I am at a crossroads. On the one hand, my spouse and I are excited to begin the preparations for having a second child. We really like our first one, and we’re just about coming up for air now that he is getting close to school age. He wants a sibling, and we always wanted two kids (except for that brief period when our son was 0-3 years old, when we were very very certain that one was plenty).
On the other hand, I am worried. I know full well how much work goes into parenting, and I am not one bit surprised that academic women have fewer kids than other professionals. My spouse is an executive who has recently cut his work week down from 80 hours to 60 in a major feat of will that would make Merlin Mann proud. It is clear that this is as much as he can trim from his work responsibilities. I am proud of him and grateful for the extra 20 hours, but let’s face it; while it’s great that our younger child will recognize its dad, that’s not going to be the basis of an equal parenting situation. One might reasonably ask what the bother am I doing even thinking about a second child?
So, as I sit here, in the shoes of olderwoman before she had that second child: past the tenure hurdle, but not really established in my career, excited about both my work and my family and not wanting to shortchange either, knowing that it’s going to mostly fall on my shoulders to make career sacrifices to raise this child. I’m wondering if she would have done it differently if she had a second chance, knowing that she all but has to say no, she is glad she had two kids.
Waiting is not an option; indeed, we may well have waited too long already, and all the soul searching may be moot. We’ll need the help of the fertility clinic, as we did the first time around, and there are no guarantees. So it’s now or never, and I have to wonder whether I can do it better the second time around, maybe by bringing in the additional childcare I need to be sane. Will that be enough to avoid being overwhelmed? Can I keep that perspective of a lifecycle that has lulls and peaks of productivity, and save myself from feeling the failed scholar if I don’t publish much for a few years?
And really, whom to ask but the blog? This is one of those touchy subjects that lots of academics face, but when it is about you, it is difficult to bring it up with colleagues or even friends. What if they have a strong opinion about your having or not having a child? Too risky, too personal, but of course, this is really a social issue.