Catholics on Motherhood and IVF

I had a post going about Catholic motherhood, but then I saw this opinion piece this morning about how the family who were victims of that horrible mistaken embryo transfer thinks that the Catholic Church should reverse its decision on IVF.  I read that they were Catholic when I heard about the story the first time and my ears went up a little but hey, lots of Catholics don’t follow Church teaching on contraception and the same is with IVF.  Did anyone else see this?

One thing is for sure, the Church re-explaining its stance on ART was definitely not a personal attack on this specific family – as the author states there have been Church documents explaining the theology behind this for quite a while now.  There was probably just general confusion after this widely publicized story, and rightly so.  I feel similar frustration when people tell me “Oh, so and so did IVF and they’re Catholic.”  ::sigh::  There is a lot of general confusion on this teaching and clarification is obviously necessary.

Also, the document referred to (Dignitas Personae) points to the improper generation of a human being, not the human being itself.  I know I’m going to upset people here, since couples who do IVF have been suffering and would love more than anything to have a child of their own genetics – and I have personally felt that same suffering, but this is akin to saying that rape denies the resulting child the proper perfect generation.  That statement says nothing of the dignity of the resulting person.  As Christians we don’t believe that the ends justify the means.  Means are equally important.

Biological motherhood is a beautiful and glorious thing, but it is not the end all be all and point of our existence.  Despite any insensitivity we sub/infertile women feel in the pew on Sunday, if the Catholic Church believed and taught that, then any and all treatments would be licit.  But it doesn’t.  There is something beyond motherhood and our own desires that matters and that is God’s creation, the sanctity of life.

This is the ultimate proof that Catholics are not about filling the pews but about something bigger.  Principles, true theology beyond our own desires.  This is why we should be weary of churches that promote motherhood at the cost of the sanctity of life and the unborn, without concern for how it happens.

Anyway, did you see this article?   What did you think?

I am intrigued that  a couple who believes in life at conception would be OK with freezing their babies.  I wonder if they would think differently if another couple had mistakenly received their frozen embryo and aborted, as they would have had every right to do?  God bless them for their generosity, but their personal experience clearly points to a flawed system that no amount of rules and precautions can protect against.

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The Humility of Sub-fertility

One of the joyous, less talked about perks of finally graduating grad school as a married female is that people now feel free to comment on our family planning which, according to the majority of people apparently, should commence promptly upon graduation.  Now.  And they mention it to us, freely.  In fact, I went to another fellow married female’s defense and I kid you not, less than 10 minutes after declaring the defense successful and congratulating the newest Dr., the chair of our department said they should really start having kids because “being a young parent is fun” and “by the time I graduated we had 3 kids!” (never-mind the fact that his wife was at home raising them while he was in school). I got roped into the comments as well as he knew I was graduating and I just found myself smiling and nodding along because really, what do you say in that situation?

If that had been our plan, I’d probably find those comments entertaining at best or mildly annoying at worst, as the girl who our chair was talking to did as she told me later.  As we’ve actually been trying to expand our family for quite some time now and I agree with (most) everything the man was saying (Don’t let your life be solely determined by your career!  Kids are more fun when you’re young and energetic! Amen, amen!  I’m down with that!), then why the heck did they make me so upset?  Was it the assumption of fertility that had me bugged?  The idea that you can just turn it on and off and if you’re not having kids it must follow that you don’t want them?

A few conversations over a few weeks later and these comments kept coming up.  I realize now in a different sense what I realized a few weeks ago, that eventually I will graduate and I will have to face all this again (done and doing) but also that now everyone else is starting to ask questions.  Great, not a big deal, I’m trying to brace myself.  I’m getting better at talking about it with people who really care to ask.  The comments that bug me are the ones by more acquaintances than friends that assume I don’t want kids yet, that I’m a baby-hating, career driven female who is taking my fertility for granted or that I’m not ready for the responsibility of children.

These comments make my heart just ache.  They have no clue what ground they’re treading on. 

