I left having kids until I was a postdoc. In grad school I hadn't
met my husband so having children was not an issue, but looking back at how
stressful grad school was I am glad I didn't have to combine the two. I
have found that the flexible scheduling of a postdoc has been wonderful for
having children. I have been able to take nice long maternity leaves and
have been able to arrange part time work. At the same time I have kept my
publication record going (albeit at a slower rate) and my hands-on skills
up to date. The down side is that it delays a move onto the tenure track.
It is constantly frustrating for me to see my male contemporaries able to
go right into tenure track positions and combine it with having a family
without missing a beat.
The other disadvantage to my mommy route is the perception that I
take my science less seriously - and I am sure that some of you thought
that when I mentioned long leave and part time work! This is not the case.
I think I have a balanced view point where my commitment to my children is
important, and that is nothing to be apologetic about. The science can go
slow for a while and the world will not fall to pieces!
Anyway, the net effect of having a long postdoc for me is that I
have been able to take a step back and really think about what I want to do
with my career. I have deprogrammed myself from the idea that going into
industry is some sort of failure or that I am a "leak", and have realised
that academic science is not for me. Furthermore, I think I will enjoy the
variety and challenge of industrial work and feel good about the applied
aspects of what I am doing. How successful I am in making this transfer
remains to be seen!
I have many friends who are in the same boat, thinking about the
best time to have kids, and I get angry at the lack of options women have.
There is no good time to do it!