Is it crazy to consider teaching a class 8 weeks after having a kid?
November 20, 2013 9:52 AM   Subscribe

Hi! I'm pregnant with my first child, due in early spring. I just found out that I can teach a short (college) summer school course that starts about 10 weeks after I'm due. (Who knows, if I'm late, it could be just 8 weeks.) The pay is very good, and we kind of need it, but I don't want to sign up for something I'll regret.

A few more facts. This is a class I've taught before, but never in summer school compressed format. My husband will be on paternity leave and will be home with the kid 24/7. We live literally a five minute walk from where I would be teaching, so I could come back to breastfeed, or they could come to me frequently. But although the course is short (only a few weeks), it's incredibly intense, so I will be really, really busy grading, meeting with students, planning, etc. But I would have a long break after it as well to recover.

Seasoned parents out there, does this sound like a disaster? Will I just be too exhausted? Thanks!
posted by caoimhe to Work & Money (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Wouldn't it be like returning to a busy job after an eight week maternity leave? If you start preparing now it could be do-able. Is this your first/only child?
posted by JacksonandFinch at 9:54 AM on November 20, 2013

My thesis adviser did it.
I imagine everyone's mileage is going to vary on this.
posted by phunniemee at 9:56 AM on November 20, 2013

How many hours a day would you actually be out of the house? If you're nursing, your husband might need to bring the baby over to BF if you're away for more than 4 hours, but otherwise I think you'll be fine.
posted by anastasiav at 9:58 AM on November 20, 2013

You might find the answers to this question useful:

How soon can I get back in the classroom after giving birth?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:59 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes, first child! And thanks treehorn -- totally missed that question in my search. Not clear how many days out of the house -- maybe 4-5, but obviously will spend a lot more time grading/planning, etc.
posted by caoimhe at 10:03 AM on November 20, 2013

I put in an answer to that question, but I would not give the same answer to your question - the class she was going to teach was not "very intense".

I would say that if you are going to do this, be aware that you are going to be like a zombie due to lack of sleep, that you really should not be driving a car or doing anything that will require serious analytical thought or manual dexterity if you are running on as little sleep as you would have to run on to do this class. Also, how do you do with caffeine? Because you might need to mainline it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:04 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, the due date is just an approximation. You may very well deliver one or two weeks after the due date. You're going to be exhausted, but if you really need the money...
posted by DMelanogaster at 10:06 AM on November 20, 2013

One other thought - possibly using a postpartum doula to take care of night wakings while you are teaching.

On the other hand this could wipe out any real income you thought you would accrue (have you done the math on the net take home after childcare here to consider if it's worthwhile?), and you'd have to pump while the baby's napping/after it goes to sleep, which is not at all fun.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:07 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

But in contrast to that previous question, your husband is going to be on full time paternity leave (whereas the previous OP's husband worked full time, albeit in the home). I understand there are special considerations because you are the one who will be postpartum and possibly nursing, but it's a lot less common to hear someone advise a father whose wife is on maternity leave that he won't be able to go to work. I think you'll be fine.
posted by telegraph at 10:07 AM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

crazy? not at all! women throughout history have been called upon to do extraordinary things shortly after childbirth. childbirth is an event, and a baby is a burden, but motherhood is not a disability.
posted by bruce at 10:10 AM on November 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'm on the fence.

On one hand, having something to do not baby-related might be a great thing. It gets you out of the house and back in the world. Which is good. You have Dad to attend to baby so you don't have to worry about child care for that time.

But, you will be exhausted from a newborn. Your sleep will be disrupted and you may have post-partum depression to a degree.

Your house will be a mess, your hormones will be all over the place and you may want to spend more time with your baby, especially in those first days.