But there is no responding in those situations.

There is only humility. 

There is only taking it on the chin and smiling and nodding.  It does not matter what I have to say anyways, really.  The moment is fleeting and all that is hurt is my pride. 

And that’s embarrassing to admit.

I admit I haven’t read too much of the lives of the saints but I’m trying to learn more about their lives because I’ve realized that something I’ve always taken for granted as a rule of thumb is that you have to speak up for yourself.  I don’t know where I learned this, but I never wanted to be someone who complains and then does nothing about the situation. So if you don’t accept complaining and not doing anything, that means that only thing left to do would be to speak up for yourself and explain the situation, at least from another perspective, right?  Wrong.  Perhaps it was having a husband and/or in-laws that made me realize that disagreeing while saying nothing in any direction is a perfectly (and frequent) acceptable option as well.  Sometimes, saying exactly what you’re thinking and feeling just makes everything so much messier. 

Especially when your pride is the only thing hurt.

Why is it that while humility is such an easy, cleaner answer, its so much harder to do?

Jesus teaches us and the saints live by example as well the virtue of humility. Sub-fertility and infertility just provide ample opportunities to power it home.

Teaching NFP as a subfertile couple

Believe it or not, one of the first things I thought of when we didn’t get pregnant right away was

Oh great, now no one we know is going to believe that NFP works.

And I don’t think that was a crazy thought.  I’ve been in the NFP world long enough to know that when women or couples are considering usage of NFP, barely anyone actually does their own research (though these amazing people do exist – and can I include myself in that list? ha!).  In fact, I would venture to say that after hearing about NFP for the first time, the overwhelming majority of people rely purely on anecdotal evidence when discerning whether or not to use NFP.  For example, the couple that taught them NFP may be old and totally ‘out of it’ or they knew someone they once heard of who got pregnant using NFP or the couple teaching them has 6+ children so NFP must not work.

I wanted so badly to be that teaching couple that people could relate to.  And I know that in reality that translates into making a good first impression.  Being that young couple that looks just like them.  Still in school, trying to figure out how to foster the best marital relationship.  My husband and I feel so passionately about promoting healthy marriage and this being such a huge part of my conversion story, we just knew that this was our calling.

But now part of me feels like we have just another reason for people not to believe us when we stand up there, explaining the scientific details of how NFP works.

Oh, they can’t get pregnant.  No wonder they’re down with NFP.

And it sucks.  I don’t want to be another anecdote.  And I don’t understand why God would give us such a calling and at the same time, such a handicap to hurt our effectiveness along the way.

But, eventually, I know its not about us or what we do or say that will change people’s minds anyway.  I could shout from the rooftops what a gift fertility is (and I have and will continue to do so) but that doesn’t mean people will listen.  It is not people that change people.

When we get a new class of clients, before we start our first NFP class we make small talk and study those faces, some eager, some bored, some there for the other one.  They don’t know anything about us, maybe other than we’re going to talk to them about mucus and sticking thermometer’s where? (correct answer: mouth!).  But a single question will bring everyone together and remind them why we’re here.

We just ask about their upcoming wedding and there’s an instant smile on everyone’s face. An excitement that we all can relate to about the new relationship about to occur, as the bride looks at her soon to be groom and gushes about the details of the event.  An appreciation for this new, sacred relationship.  After all, that’s why they’re pursuing a Church wedding and taking the necessary classes.

And then as we warm up to each other, there are always those same first questions. Somewhere along the lines of

“So you guys are going to teach us how to not have 20 children, right?”

And that’s when my heart sinks.  I realize how different my husband and I are.  How our path is not the common path.  I remember that naivety that I see in their faces.  The thought that oodles of children and the associated financial and emotional drain is the biggest marital concern that everyone is trying to avoid.  The innocence that there’s not something worse out there that’s capable of tearing at the very seams of your marriage.

I just want to grab them by the shoulders, shake them, and tell them now that they should be so lucky! I want to save them from planning out their life and getting their hopes set on dreams that they have no control over.  I want to tell that even if things don’t go as planned and they have a ‘surprise’ baby that was not orchestrated in the month they set aside, that there are still worse things.

