This is a vexed question and one which I think has no real answers. We
had our first child when we were 22 or so and I was starting my PhD
and my wife was in her second year at Med School having completed a
three year degree first. Our finances were pretty appalling but at the
time we didn't worry about that; it makes me shudder now though.
Childcare in New Zealand was pretty cheap and widely available which
helped and we had help in principle, from my wife's parents (and not a
lot from my own who disapproved). Needless to say this child was not
Our second child was planned when I was on a Post-doc and my wife was
working in her specialty (she abandonded patients and went into
epidemiology where more civilized hours were kept and where the
requirement to kowtow to, and abase oneself before one's (mostly male)
"superiors" was somewhat less). This child was certainly easier but
childcare was much harder to arrange in England and it was much more
expensive to live. We also didn't have family support here and that
does help if it is available.
Many of our friends are at the stage where the decision to have a
family or not is becoming important. Our older child is 10 now, and
the younger 3. It is difficult to add much light to the debate. I do
think that it is always easier to find reasons for not having kids now
than it is to decide to go ahead. In many ways an "accident" is easier
to manage as the decision is made for you. I think that you will
always cope, often much more so and better than you had imagined that
you would. It is critical that you have a supportive partner of some
sort, someone to share in the decision making and to talk to. It helps
if they do some of the work too! I don't think this necessarily need
be a father/husband, although I would imagine this would be the usual
Some caveats: Having children will make an enormous difference to
lifestyle. You cease being spontaneous in what you do as you always
have to arrange babysitters or meals or bedtimes. This can be
difficult for those who have become accustomed to a more freewheeling
style of living. If your partner does not share the partnership now,
don't expect it will change after a child is born. You can both expect
to be deprived of sleep in the first month or so and this can be very
difficult to cope with.
But all this is definitely worthwhile. Kids are fun and it is there
tremendous satisfaction in watching them grow and learn. I am not sure
that in longterm, a family is worth sacrificing for a career, nor do I
believe that it is necessary; both are possible but perhaps not at the
speed one would like.
You would have to ask my wife how she felt about her views on these
matters, but I -think- she is more family-oriented than I am.
You might be amazed at what you can cope with.
Craig Marshall craigm at sanger.otago.ac.nz or
Biochemistry Department bioc07 at otago.ac.nz
University of Otago Phone 64 3 479 7849
P.O. Box 56 Fax 64 3 479 7866
Dunedin, New Zealand