19 things I learned when my husband took paternity leave

My baby started daycare this morning. My husband and I went to drop him off together, and it was not as hard as I had expected. When we left the room he was happily playing with blocks, and he didn’t even notice us leave. I’m sure he did notice at some point, but it wouldn’t have been me he looked around for. My baby would have looked for his primary caregiver, Daddy.  Really, I left him some time ago.

I’ve been back at work full-time since August, teaching, pumping, going to meetings, pumping, trying to find bits of time for research, pumping, and pretending my heart wasn’t across town with a little boy that was learning to crawl and clap. My husband (also an academic) has been home with our son, playing on the floor, exploring the outdoors, changing hundreds of diapers, feeding pumped milk and an increasing number of solid foods, and wishing our baby would nap on a regular basis. Now his time away from work is ending too, so its time for the baby to go to daycare and begin a new chapter of his life.

So it seems like a good time to reflect on what I, the mother, learned when my husband took over the primary caregiver role. Here’s a listicle. Continue reading

All that you can’t leave behind (on maternity leave)

My baby is less than 3 months old. I am on unpaid leave. This morning, a colleague came over to my house to discuss revising and resubmitting a grant proposal that recently got rejected. I bounced and fed the baby while we talked and I attempted to sound on top of things despite having gotten only 4 hours of sleep. A student is coming over later to discuss data for his/her thesis and I’ve got my own paper revisions to work on at some point. I’m also recovering from a physically challenging pregnancy and childbirth, providing the sole source of nutrition for another human being, and operating on limited amounts of disrupted sleep. My partner, older child, and dog might like a mention here too, but frankly they are not getting as much attention as any of us would like.

All of what I describe above is the result of privilege. Privilege to have been able to bear a healthy baby. Privilege to have a job with the protections of FMLA, which provides for up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave following childbirth. Privilege to be able to afford to take unpaid leave, after my sick leave was exhausted and midwife said I was healthy enough to return to work. Privilege to have friendly and understanding colleagues, many with small children of their own, and fantastic students who are willing to meet me where I am, rather than make me schlep my baby to campus through this anomalously cold winter. Privilege to live close enough to campus that my colleagues and students can come see me without stupendous inconvenience. Privilege to have a job that intellectually stimulates me such that I can still get excited about it, even on 4 hours of disrupted sleep.

But I’m also fully aware that I lack the privilege to walk away from my job for my 12 weeks of leave. Continue reading

Location, Location, Location

My field has very few job openings each year, which means that if I hope to get a faculty position there is a high likelihood that it’s going to involve moving. This is hard enough for any academic, but being a queer person I have a number of extra considerations to take into account before accepting a position.

Continue reading

Slowing Down

I am something you don’t read about very often… part-time, adjunct faculty… and happy.  This is not the career I had in mind when I started my PhD program;  the only career goal I’ve ever had was to be a scientist and professor.  But as I neared the end of my program, I realized that my dream job might not be compatible with my overall dream life.

I started my PhD program single, childless and ambitious, ready to throw myself over to the process and lovestruck with the culture of ecology.  I followed every piece of advice.  I applied for grants, was awarded a fellowship, published, and by all accounts was poised to “make it” – post-doc then tenure-track job.  But a few years can change a lot, and other priorities began to creep in. Continue reading

Daycare is not a bad word

Today’s post was contributed by DrEvoEco, a tenured professor at a public research institution west of the Mississippi. 

As a scientist, a woman and a feminist, I always thought that the US should have a better family leave policy, and when I had my first child I was appalled that I really would have to return to work after about 6 weeks. I was the higher earning partner in my marriage, and taking 6 additional weeks unpaid didn’t seem tenable. Furthermore, I was pre-tenure, and even if we could have made it work financially, it did not seem like a good way for me to go about keeping my job*.

So, we planned ahead and found an excellent daycare. After some time home together, I finished out my leave, and then my husband took over, plus there were holidays, so all in all the baby didn’t start daycare until about 3 months old. Oof was that hard.  So so hard.  I didn’t know how I could bear such goodbyes every morning of every workday.

However, I was actually pleasantly surprised. Continue reading