I would only do this if I was SORELY in need of the money. Like, the difference between Ramen and Tuna broke.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:11 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine doing this unless you were going to be destitute. You have no idea when the baby will be born, how you'll adjust, whether you'll end up with postpartum depression / an infection / slow healing tear, whether your baby will have any issues, etc. You will be exhausted and sleep deprived and your hormones will be all over the place. I can't imagine doing this if you have a choice not may leave you exhausted. Women throughout history have done difficult things, but that doesn't mean it was easy or something they'd do given a choice. I teach post-secondary and have kids...I definitely taught when they were tiny, but not this tiny.

Disclaimer: I live in Canada, where we have actual maternity leaves.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:17 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best case scenario: Everything goes well, you teach the course, you're a few bucks ahead.

Worst case scenario: The baby comes late, the baby barely sleeps, you're constantly tired, you're feeding the baby in a school bathroom immediately before class and immediately after class and spending the entire class time worrying because the baby is colicky, the course sucks, you get lousy evaluations (or even gently asked to leave halfway through because you're just not getting the work done), and your professional reputation takes a (mostly undeserved) hit.

You have no idea how difficult care of this baby will be, because no one does before the baby arrives. I'd vote for not risking it.
posted by Etrigan at 10:23 AM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

FYI, 8 weeks after giving (completely uncomplicated) birth to a not-very-demanding baby, I was frequently unable to form coherent sentences, couldn't remember everyday words, snapped at everyone in sight and cried for no reason at least once a day.

Of course, I am not you and you might have a completely different postpartum experience. But you should be prepared to be less than fully functional during that time.

Nthing 'only do it if you'd be really broke otherwise'.
posted by gakiko at 10:23 AM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Will the class really be that intense? I took a few summer classes and loved them because they were much less intense than traditional Fall/Spring courses -- we had a few lectures outside in the quad, we only met twice a week, we had more project time than classroom time and some BIG projects.
posted by mochapickle at 10:25 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would say somewhat crazy, but doable in a pinch. You will be more tired and less focused than you imagine. Have a back-up plan. If you get a week in and realise you just can't do this, is there someone else who could step in? If not, then I would say it's probably not worth risking it. Its totally unknowable what state you will be in at that point, it depends on you and your baby.
posted by Joh at 10:27 AM on November 20, 2013

Response by poster: This is incredibly helpful and I'm leaning towards maybe not. (We're not desperate, but boy is the money good!) Does it change anyone's mind if I tell you the only hands on teaching time is 3 weeks?
posted by caoimhe at 10:36 AM on November 20, 2013

Does it change anyone's mind if I tell you the only hands on teaching time is 3 weeks?

Have you ever gone three weeks without getting more than two consecutive hours of sleep? If it were one week, I'd say maybe go for it, because hell, you can stand on your head for a week. But three... hoo boy.
posted by Etrigan at 10:40 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm an academic and a mommy and I'd do it if the money is that good. You teach, he brings baby to you for boobie time. 8 weeks is not two weeks old. You'll have a slightly better handle on things.
But I would try to get a grandma on hand for the assistance with household stuff - laundry and cooking can be tough.

If this was a new prep or 6 weeks of the course I wouldn't.
posted by k8t at 10:41 AM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Here's why I think you should do it – it's a really, really good thing in an equitable relationship to not just have Dad co-parenting alongside you but all on his own. Sink or swim. Dad will find his own ways to do things: calm the baby, feed the baby, play with the baby and you should encourage him to find his methods and feel confident in them. The best way to do this is to be away.

Will those weeks be tough. Yes. You and your partner will need to be pretty regimented about how sleep is going to work because you will need the sleep. And 8 weeks is about hitting stride in terms of how nuts your baby will be at keeping you up at night. I'd urge you to read all you can about sleep management between couples and with a newborn. And have a post-partum doula come in right at the beginning and maybe at 6 weeks to give you tips/advice/support for the busy weeks.

