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If you could do it all again

mary williams mary_williams at HMC.Edu
Wed Jun 10 16:29:36 EST 1998

Dear Laura and others,

As Caroline says,
>There is no good time to do it!

One day during my post-doc, my spouse asked "When _would_ it be a good 
time?" and I replied "I don't see that it ever will be a good time" to 
which he replied "Then why not now?". I had a baby during my post-doc 
- happily I was working for a wonderful, supportive mentor. 
 When we moved to my new position, we gave away all our baby stuff, 
convinced we'd never have another. I've been here in a tenure track 
position for three years and have a second baby due in July. 

20/20 hindsight - the first baby came during my 3rd year as a post-doc 
when I'd already done some good work. The first two years were too 
busy/stressful. I started my assistant professor job when he was 1.5 
years old- past the most tiring/difficult stage. The first year of my 
new job was crazy - I could never have dealt with a baby or infant 

I feel very secure in my job now that I've been here 3 years, and will 
be taking next fall off to have a second baby. Tenure is still ahead 
of me, but I've done everything right so far so I'm not frantic about 
it. Also, I know that the administration/faculty/department is very 
supportive to men and women with kids here, so I don't feel like 
having a second child will impact my career. 

Advice? As Caroline said, grad school would have been the WRONG time 
for me. Try to get some accomplishments under your belt and build some 
respect and self-confidence, then take the time off you need. 
Make sure your partner is prepared to sacrifice too - without my 
wonderful husband I would have lost my mind many times. 
Finally - there are plenty of anti-child scientists around (men and 
women) who will try to make you feel guilty. But I found a much larger 
number of supportive people out there (strangely enough, parents 
sometimes are invisible until you become one, then they're 

Good luck,

Mary Williams
Asstant Professor of Biology
Harvey Mudd College
Claremont, CA

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