But I don’t.  People don’t change people.  The spirit does.  We laugh and continue on, because our path is not the common path.  Even in our NFP class, we’re instructed to not spend too much time on the infertility slides because statistics say that the young couple sitting in front of us will get pregnant.  And while I once held my breath that everything would be OK with our client’s fertility, when I do hear from past clients about their new pregnancies, I breathe out a sigh of relief.  And I am once again reminded that our path is not normal.  Normal people get pregnant.

As a subfertile couple teaching couple, those Duggar family comments make me realize how even though our path may be different, we can still focus and teach about what a gift fertility is.  Because we believe so strongly that if there’s one thing that’s worse and threatens the sanctity of marriage more than oodles of children and the associated strain they cause, one thing that’s worse than the physical and emotional pain of infertility, its the lack of appreciation and respect to that gift of fertility.

And we’re there to provide an example and to teach that if they keep their focus on God, they will be able to get through the things that life throws their way if they just stick together.  Because ultimately, that’s what we’re doing too.

I just hope they see it like that.

Having a family in grad school

On a school visit a few years ago when I was applying for graduate school, I remember one of the professors I was interviewing with mentioned that the best time to have kids is during graduate school, not squeezed in after tenure like most people try to do.  I’ve heard stories of people having kids during grad school and labs that are teeming with little kids that play by their parent’s desk as they work in lab.  It seems like the flexible schedule would make for an ideal time to get married and have children, doesn’t it?

But this has not been my personal experience.

I don’t believe that grad school is actually family friendly. At least not engineering.  [Maybe this is part of the reason why there are no females in science and engineering.]

I know anecdotal evidence doesn’t make the strongest when making such a broad claim as this, but I can’t help but go by what I’ve personally seen in my lab.

  • Part time isn’t an option.  Two (male) students in our lab have had children in the past year.  One (international) student’s wife is also in grad school.  They have alternated days of working in lab for this past year in order to accommodate both of their schedules.  The other (American) student has a wife that works full time from home.  In order to accommodate their schedules, he comes in in the morning anywhere from 3-5am  and works till noon and then goes home and takes care of the baby while his wife works from 12-8pm.  Our boss has recently said this is no longer acceptable.
  • Most international students send their children back to their home countries to be raised by their parents while they finish graduate school.  I think this is a hidden secret that no one talks about and is particularly common for Chinese and Indian students who populate a large percentage of science and engineering graduate students.  The aforementioned student in our lab is in the minority of students who actually try to have their children raised here in America, although he has been pressured by my adviser to send their child back to China.
  • Apparently my husband living in another country is not a unique enough situation to warrant “extenuating circumstance” to give me permission to do non-lab-essential work outside of the office (i.e. in Mexico).  I am going against my adviser’s wishes and incurring a pay cut.

Yes, maybe this is just the situation in my lab, but still, my lab exists!  All of these situations that I’ve witnessed in this lab over this past year have made me realize how undervalued family is in academia in general and how hard it is to be a female who has a family in this field.  I’m not saying it can’t be done, its just very difficult.

And I needed to vent.

PS:  We’ve met the writer of this comic strip and he’s hilarious.  We also gave him a few ideas for some comic strips that he wrote down (we saw him!) so we’re still hoping to see some of those published one day…and THEN grad school will all have been worth it.

We are not the same as atheists.

So, its NFP awareness week.  Yay!

Now, what does that mean for you?  Well, (un)fortunately for you, I’ve had a major deadline, my laptop blue-screened on me, my in-laws were in town, and I’m now out of state at a conference, so I don’t really have time for a long post.  But I did just get sent this amazing article about how all Christians (not just Catholics) are examining the morality of birth control. Its a great article, so you should please, please read it.

Some great quotes:

“People are no longer … thinking about it,” says Hodge…

“People don’t even ask if there is anything possibly morally wrong about it.”