Will anyone be around to help? Family?
posted by amanda at 10:44 AM on November 20, 2013 [8 favorites]

I vote crazy but possibly doable, especially for only 3 weeks. You're close to home and the baby will be with Dad. I think coordinating the breastfeeding might be the hardest part; would you be annoyed if the job jepordized breastfeeding? Not that it necessarily will, just something to think about. You might think about if you're willing to pump or wean certain feedings to give everyone a break from running around every 2-3 hours.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:45 AM on November 20, 2013

Do you like teaching the class?

Even if it's an old prep, if you don't like it, this is not the time to deal with a miserable job. But if it's a class you like, I think you can do it. One thing - don't be afraid to SPEND THE MONEY. If you're making that much, you should DEFINITELY get a sitter to give everyone a few hours to be by themselves, even just in the next room. (Or family, friends, whatever.) Get takeout, hire someone to do your laundry, just allocate some of the extra funds to taking care of yourself and your family.
posted by synapse at 10:48 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not a parent, but I teach in a university and at summer schools, so here's some quick advice if you decide to go for it:

- Plan as much as you can beforehand. You've already taught the class in another format, which is great - do you have lesson plans you can reuse? If you can plan out every single class before you give birth (and in as much detail as possible - like, down to the minute), that'll help a LOT on the days that you're absolutely exhausted and not functioning fully.
- Try to get in touch with other teachers who've taught the same course (or who are teaching it) and do as much sharing of lesson plans/assignment sheets as is feasible.
- What kind of grading does this involve? If it's a class where there are definite right or wrong answers, that might feel less exhausting to grade. (I've even helped out friends with their grading for this kind of course before.) On the other hand, if it's more essay-based and you have to put mental energy into it, that could be more exhausting, but it also allows for more flexibility/generosity towards your students. (I don't advocate giving undeserved grades, but student evals tend to be a lot nicer when they're doing well in the course!)
posted by littlegreen at 10:54 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think it will be hard, but this is actually very doable. (And I say this as a mom who didn't heal physically from birth for over 8 weeks.)

If you're able to pump breast milk, then your husband can get up during the night to feed the baby during those few weeks - which will allow you to get some sleep. Your husband will be home with the baby. You have taught the class before - just make sure to do as much prep work before the baby comes as you can.

Of course there could always be complications at the time of the birth, but you have no way of anticipating that.... I would not put your whole life on hold just because something could go wrong. This is for a short time frame, and not a full day's work out of the house, so I personally think it would be possible.
posted by barnoley at 11:16 AM on November 20, 2013

I would not hesitate to do it. I went back to work full-time after 6 weeks maternity leave, multiple times, full days, pumping during the day. (Had I known then what I know now, I would have asked for longer leave, just to enjoy the baby, but oh well.) Totally do-able. Especially with your husband at home and a long break to recover afterward. Amanda's point about giving Dad the opportunity to fully co-parent is excellent.
posted by evilmomlady at 11:17 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I vote doable, though I'm currently pregnant not mothering a newborn so take my advice with a grain if salt.

Maternity leave in the US is such that plenty of women go back to work full time 8/10 weeks post-partum. You'll have childcare lined up and that's really the hardest logistical problem. It won't be fun but if the money's worth it I would absolutely do it.
posted by lydhre at 11:24 AM on November 20, 2013

I went back to work full-time, 40 hours per week, when my son was 9 weeks old. 8 weeks is totally doable. How long will you have to teach without a break? I was pumping every 2 hours when my baby was that young, I literally couldn't go more than two hours without feeling like my boobs were going to explode. That would be my only concern (provided you will be breastfeeding, of course). So having a pump, or having baby nearby and ready to feed on your breaks, would be a requirement in that case.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:25 AM on November 20, 2013

I would totally do this. Your husband is at home 24/7, you can breastfeed, it's a relatively short period. I went back to work full-time when my peanut was 7 weeks old and haven't stopped working yet (he's at college on full scholarship now). I had to and you don't have to but if you love your work and need the money and it's not forever then it sounds like all win to me. You'll be exhausted but 10 weeks is nothing and baby's gonna need a lot of new shoes.
posted by headnsouth at 11:44 AM on November 20, 2013

I vote doable, especially since you'll have a long break afterward and since the baby will be at least 8 weeks old. You should feel physically almost back to normal. 8-10 weeks is a really good time for Dad to get very comfortable with baby care. You will need to pump or breast feed every 3-4 hours and the two of you will need to figure out a nighttime system that will allow you to get enough sleep to function. Do try to do as much as humanly possible ahead of time in terms of lesson planning and so on.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:49 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hi! I was the OP in the previous thread. All of the answers were super helpful, but the best answers I got were from my mom and my chair.

