I just accepted my dream academic position at a research-intensive university, with only two years before I can go up for tenure (they’re counting my whole publication record, including articles published while at my first T-T position). I’m absolutely thrilled.
This job offer is especially satisfying, because I had to juggle the packed two-day campus interview with my exclusively-breastfed infant in tow, who refuses to drink from a bottle. If you’re in a similar position, here’s some notes about my experience, and tips you might find useful:
- I talked with the admin assistant on the phone to ask her to arrange my schedule with 40-minute breaks every 4 hours, and a private place to nurse. With an unusual request like this one, it was a lot more comfortable to ask on the phone than by email, and I expect she was more receptive to the request when made by a “real person”.
- Don’t short-change your feeding times. My baby can reliably feed in 15 minutes by this point, but schedules often run late, and I figured I could probably use an extra few minutes to compose myself, even if everything was running on time. This was VERY true. I was EXHAUSTED by the end of this campus interview, even though I usually feel energized by interviews and conferences.
- The school paid for my husband to fly out with me, to check out the city. We then rented a car, and my husband had a copy of my schedule with nursing spots and times. I don’t think it could have been done without his help.
- Given my extra time constraints I should have followed Dr. Karen’s advice to stash some energy bars in my laptop bag. The last time I was on the market (This will be my second tenure-track position), I had more than enough time to eat. This time, I was HUNGRY THE WHOLE TIME (blame the eating-for-two), and never had time to finish a meal. Bring snacks, a small water bottle, and have a mini-pack of wipes on hand, in case of spit-up on your interview clothes.
- You may want to consider asking the admin person to cancel any non-essential campus visit activities. For example, they had a real estate agent take me on a real estate tour, and a student took me on a campus tour. Neither of these activities would influence whether or not I would accept the position, and I should have respectfully declined. I was so tired by then, that I really could have used a nap instead. In fact, the real estate agent cut our tour short because she could see I was falling asleep in the car. Especially if you’re traveling with a baby who isn’t sleeping through the night, and who is thrown off by the time change (ours was 3 hours different from home), you’ll need the rest more than you’ll need a city or campus tour. Prioritize the essentials – meetings with faculty and administrators.
- Don’t make a big deal of your unique circumstances to the faculty members you meet. The admin person will be your best friend, and he/she should be the only person you speak with at length about nursing. Otherwise, you are an academic, and that is the only identity you should be presenting. I didn’t hide the fact that I was there with my husband and baby, and I get the impression that many of the faculty members knew they’d come with me, but I also didn’t emphasize it. Even when my husband and baby were explicitly invited to the social events – dinner / drinks / breakfast at the hotel – they didn’t come. It’s too hard to present yourself as a professional when you have a baby clutching at your boobs, or crying. It wouldn’t have been worth it to have them join.
- As a counter to the above point, think of this experience as a small window into how family-friendly the potential new faculty will be. How accommodating are they about your nursing needs? How do the faculty members react when they hear you’re there with an infant? Some faculty members on my campus visit met the baby if they happened to pass me in the hallway on my way to/from nursing, and they were universally doting on the baby. They also explicitly invited my husband and baby to some of the social events, and one person even offered to change the restaurant from a swanky one to a more family-friendly one if we preferred, which was unexpected. (as already mentioned, we declined and I got a swanky baby-free dinner while my husband got a CRANKY baby and room service at the hotel)
- Funny story: They gave me someone’s ground floor office for nursing. One nursing session was in between my teaching demo and job talk, so I was in a rush. As soon as I got in the office, I threw off my blouse and blazer (can’t risk getting spitup on them), started nursing … and then noticed the open blinds with students doing a double-take as they passed. My husband kindly closed the blinds before a committee member passed! Perils of flashing your interviewers!
In sum, it can be done, but it takes a team and preparation. Good luck!