Query: Pregnant PhD Applicant

An important query… My suspicion is that answers will vary tremendously depending on both location and institution. I’m pretty sure the query’s from the US, but I can at least comment on the UK. The body that awards funding in the UK, the AHRC, actually has an awesome maternity leave policy: Nine months at full pay (so, an additional nine months of funding for the PhD). But what about the US, readers?

I have completed all of my applications to doctoral programs in philosophy and I am waiting to hear back. Meanwhile, I just found out that my partner and I are four and a half weeks pregnant.

We are still in the decision phase about whether or not to go through with the pregnancy. I want to make an informed decision about this, so—in addition to mulling over our financial state (we’re both ‘in philosophy’ and our resources are fairly meager), our living situation, our health insurance (or lack thereof), the physical distance between us (I’m abroad on a research fellowship and my partner is still in the states)—I turn to you with the following questions: if I were to go through with the pregnancy my due date would be some time just after mid-September, I want to know how this pregnancy affects possible offers from doctoral programs.
– Would a program rescind an offer if a student is due during the first semester?
– Does a program rescind an offer if a student asks for a one-semester deferment because she wants ‘maternity leave’?
– Should a student inform programs of a change in the number of dependents before she has even been offered admission?
– Would a change in the number of dependents affect an admission decision (because it somehow affects funding?)?
– Do graduate programs offer health insurance for dependents? for spouses?

Pursuing a doctoral degree in philosophy is very important to me and it is something that I have been working towards for the last several years. In my decision-making process regarding this pregnancy, I would like to take into account how it will affect possible offers. Realistically, how do programs react toward this sort of thing?

I turn to you with the hope that perhaps you and your audience can offer some type of insight.

potential doctoral student/progenitor

26 thoughts on “Query: Pregnant PhD Applicant

  1. Dear pregnant p.h.d…..I hope the simplicity of this answer does not cause you to just brush over it. Your decision will be based on what you value most in life. If it is your degree then it is a no brainer, if it is life then that is a no brainer too. I know I haven’t directly answered the questions you asked .I guess the answer lies in what you believe of yourself. Were you born because it was conveniant for your mother and father to have you? Or did they sacrice or put their dreams on the side because they really wanted you there. True love involves sacrifice.You will sacrifice for your degree or you will sacrifice for your child../..hope this helps you …your freind Earl

  2. My US philosophy PhD program allowed me to take a year-long leave of absence (at my expense, no TAships retained) when my child was born. Many folks, esp well-meaning profs, told to me to postpone having a kid, in the spirit of “successful female PhD students don’t have kids.” It is a mildly insulting advise, I think. And btw, most male grad student in my cohort had kids or babies on the way (and profs openly praised them as dedicated fathers). Just saying.
    Don’t tell grad admissions committees about your pregnancy right now. Bring it up when you get admitted in order to discuss the best option for you. The vast majority of US colleges allow a grad student a leave of absence (typically one year) for a variety of reasons.

  3. I’m afraid I can’t offer any practical information, but I want to be a voice of support for responsible decision-making regarding reproduction. It is shameful how often women are belittled for making informed decisions that correctly regard parenting as one component of a life well lived. It is to everyone’s benefit for children to have mothers who are satisfied with their professional and intellectual lives. Your questions are vital and you are absolutely correct to ask them. Best wishes for whatever path you choose.

  4. I share Jender’s suspicion that the answers will vary according to institution and country, and so offer these comments with the caveat that they are probably not applicable.

    First, I empathize: I was pregnant when applying to graduate programs in philosophy — though due in late June, which made it at least possible for me to matriculate in September. I applied to just one program, and was fortunate enough to be offered admission. When I received the offer, I decided to accept but without a campus visit and without revealing the fact that I was pregnant. My position was basically that I wanted to keep the fact that I was a mother (of two) quiet, and wanted the faculty to think of me as first and foremost a philosopher, and second a person/mother, if at all.

    Despite the fact that the feminist side of me is cringing as I admit that I decided it was best to be viewed as a “non-person” (read: non-woman), I am also comfortable in saying that this was without doubt the best course of action. When I revealed that I had an infant at the end of a successful first semester by bringing her to a department party, I think the effect was precisely what I would’ve wished for: a little bit of grudging respect for the fact that I was able to manage both course work and motherhood, and a contingent tag added to my then-forming identity within the department (‘logician with unusual and probably incorrect but interesting or at least entertaining views who happens to have a newborn’, or something like that).

    Potential doctoral student/progenitor’s situation is slightly different in that she is due in September, not June. Although this does not logically imply that she’d need to take the first semester off, there are good pragmatic reasons to do so. And so she would presumably need to divulge the fact that she is expecting. (I say ‘presumably’ because there might be ways of taking personal leave or deferring admission for non-specified personal reasons.)