Mom: Make a plan, expect that things won't go as expected, and keep your chair in the loop on all things related. (Mom was an academic as well).

Chair: Great! Plan what you can in advance, get as many people involved/interested as possible in case things do go wrong (so they can substitute if necessary), give the department full syllabi, assignments, and documents well before you start (like, do it before you give birth) so they can pick up slack in an emergency, and don't hesitate to tell someone if things do start going south. People get ill in the middle of the semester all the time (not that being pregnant is an illness), and departments have protocols in place to help with that. If you teach for one week and there's an issue, then they will help you out.

I was honestly a bit surprised at the class issues that come up with this type of question. Yes, going on "real" maternity leave or even unpaid leave for 8 weeks sounds amazing, but not everyone has the opportunity to do that -- many of us need our income or need to continue teaching for the continuity or job search. Some of us actually want to go back to work. It's another one of those issues where "choice" becomes a code word for "If you don't take off four full months, then you will explode and DIE." I think you should decide how you feel and make the best plans possible not just for yourself and your baby, but also for your career.
posted by mrfuga0 at 11:59 AM on November 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm due at the end of feb and plan on going back to my 60 hour a week job after 8 weeks. I am the breadwinner, there is no other financial option. I say do it!
posted by data hound at 1:34 PM on November 20, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone -- this has been incredibly helpful! (And continues to be if you have more thoughts). I'm going to lay all of this out for the department tomorrow and see what they say, but I'm becoming more inclined to go for it unless they express serious reservations. We'll see!
posted by caoimhe at 1:40 PM on November 20, 2013

You can do it! I was in my third year, second semester of law school, while working as an assistant dean 20 hours a week. I took the time off from my job, but I was only out of school for 2 weeks, one of which was (conveniently) spring break. After the end of the semester, I went back to work, studied for the bar, and passed.

Seriously, with a stay-at-home dad and the flexibility of academic life, you can do it.

(And yes, pumping & bottles is fine and workable. I did it every couple of hours or so until I had to give up for other reasons.)
posted by miss tea at 1:42 PM on November 20, 2013

I'd say do it, but try to plan the whole course before the baby's born. You can still make changes later, but teaching a class with already prepped material is much easier than having to make a powerpoint presentation or designing a classroom activity at 2am between feedings.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 1:44 PM on November 20, 2013

It sounds like you should go for it, because even if it is incredibly hard for those weeks, it is something you might enjoy, the money is good, and it is temporary. However, one more thing to consider is what happens if you have to have a C-section? I don't know how long it takes to heal from that, and I don't know if you'd be able to teach from a chair if you aren't able to stand the whole time for some reason.
posted by at 2:07 PM on November 20, 2013

My wife returned to teaching in 5 weeks, and she's a perfectionist who just can't leave her course materials alone. If you've got 10 weeks to recover, and you're able to re-use your existing materials, you should be fine.

That said, summer courses are intense. The experience is very similar to teaching two normal courses. Even if you weren't about to have a baby you'd want all your ducks in a row.
posted by Jpfed at 8:37 PM on November 20, 2013

6-8 weeks is kind of peak fussiness time. I was lucky - especially as a single parent - to have a pretty easygoing baby and zero hormonal/mood challenges, so I was able to work from about 4 weeks on. It's so different for everyone, but I think it's worth a try.
posted by judith at 1:34 AM on November 25, 2013

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