For more than 19 centuries, every Christian church opposed contraception.

and

To separate the two functions of marital intimacy–the life-transmitting from the bonding–is to reject God’s design, Paul VI wrote.

Janet Smith, a Catholic seminary professor whose writing and talks have been influential for two decades, puts it this way: “God himself is love, and it’s the very nature of love to overflow into new life. Take the baby-making power out of sex, and it doesn’t express love. All it expresses is physical attraction.”

and the best yet…

Rather than heeding Christian theology to be “agents of life in the world,” Christians have largely adopted culture’s philosophic naturalism, which considers sex an itch to be scratched, Hodge said.

They have the same view of conception that atheists have.”

I am so, so grateful to be part of that 10%.  It has made all the difference in my little life thus far.

We’re getting smarter…in all ways!

My brother-in-law sent my husband and I an interesting article published in the New York Times from this past weekend, entitled Educated Women Opting for Motherhood.  Did anyone else happen to see it?

The crux of the article is that in general, the percentages of women not having children are increasing across racial and ethnic boundaries, as compared to 1992.


However, when we look at this same information across educational degree attainment, we see that the percentage of women who are achieving advanced degrees (Professional, Master’s, and PhD) and have never had children is decreasing.

So what does this mean? There are probably several takes on why this is happening, so I’ll just throw my hopeful idea for what I think out there.

Maybe this idea of New Feminism is finally catching on!  Educated women are realizing that being mother’s is not only a fulfilling career option but also a smart option, for themselves and our society.  The outdated view of feminism that includes our reproductive biology as a burden is becoming a thing of the past, especially for those most educated. Now if only we could get past the stigma of having more than two children

One can hope this trend continues!

Do you have some other ideas for why this trend might be occurring?

Children as commodities

I read a post at Project M the other day about why couples desire to have children.  I thought it was really beautifully written and brought up a lot of points that my own husband and I have come to as well.  In summary, Kathleen describes how the desire to share her love with her own children comes naturally from the abundance of love that she shares with her husband (although she says this much more eloquently – so you should go read the article!).

I’ve been trying to put down in words for a couple weeks now why my husband and I want to have children and why its so frustrating to not be able to in the mean time (in case it isn’t obvious!).  The thing is, over the course of coming up on the short end of these desires month after month, I’ve realized that some of the reasons I have are incomplete.  That maybe I should re-evaluate why we’re trying to start a family in hopes that I’ll develop less frustration at our current situation and more peace in why we’re here, as well as develop other possible life routes since, as we all know, fertility is not guaranteed.  For simplicity, we’ve come up with a couple reasons why we desire children that fall into these two basic categories:

  1. We want to pass on our genes. I like my husband enough to think that this world would be a better place if there were more people with his qualities!  And I don’t think I’m too shabby either :)  And OH how I would love love love to see little mini Michael-son’s running around, a perfect little blend of our physical features as well as a literal, tangible reflection of the love we have for one another!  We could enjoy them being all cute and tiny and tolerate the bad times knowing that the overall package was worth it!  We could be kids again as we’re with them growing up, what fun!  It would be an easy career path for me to choose to stay home to raise them and I wouldn’t have to think about what else to do :)  In short, we want children because they’d be incredibly cute (as a result of our genetic mixtures, of course we’d think they were perfect!) and provide us with loads of entertainment as we raise them.
  2. We want children in order to become less selfish. This is actually probably my husband’s number one reason to want children.  And he says this often.  We’re both afraid of becoming more and more selfish as we grow older and only having ourselves to worry about.  With children comes great responsibility, not only with our time and emotions, but also physically and financially.  I really believe that these sacrifices are necessary to help guide you towards greater treasures (the heavenly kind) and help teach you to value human relationships greater than material wealth.  Nothing worthwhile is easy and we all know that raising children isn’t a walk in the walk!  This is ultimately what I feel we as Christians are called to do, to build up the kingdom of God.  With greater incomes and more opportunities to spend money on ourselves, we might be tempted to take more elaborate vacations/buy nicer things than we would if we had many tiny mouths to feed right in front of us.  Would that really be the best use of our resources?  We know that the sacrifices in having children are far outweighed by the benefits we (and the rest of the world) gain from having them.  We would partake directly in building up the kingdom of God by raising little souls to glorify him!  What greater calling is there than that!