    With this in mind, here are a few comments (all from the U.S. perspective):

    1. I don’t *think* an institution would rescind an offer after discovering a student is due during the first semester — not just because it would be short-sighted (they have admitted her for a reason, and her philosophical abilities will not, in the long term, be impacted by her pregnancy), but also because a decision to rescind an offer after receiving information about a pregnancy would almost certainly be legally actionable. (I’m a philosopher, not an attorney; you should of course seek professional advice where appropriate.)

    2. Maternity leave for graduate students is almost unheard of at U.S. institutions. My alma mater (Yale) added a maternity leave policy in 2007ish — I can’t remember the exact details, but it offers something like 6-8 weeks of extra funding and an extra year to complete the dissertation (without funding). I took advantage of the extra funding, without taking time off. (The policy had a retroactive sort of clause, and the funding was tagged on to the end of the last year.) In mentioning the policy to colleagues at other institutions I formed the distinct impression that the Yale policy is unusual. Any policy is likely to be university-wide, or at least school-wide, so it would be easy to make an anonymous query about this via phone at the institutions you have applied to.

    3. Funding is, in my experience, based purely on academic performance, and not on an applicant’s need or other factors such as the number of dependents. In fact, I don’t remember filling out any financial forms — although I should re-iterate the fact that I only applied to one program, so my experience is likely irrelevant. And my memory is not reliable with respect to forms and other minutiae anyhow. Perhaps other readers have comments on this? In any case, for the purposes of things like insurance and taxes and so forth, a dependent is not a dependent until the date of birth. Anything can (unfortunately) happen during a pregnancy. So, even if there were some sort of financial forms, I see no need to declare an additional dependent at this point.

    4. Graduate programs in the U.S. do typically offer health insurance for the student, but the quality of this insurance varies hugely. At some institutions the insurance covers routine visits only through the university health center, which may or may not be what you want. You would also most likely want some consistency in the prenatal through delivery care. (When will you relocate? What sort of prenatal/delivery care do you want? Lots of things to think about — nothing insurmountable, but definitely details that need to be planned.) For most (but, as I understand it, not all) insurance providers, pregnancy is not considered a pre-existing condition, which should mean that the delivery would be covered. Again, best to research this independently once you have an offer.

    5. Graduate programs typically do *not* (in the U.S.) offer free insurance coverage for spouses, partners, or dependents — or, if they do, it is at some additional (albeit sometimes discounted) cost to the student.

    Good luck!

  5. Earl’s response made me think that it might be a far greater sacrifice to postpone child-bearing until “that fabulous TT job comes you way,” a standard advise. I can’t tell you how many academics have told me this! But TT jobs (or comfy renewable contract jobs) are so incredibly scarce nowadays that it is at least highly imprudent to hope to reach this sought-after safety-net for the baby-production stage. I’m glad I had my kid while still in grad school because my child is now a bit older, more independent (kindergarten is free!) and I can pursue multiple adjunct jobs while trying to publish and prepare for year three on the job market.

  6. I can’t speak to every university’s policies, but I know that at Northwestern a grad can get family leave for up to two quarters for the birth of a child. In addition to this, the university has nursing mothers rooms and a support group for grad mothers. (Alas no such group for fathers). Aid isn’t dependent on the number of people in your family, so I don’t see much reason to make mention of anyone in your household prior to being admitted. I’d also like to think that any program worth being in, isn’t going to make much of a deal out of the fact that you’re leading a typical adult life.

  7. Comment posted by me to preserve anonymity:

    Dear Earl,

    You’re right, you did not answer to posed questions. I posed these types of question to this type of forum with the hope that my colleagues can offer a certain type of insight, so I can make a more informed decision. My mother had me, I suppose, because she was desperate in trying to win back my father. She had little success. They had already been separated for several years by the time I was conceived. They are now, and have been my entire life, divorced.

    But personal matters aside, I think the dichotomization of the matter that you pose is interesting. What you wrote actually reminds me of the words my father just yesterday told me: “If you want to focus on your career, get an abortion.”

    This type of dichotomy reminds me of yonder paradigm where a woman has to choose between ‘having a career’ or ‘having a family’, where the two are mutually exclusive, and where a woman has to come at career-building ‘like a man’, that is, being free of having things come out of her uterus. I’m not so convinced of this type of dichotomy.

    What about a more trans- or poly-perspectival approach to establishing a career. What about an approach that seeks to defy the dichotomization of the public and private spheres, where man- and woman-like behaviors belong, respectively? What about saying, the career-experience ought to be open to the human experience––an experience that is inclusive of birthing instances. Why must I choose between ‘a degree’ or ‘a child’? And how come a man is not faced with the same decision in the same way? I know many of the male graduate students at my undergraduate institution had one, two, three children during the course of their studies––to my knowledge they were never asked to choose what they ‘loved’ more, a degree or a child.

