When to have Baby #2? (Welcome to my personal/professional snowglobe.)
Alrighty. Here's some background:
My husband and I have one child, a 4-month old, and we’d like to have one more. Trouble is, I'm 34 years old and completing a PhD dissertation. I expect to finish up and go on the academic job market in about a year, at which point I’ll be competing for a demanding teaching job. So when the heck should I have this baby?
There are two options, as I see it:
1) Get pregnant soon (say, in five or six months) and have my second while still in graduate school, thereby consolidating babytime before I undertake my career.
2) Wait 3-5 years until my career is semi-established.
Yup, I know: Fertility can’t always be micro-managed, and my aging or otherwise recalcitrant ovaries might render all these considerations moot. But let's just assume for a second that it's really possible to family plan.
Pros of having Baby #2 soon:
-Consolidate babytime (diapers, sleeplessness, etc.) and then move forward with career.
-Kids will be close in age; this is probably hella difficult at first, but it sounds pretty great in the long-term.
-We can afford a babysitter 12-15 hours a week, so even with two, I’d still be able to make some progress on my dissertation and maybe even teach a class here or there, thus “staying in the game” and very slowly moving forward with the degree.
-carpe diem, fertility-wise. I know fertility drops off sharply at 35, and that at 34 my chances of conceiving aren’t exactly fantastic anyway-- heck, it took me 8 months to get pregnant with my first. [That said, the ladies in my family tend to be rather fertile; my mother had her last child at age 44. And at the risk of getting too nitty-gritty, I already have my period back again, and my baby’s only four months old and exclusively breast-fed (Does this mean I’m a fertile goddess or just exquisitely unlucky, or both?).]
Cons of having Baby #2 soon:
- Potentially hard on my body to give birth again after 18 or 19 months. I’m in very good health, but I'm a bit concerned about this.
-Potential risks to second baby’s health (I’ve read that a closely spaced second baby can be at risk for low birth weight, etc. However, I eat like a champ and take my cod liver oil and folic acid, so I think I'd be able to provide a second baby what he/she needs.)
-By having a second baby now, while still in graduate school, I might somehow lose touch with my profession, my career, and drift forever and ever into mommyland and never ever make anything of myself professionally.
-Delaying going on the job market or pausing after I have my degree to have a baby could somehow prove a professional hazard.
-Jobs in my discipline are not exactly a-plenty. It’s possible I won’t actually land one. Shouldn’t I find that out sooner rather than later? I’m in my thirties, and I have one baby already. Shouldn’t I try to get out there and see what happens, then let the timing of number two take care of itself?
Pros of waiting until after I am semi-established to have Baby #2 (i.e. 3-5 years)
-I’ll be able to move forward more quickly right now with finishing my dissertation and applying for jobs. Having two small children while preparing applications, job talks, campus interviews, etc. seems daunting to say the least. It'd be much easier with one.
-Rather than staying in mommyland for another 2-3 years and wondering if I even have what it takes to get a job, I’ll be able to get a move on things and test my prospects.
-Baby #1 will be more an older toddler/small child and thus more independent before #2 is born
-More time to enjoy Baby #1 before the wee interloper.
Cons of waiting:
-Could be so engrossed in a hard tenure-track job that managing a new baby would be utterly exhausting.
-Could be so busy that I’ll somehow never get around to trying.
-It could take me a while to even land a job, let alone get settled.
-Starting for a second time with the whole diaper/sleeplessness rigmarole.
To answer a few pertinent questions: Yes, we can afford to have a second child and part-time childcare. And yes, my partner is supportive. He also wants a second child but is much less concerned about when it happens than I am. He works a full-time office job, so much of the childcare would fall to me. When he is home, though, he’s awesomely involved.
And, yes, I enjoy being a mother, but I'm also really looking forward to finally being a salaried professor someday.
But even outside of my own specific universe, what are your thoughts on…
-close baby spacing (under two years)?
-deferring one’s career to get the child-bearing out of the way?
All thoughts are welcome, but I’m really interested to hear from people who have experience with the humanities academic job market - either as a candidate or a committee member. Side question for you folks: If I decide to try to have the baby sooner rather than later, would it be less detrimental professionally to do so *during* graduate school than after I receive my degree? I’ve heard that post-doc gaps in the CV are sometimes regarded unfavorably by hiring committees.
And no platitudes, please, however well-meaning. I don’t want to be urged to relax or reminded that there's never really a good time.
Thanks very much, guys.