Ok, so, while I personally am inclined to think that the second reason for wanting children is a little more noble perhaps than the first, I’m realizing that there are major problems with each reason.  Let’s look at them again.

  1. We want to pass on our genetic material. Ok, if that came across as really cold and incredibly egotistical, that’s probably because at the root of it, it is. There’s no other way to get around it.  As cool as we are, we’re really not that amazing (I know, shocker, right?).  The world will survive without our little genes running around.  There’s really not too much else to say other than I think this is the hardest reason emotionally to tackle.  I think this is a natural desire biologically to pass on your genes, but having children that look like you is not necessary to serve the kingdom of God.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting these things and this is how God designed procreation to happen and these desires are not intrinsically evil!  I guess I do see it becoming wrong if my intense desire for these things causes me to sin, i.e., be envious of those who have this, etc.  (Wanting to have children to enjoy childhood again seems like an OK thing if that’s something that I like/enjoy/am good at, so nothing really wrong there!)
  2. We want children in order to become less selfish. Yes, I still do believe that having children is one path towards becoming less selfish, but just because you have children, it doesn’t follow that you’ll become less selfish.  There are plenty of stories of mom’s and dad’s out there that make you cringe with how selfish the parents are.  The biggest irony in wanting children to become less selfish, as my husband and I have discussed and we both agree, is that its not a good sign when your pursuit of children makes you selfish (since that’s what you’re trying to avoid!).  How awful is that!  I guess I’m saying that parenthood is not the only path to sainthood.  In fact, it seems the majority of saints weren’t parents (probably for a variety of reasons, but maybe one is because its that much harder!).  I should want to spend my money/time on others without being forced to! And to use children as your personal path to sainthood just doesn’t seem right, maybe since that’s an entirely utilitarian approach to something that seems so sacred.

Which brings me to my point. Partially through my involvement with the Ruth Institute and partially from my own experiences, I’m realizing that one of the most detrimental things we can do is treat children as commodities, in the same way that we treat our fertility as a commodity.  Children aren’t ours to create when we want because we just want themChildren are ours to accept – not demand – as gifts from God. It seems that viewing children as commodities is the same mentality that’s responsible for creating that weird possessive, controlling, hovering parent (as opposed to a parent that recognizes that they are merely a shepherd  guiding a soul in this life) and the “must-have-children-or-bust” infertile woman/couple (as opposed to someone struggling but still trying to accept their sub/infertility and/or other routes to parenthood).

We can’t think of children as accomplishing something for us, although they may sometimes and oftentimes do do awesome things for parents (and may play a part in helping them get to heaven), ultimately that’s not their main purpose.  A child’s purpose is to ultimately grow up to glorify God and find salvation through Him for themselves. In the same way that someone can use a boy/girlfriend or drug to fill a vacancy in themselves, we can use children.  I’m starting to really trust that if God requires me to have children to get to heaven, I will have them, biologically or adopted.  If not, I won’t, and I’ll find another way to serve Him.  God wants me in heaven, so, I should be at peace with either way.    I know I’m not there yet, but I hope one day I will be completely at peace with this because right now it still causes me a lot of anxiety.

Which brings me to my next point. I watched this video on CNN.com and words can’t really describe what I’m feeling.  A mixture of being angry, sad, disgusted and disheartened is probably close.  No one is entitled to children as they are a gift. But I do thank that video for helping me sit down and finally articulate why viewing children as commodities is so detrimental.  Such a slippery slope.

I’ve said it before, but I really do intend to post more on same-sex “marriage”.  Maybe I need some encouragement? :)

“Pseudo Marriage”

During my research for the forever “in process” marriage posts I just stumbled upon this already well written article that captures a lot of what I believe in/would like to share with others.

