuss this with the chair? thanks!
I’m still a grad student (and without children, though I’d like to have some), but have been really encouraged by the maternity leave provisions in scholarships and postdocs, as well as faculty routinely scheduling meetings around day care pickups. I have quite a few colleagues who have had children during grad school, and with one foundation there’s even funding for childcare at conferences, so it can work out quite well. I’m in Canada, so there’s 12 months maternity/parental leave, but usually you need to have a worked a year to get all of it paid. Also, although it is illegal to ask about martial status and plans to have children, etc. I’ve been warned that this sort of stuff does come up in interviews and campus visits. We’ve been told (in my department) to sort of in a joking tone say something like “that’s not really an appropriate question is it.” Elsewhere, I’ve been told to say something nebulous like “I don’t have any plans currently to have children” (ie but that could change). Any advice on dealing with these sorts of questions?
At this point, I want to have children as soon as I have the opportunity to!
However superficial this may sound— can someone speak to what to wear during an interview while pregnant? Attention to the demands of a very, very tight budget would be helpful as well.
there is a huge discussion about this in the comment stream, si there not?? it’s on the blog somewhere, with links.
This is a big question for me, too. Any links to this discussion? Thanks!
I don’t know if anyone will see this comment, as it’s an old (but very helpful!) thread. However, I am due with my first child in a few weeks – mid-January. I currently hold my second postdoc, both at Ivies. The one I have this year is for one year, and just about all of my second semester will be maternity leave, though I plan to come in a few times if I can.
I’ve had a pretty good response to the jobs I’ve applied for so far – have made it to the second round at two jobs out of four (my field is small and I’m applying selectively). I’m not at all sure how to handle campus visits. With a six month old is one thing, but I don’t think I can go on a campus visit a month after giving birth. Then again, what do I know? I’m also a little nervous about ‘coming out’ as a queer single mom. Though of course I wouldn’t want to work anywhere where that was an issue. Are skype interviews a ‘thing’ for TT jobs? There’s also a VAP I think I have a pretty good chance at getting, where I have several friends. But I am concerned about having three temporary gigs in a row, rather than just settling into a TT job – and of course moving once again could be harrowing. I’m also applying from a famous Ivy this year, and I’m guessing that this helps my application a lot. I worry about squandering that.
April Hovav says
Just wondering how this went for you because I might be in a similar situation.
Inked Professor says
This is somewhat related to the pregnancy issue: Twice when I was on the job market (in a much different job market in the mid-2000s, when, admittedly, there were still TT jobs), I had just given birth only months before. The first time (2003), I was nursing a very young baby, and was pumping several times a day. Husband kept baby at home, I flew out to campus visit. Since I was playing by the rules (no mention of marital status, kids, sexuality, etc.), I did not ask for time during my back-to-back meetings to do the much-needed pumping. As a result, I was on edge after a few hours, breasts swollen and hurting, and looking for a bathroom, or trying to make excuses to go back to my hotel room to pump. The chair gently told me, that, well, we don’t really have much time before your next appointment…but I had to insist. On one occasion, I’d just finished pumping, had ziplock bag of milk that I was taking to fridge in central area of guestshouse where the school was putting me up, and the Chair was sitting in the waiting room. Don’t mind me, just taking my milk to the fridge! It was difficult.
My second time on the market (2005), I had just had my second kid, and I decided to hell with the whole don’t talk about the kids thing. I’m fully aware of all the reasons for these rules, and the need to avoid discrimination in considering a candidate for a job. But these rules were made on the assumption that the candidate is an un-tethered individual (that supposedly universal, neutral subject you’ve heard tell about!). These rules were not crafted with a lactating mother in mind (or a person with disabilities who may require certain accommodations). When I got the call from School X, inviting me to a campus visit, I gratefully accepted. I then, as the dept was in the course of planning my campus interview schedule, called the department secretary/ administrator, and explained to her (almost always a woman), that I would need to have a hotel room with two beds, because a family member would be flying in to care for my baby during my visit, and that I would need a break every 3-4 hours during the busy day, and a locked room, so that I could pump. I figured if the department in question would be thrown for a loop by my physical and parenting needs, then I didn’t want to work there anyway. (Again, this was before the desperate TT job market that we have today. Your results may vary.) In only one case (I had several interviews) was the chair awkward about my requests. (I didn’t get an offer there. Although I don’t think my not getting an offer hinged on my breastfeeding needs during the interview, I did notice that the candidate they hired was an able-bodied man who presumably didn’t face similar challenges during his campus interview.) But I was *much* more comfortable–and hence, able to focus on my interviewing–in my second time out on the job market. And I got an offer.
I have been invited for a campus interview during the time i’ll be 38 weeks and some days pregnant. Given that the baby can be delivered at anytime, my husband must fly with me to the University. My question is: Is it okay to ask if the department can cover his travel expense also because there is no way I can travel to another state at this time without him. Thank you
I feel that they would probably prefer that you do the visit virtually rather than risk traveling at that late date in the pregnancy. I don’t believe they’ll consider flying your husband out as a reasonable option. I don’tknow of course; you will have to ask them how they’d like to handle this dilemma.
I’m having a slightly different problem related to my pregnancy and the academic job market. I recently found out that my husband and I are expecting our first… in October. Because it is still so early, no one would suspect anything visually, and thus far my on-campus visits have gone smoothly. (Knock on wood. I have another in two weeks!) I’m interviewing at teaching-centric schools who make it clear that they expect someone to be in the classroom in September. Obviously, I won’t be able to complete the first quarter/semester. Has anyone been in a similar position or have any advice for me? I’d hate to put so much work into these interviews when I’m first-trimester-dead-tired only to have all offers rescinded because I’m unable to perform the required duties. One of the schools is also my dream job, so letting it go would be especially hard. The probability of getting to work in that particular geographical region is slim if this opportunity slips by. Would teaching schools allow a later start date or is that unheard of?
