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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Career Coach: One Reader's Reaction
November 30, 2008 - 7:40pm

A scientist/reader writes....

I urge you to show a bit more flexibility in your advice on the career/family bit. If the goal is a faculty position in the sciences, there is usually an interim postdoctoral stage. Postdoc can be a great time for maternity and infant bonding- whether you are headed for a research-intensive university or a liberal arts college.

In the physical sciences (chemistry, physics, etc) 2-3 years of postdoc are customary, and even in engineering postdocs are becoming more common. In biology and the biomedical disciplines you will not get hired at a research institution without at least 2 years postdoc, and 4-8 years (usually combining postdoc and "research associate" ) is more common.

These are great times for starting a family, much less stressful than trying to do it while you are tenure-track and much healthier because you will be a younger mother.

Correction noted! And let me also mention a friend of mine who had a nice postdoc (in Manhattan, yet) in anthropology. So yes, in this respect, Linda Hirshman is right: if you want a career (and kids), you're much better off in the sciences and social sciences than in the humanities. Plus they pay better and there are more jobs.

(That said, I don't want to re-ignite the Hirshman wars; yes, her premise that a significant number of educated women "opt out" of work to stay home with kids is wrong. And yes, the real problem is the ongoing structure of "the workplace" on a foundational belief that "the worker" is a man with a wife that stays home, as The Chronicle of Higher Education noted recently. More on that next week.)


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