As always, I would like to say that my own renditions are still coming (see? I was doing research on it jsut now!) but until then, enjoy this post from over at Faith and Family Live by Rebecca Teti.

Let me know what you think!

That’s green-house gas coming out those diapers

Interesting opinion piece on the idea of equating births merely to carbon footprints.  Definitely goes against all traditional Catholic/christian thought. It reminded me of this T-shirt I saw once that said:

“I heart the pitter patter of little carbon footprints!”

Some excerpts:

“When Mr. Murtaugh runs the numbers, he finds some alarming results. Take an American woman who checks all the green boxes: She recycles, installs energy efficient windows, cuts back how much she drives, and so on. Yet simply by having two children, Prof. Murtaugh reports, she will add nearly 40 times the amount of carbon dioxide emissions she had saved with those lifestyle changes. No wonder the Los Angeles Times Web site reports on this study under the title “Tie Your Tubes and Save the Planet?””

and

“Little more than a week ago, two British doctors writing in the British Medical Journal made the same point—this time about British babies. Each new birth in the U.K., they note, will end up resulting in 160 times more greenhouse gas emissions than a new birth in Ethiopia.

Their conclusion? British couples need to be told that having one less child “is the simplest and biggest gift anyone can make” to a habitable planet. Britain, they suggest, needs to promote an “environmental ethics” where having fewer children is “analogous to avoiding patio heaters and high carbon cars.””

I’ve read articles arguing these points before but I like this conclusion and am impressed it ran in the mainstream media :)  There is hope!

“The real answer, of course, is to have a little more faith in the creative powers of human beings. Given the freedom to grow and innovate, surely the same people who have licked polio, sent a man to the moon, and given us a revolution in information will sooner or later come up with new technologies that will provide for our energy needs while being friendlier to the environment.

The task is not without its challenges. But we’re not likely to get far with a “science” that defines the problem as American babies.”

Women in Academia

An article entitled Is Having More Than 2 Children an Unspoken Taboo? the other day in the Chronicle of Higher Education caught my eye and I eagerly clicked on it as I thought “FINALLY, someones talking about this!”  In the academic world, it takes about 30 seconds to look around you and realize that, although toted for the “family friendly” environment, there’s really not that much of it going on.And for sure what women professors there are don’t have more than 3 kids.    Maybe its just my school.  I mean, my adviser was our department’s first female hire and since then there has been one more (with another starting this fall), and so far there are no kids.

In fact, at a “women in academia” luncheon sponsored by an aforementioned female professor, I brought up the issue of balancing having kids (*Note: not just having a family, but I meant the literal act of having the time to have a baby. We’re talking baby steps here!) and being a professor and I was met with basically silence.  This could have been due to a lack of personal experience by those particular people but that’s a typical response.  Either that or “Oh, it’s possible,” which is almost equally unhelpful.  And I guess I’m talking here about having kids in general, let about having more than two….

Maybe that’s why when my advisor asked me last spring if I could attend a conference for her this fall because she was DUE with her secret little bun in the oven, I was so excited.  Not just for the amazing opportunity to go to China again, but almost more so to have an actual, live example for me to personally interact with and see how one can “make it work.”  It’s like my own little science experiment!

Anyway, back to the article.  It features snippets from Dr. Rebecca R. Richards-Kortum, who is actually a female professor that I was fortuante to meet and talk with a few months ago.  I’d heard rumors that she had 4 kids and sure enough, when I looked up her profile online, not only does she have four children but she’s also in the National Academy of Engineering, which is pretty much the highest honor your can recieve in engineering.  Wow.  I shamelessly went to her talk pretty much just to snag her afterwards and talk about this.  I had to wait a while but it was worth it!  She seemed eager to share her experiences and give more details, but it was also just refreshing to actually meet someone who has similar goals aligned with me.  Sometimes its hard to envision the outcome when you can’t see it anywhere.  Never underestimate the power of a role model.

