I'm wondering if anyone else would be interested in a thread on the timing of having a family in the midst of a philosophy career. I've heard from many that the only reasonable time for female philosophers to have children is during grad school or after tenure. Is it really death to one's career to have a child after grad school, but before tenure? I can imagine the difficulty of doing so, but would think that it would be highly dependent upon one's personal circumstances.
Anon 1:52 posted the following response:
My spouse and I did when we were both on the tenure track, with enough published and under review to feel fairly confident that tenure was likely. That cuts a few years off the "grad school or tenured" model you mentioned. We both found that there was a relative "lull" after the manias of grad school, the job market, and the early t-track push to develop the portfolio of work that would form the basis of the tenure case. By year three on the t-track, that portfolio was partly published and partly under review.
We had a kid in year four and another in what would have been year six but became year five because the first kid gave us a do-over on year four. We also took a kid-two-driven do-over on year five, even though we probably didn't need to. So the tenure track became eight years, with the second half mainly devoted to placing the portfolio developed in the first half.
As everyone knows, placing pieces of a project -- responding to R&Rs, rewriting from scratch when it becomes clear that an argument doesn't work, etc. -- is just as hard as developing the original ideas. So there was lots of hard work to be done in 20-minute work sessions while the baby napped. (I developed an analogue of carpal tunnel syndrome in my left ankle from rocking the cradle to keep the kid sleeping while I typed.) But, as others have noted, becoming a parent helps provide a focus and grounding that makes you much more efficient in your work. I think I got more work done in early parenthood than I had before despite having much much less time to do it. But it would have been especially difficult to develop completely new ideas in those briefer work-sessions, with so many more demands on my attention.
I think my spouse would make a similar report. In any case, we did both -- one male, one female -- recently get tenure with toddlers in tow.
Of course, it's useless advice to those who haven't yet landed a t-track job. But those starting on the tenure-track may find that they need not put off family till after they're tenured.
I am still pretty new to being a parent and stuff, and I don't by any means consider myself to be an expert on this. But in my admittedly limited experience, taking care of an infant is shockingly, incredibly time-consuming. I'm not sure I'd want to take this on while I was in the coursework phase of graduate school. When you're doing your coursework, you've got a lot of demands on your time, and the demands tend to be somewhat inflexible, and if you're anything like me, anyway, you're pretty much completely broke all the time. That doesn't mean it can't be done--I know it can be done because I saw people do it. But I don't know how they did it.
The ABD phase is somewhat better, I guess. Your schedule is probably more flexible, since you probably don't teach very many classes and you probably don't have to take any classes at all unless you want to, and your writing deadlines are probably more negotiable than they were when you were writing term papers. But you're probably still pretty broke. But then when you get a job, it's a double-edged sword (whether it's tenure-track or not): you make a lot more money, but you have a lot more responsibility. Obviously. I know you know that.
What I'm trying to get at is this: there's no ideal time. There's no time when the responsibilities of caring for a child can be fit seamlessly and without trouble into your already-existing lifestyle. Stuff gets majorly shifted around and reorganized, and nothing is unaffected. Obviously it helps to have access to lots of money, and to have a flexible schedule, and to be able to work from home a lot, and to have other people--spouses, family members, paid staff--to keep an eye on the child/ren while you do other stuff.
And so, at first Mrs. Zero and I wanted to wait until I was on the tenure-track and we were settled in somewhere before we started thinking about Junior. That way we'd have more money and more stability, we'd have a pretty good bet that we wouldn't have to move across the country for at least a few years, it would make sense to think about buying a house, and stuff like that. But at a certain point we started to think that we didn't feel like waiting anymore. We started to think that if it was really important to us to start a family, we should just do it. Not that the problems we foresaw would cease to be problems, or that we just decided to pretend they didn't exist. But we felt that if it was genuinely important, we shouldn't try to wait until we were fully or maximally prepared, because that was never going to happen. But if we're not waiting until we've achieved maximal preparation, what are we waiting for? So we decided not to wait.
And as we were making the decision, I thought a lot about the things people said in this thread from 2009. The things John Turri, Asstro, and others said about how you'll just kind of figure a way to make things work. I guess the thing is, when something is important to you, you find the time for it. (However, the consensus view back in '09 seemed to be that although this is true of one kid, having two is pretty much unmanageable.)