They can’t legally rescind for that reason and they wouldn’t. Don’t stress about this.
I am 8 months pregnant. I had PhD interview few weeks ago. I had informed the program coordinator that I am pregnant before the campus visit. When I visited, everyone acted normally and many professors didn’t ask me about my pregnancy & due date. Even I didn’t talk about my pregnancy during interview. But now, I came to know that I was wait listed. I am wondering whether this is due to my pregnancy.
It’s probably because you didn’t do as well as other candidates on the visit.
Can those who have interviewed pregnant list when they decided to inform search committee of pregnancy (in advance or upon arrival)? and what the outcome of their search was?
I know this thread is old, but I found out I am due in August of 2018. I have a few applications out right now and have had one interview (no offer). If I were to get both interviews and an offer, could I ask for a later start date despite teaching starting right when I’m due?
I was 5 months pregnant on two campus interviews. My daughter was due in May before I was due to start in August. I told neither school ahead of time that I was pregnant. I was offered one of the jobs. I requested and was granted a start date in January. It can be done, but it is a varying level of hardship for the schools.
Did you ask for the January start date before accepting the offer? So during the contract negotiation? Or did you wait?
I’m expecting in September and will also need a delayed start. Which sadly means no pay or insurance….
Due in October says
I realize this is a very old thread, but I am wondering if anyone out there might be willing to share their thoughts about dealing with pregnancy/birth and visiting positions (e.g. sabbatical or maternity replacements) where the institution is hiring you not as a long-term addition to the department, but simply to cover specific classes. I am planning to give birth in October and none of the tenure-track positions I’ve applied for have panned out. Regarding VAPs, I can envision two extremes with possible intermediate options in between. At one extreme, I could not bother applying to visiting positions at all this year (or apply just in case – heaven forbid – I have a miscarriage). At the other extreme, I could apply, accept any offers I receive, and fully commit to teaching through the fall semester, building in a combination of guest lectures, remote teaching, or other activities that don’t require as much from me for the two weeks after I give birth. I realize this may sound naive – two weeks? This is my second child – it’s more desperation than naivety. (I don’t have a partner with income that I can fall back on). If anyone has thoughts or experiences relevant to my predicament, I would be very grateful.
Due in October says
I’ve applied for one visiting position so far and have now been invited for a Zoom interview and teaching demo, so the question is even more pressing. Their semester starts in late September. I’m wondering if schools might actually have policies regarding maternity/leave and visiting/temporary positions that would make me ineligible for this job, but I haven’t been able to find any information about this anywhere.
Due in October says
Continuing this conversation with myself here. . .but maybe it will be helpful to someone down the road. I’ve found out a bit about the university’s policy – it looks like I would be required to take at least two weeks off after birth, and I would be entitled to up to 52 weeks of UNPAID leave as a new employee. (I would not eligible for any paid leave). So now it’s more of an ethical question – do I tell them I’m pregnant before the interview, or wait until I have an offer and then tell them? (Ironically, this is a one-year maternity replacement position, so I’m sure the department is not looking to hire someone who’s about to give birth!). I’m also wondering if folks have thoughts about how long of a leave one could reasonably take mid-semester before a department would say it makes more sense to just take the whole semester off. I wouldn’t want to miss out on a whole semester of pay/teaching experience, and I also wouldn’t want to have to tell the department that I can really only teach for one of the two semesters they’re looking to cover, but I may need more than a two-week break. . .
Karen Kelsky says
I’m so sorry but I don’t think it’s ethically or pragmatically viable to do the interview for a one year VAP. I mean, i get it–you want the job, and I am all for stretching the truth to make a job possible. But there are just so many issues. One, I feel they might rescind the offer once they know. Two, I dont think you’re going to want to be shortening your post-birth timeline just to leap back into the classroom for a 1-year job… I guess what i’m trying to say is, don’t cut time with your new baby just to serve a one year position (that’s for YOU). And for them, it is a bit unethical to move forward with the interview given the parameters… To deal with the second problem, I’d prob just tell them and see if they see a way clear to move forward. Sorry, I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear.
Due in October says
In case it’s useful to any future readers, I’m following up on my earlier post now that the job season has ended. First of all, thanks for your advice, Karen. I was invited to interview for 4 one-year positions, and in each case, I told the committee chair that I was pregnant after receiving the invitation. This definitely felt like the right move, even though it didn’t yield any offers. In one case, the chair made it clear that my pregnancy would be a hassle for the department, so I decided not to proceed with the interview. (That was a UK job – not sure if that’s relevant). For the three US jobs, the search chair assured me that the pregnancy was not an issue at all, and that they were still very interested in interviewing me. I guess the take-away is that it is possible, in theory, to get a one-year position under these circumstances, but at the same time I imagine it’s difficult for committees (at least in the US) to honestly say or hint that a pregnant candidate, who will need a sub, would be at a disadvantage. There are a million possible reasons why I might have been rejected for these jobs – I’m not saying the pregnancy was the reason. But still, it’s difficult to imagine that the department would look forward to having to find a sub to fill in for a one-year hire. For me, this meant that, on top of the work and stress of preparing for these interviews, I was also burdened with the feeling that it might be all for naught. (I found myself annoyed, rather than pleased, when the invites came in). It would be so great to hear (anonymously) from the search committee side! Would a department seriously consider a candidate in my situation for a one-year position?
Karen Kelsky says
Thank you SO much for sharing your experience. I agree that despite claims, pregnancy in a one year search might be difficult for search comms to overcome. I hope someone reading this will weigh in from the search comm side!