And for what its worth, I doubt many career mommies have large families, but I think the challenges of academia are particularly unique.  For those of you who don’t know, the average PhD. takes 4-5 years, plus a 1-2 year post-doc, and once landing a tenure track job (i.e., a professor job that, if you work hard enough, will become a guaranteed job for the rest of your working career) there is about 5-7 years more until you actually reach tenure.  Then you can relax.  An added stress for women is that from a biological standpoint, your prime baby-making years fall directly in the time that you need to be doing the most work and being the most productive.

I liked how this article went into the thought as to why there aren’t large families and why academics may stigmatize people that do.  It also didn’t paint a perfectly, rosy picture of what life would be like, and just told it like it is, which I value.  Some highlights:

“Women with many children are seen by their peers and supervisors as less than serious about their work in a profession that often expects nothing short of complete devotion.”

“In academia, the mind/body split is operative,” says Nicole Cooley, an associate professor of English at the City University of New York’s Queens College and a contributor to Mama Ph.D.: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life (Rutgers University Press, 2008). “Academia’s grounding in the clerical tradition means that a lot of your identity is your intellectual work, and you don’t sully yourself with domestic arrangements and bodily things.”

“Elisabeth R. Gruner, an associate professor of English at Richmond who contributed an essay to Mama Ph.D., says: “There is a distaste that you’d want to spend a lot of time with little kids — an idea that you may not be very smart.””

I just picked out the ones that made me think :)
At the end of the article they give some pointers:

  • Hire people to help you, particularly a good nanny who will (you hope) stay with you for a long time. “It took us awhile to figure out the difference between hiring people only when it was a crisis and hiring people just so we could have a reasonable life. That really isn’t a luxury.”
  • — Julie Pfeiffer, chairman of the English department at Hollins U., and mother of three

  • Be prepared for teenage children to occasionally need more of your personal attention than they did when they were babies. “You find out at day care about everything that happened to your baby that day: She didn’t drink all her bottle or her poop was a weird color. But nobody is telling you about your teenagers, that they got a 74 on their English midterm.”
  • — Rebecca R. Richards-Kortum, professor of bioengineering at Rice U., and mother of four

  • Establish a finely tuned on/off switch, turning off work when you’re home and vice versa. “You have to be able to turn the switch so you can focus on where you’re at.”
  • — Maryellen L. Giger, professor of radiology at the U. of Chicago, and mother of four

  • Live near your university. It means you are closer to your children when they are at home, and it shortens your commute. “We live two blocks off campus, and I’ve been biking to work for 14 years. My commute time is my exercise time.”
  • — Pamela C. Cosman, professor of electrical engineering at the U. of California at San Diego, and mother of four

  • Don’t stress over the details when it comes to how clean your house is or what the family is eating. “Macaroni and cheese and hot dogs is a perfectly fine dinner.”
  • — Ms. Richards-Kortum

  • Expect help from the people around you — your partner, your children, and your students — so that you don’t end up doing all the work yourself. “My children need to be self-sufficient. I’m not going to be asking, Did you do this, and did you do that? In my kitchen is a giant whiteboard calendar with activities for every day of the week, and every person’s stuff is color-coded.”
  • — April Hill, associate professor of biology at the U. of Richmond, and mother of three

  • Consider grading your assignments in bed, after the kids have gone to sleep. “It felt less like work.” — Ms. Pfeiffer
  • Be prepared to have little time to relax or to pursue interests outside your work or family — for a long time. “I don’t go to bars, we don’t entertain, we don’t go to the movies or the theater.”
  • — Emily R. Grosholz, professor of philosophy, African-American studies, and English at Pennsylvania State U.’s main campus, and mother of four

Eeshh!  That last one looks particularly enjoyable.   I also enjoyed reading the comments section on the other, particularly “Impatient”!

I guess at least knowing full well what I’m (possibly) getting into is the best preparation.  It’s better to find out now and know full well what it takes then to find out years later…