    If I think about this in terms of the one-or-the-other dichotomy, then I merely perpetuate same type of thinking that has kept women outside of philosophy for so long…what type of thinking is that? It’s the good old boy’s club where only penises come to bat, and women are encouraged to not ‘throw like a girl’.

    I pose these questions to my colleagues because I am not convinced that these two aspects ought to be mutually exclusive. I pose these questions because my partner and I want to make a more informed decision.

    potential doctoral student/progenitor

  8. I’m not at a PhD granting institution, but at my institution students are allowed medical leaves or personal leaves so long as they have documentation of sufficient reason regardless of the semester they are to matriculate. This sort of info can usually be found in student handbooks, or the school catalog, which are often times online. I would look at the various institutions web sites.

  9. I’m very concerned about “Earl’s” leading comment. How did a pro-lifer manage to react so quickly? It would be interesting to hear from “Earl” what explains his rapid reaction. But, with any luck, he’s a single action troll.

  10. Hi potential doctoral student/progenitor,

    Thanks for sharing your questions and well done on your answer to Earl!

    I have not enough knowledge to offer details about grad program facilities over and above what Jender said. But I would echo other’s advice that I would just apply without mentioning anything, and then only bring it up after you’ve had your offer. And don’t feel bad about doing that!!!!! You are, up until September, just one person (even if a pregnant one!), and that is how you apply. It is none of their business. Besides, your male colleagues wouldn’t put it on their forms either.

    And I, too, strongly suspect that It would be very hard for a college to withdraw an offer upon finding you are pregnant. Yes, you might find some grumbling, but people always find something to grumble about – don’t let that hold you back – and you will have years ahead to blow people’s mind away (philosophically and by having them constantly wonder: ‘how the hell does she do it?’).

    A few other thoughts that may be helpful – maybe not. I just thought I’d write them.

    1) I don’t think that there is ever a particularly good time to have kids. Everyone always thinks that it will be ‘easier’ later on (more security, more money, more wisdom (????). But this overlooks other things: when you are younger you are likely to be stronger and healthier (this is quite important – pregnancy is hard work, as are small kids! – and too often overlooked). Also and you are less bound up in a cohort of overanxious competitive, each-other-guilty-making, perfectionsist, pretend-to-be supermoms. Instead you might find unexpected benefits: friends who have none of their own for years to come and would LOVE playing with your baby (and then you can go play with your philosophy books;).

    2) The PhD is hard work, but is is also a time of huge freedom and flexibility, which you will be unlikely to have later on in life. That can come in handy with kids. And they can add to your PhD as well as drain on it: the freedom and flexibility can be one of the hardest things about the PhD, because it can make it so hard to structure yourself. In that sense kids can be good as they give structure and purpose. You may find that you are working harder, more regularly, more evenly and more efficiently then your peers – coz they are working through the night, getting drunk and then having panick attacks during the day. And you may get a lot of respect (as well as face difficulties).

    3) A lot wil depend on your partner and how you arrange living arrangements and contributions. If you both make a genuine effort to be involved equally, you are really (beyond the maternity leave) in no other position than your male colleagues (provided they have equal partnerships too).

    4) If you’re going to go ahead with pregnancy and degree, don’t listen to anyone!!!! The biggest drain on motherhood is the constant social pressure put upon you by other people/magazines/etc. Just like we don’t have to look like Claudia Schiffer, we don’t have to tick an arbitrary list of ‘perfect mom’ boxes that has nothing to be with your personality. People do a great job raising kids all over the world in all sorts of financial circumstances and generally in the absence of maxi-cosis, ergonomic bottle tips and weekly baby-brain-class subscriptions. And many people completey screw it up amongst the, “objectively” considered “best” circumstances. If you decide to go ahead with this, the best mom for the your possibly future child will be you, just as you are – and that sounds like it will working hard for a PhD and asking intelligent questions. Don’t compare yourself to others, avoid television and magazines, and you’ll do awesomely!

    4) (THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT). Whatever decision you decide is right, is the right one. Take your time, find the info, listen to your heart, DON’T listen to fear, and whatever you decide will be the right thing. GOOD LUCK!!!!!

    ps I realise none of this has anything to do with the questions you ask. I am sorry. I do know several people that had kids during PhD and did really well (as in really really well), but that is all in the UK situation. I know little about the US. I do know someone who started a Master’s degree in philosophy only 8 weeks after giving birth. She did brilliantly!!!!

  11. I agree with a previous author that grad school may be a good time to have your child. I was in a similar situation, as discovered I was pregnant only 3 days after I heard I got accepted for a funded graduate position in philosophy. My partner and I decided to nevertheless go on with the pregnancy, and I didn’t regret this one single time. I am working in a European country that offers relatively little maternity leave, only 12 weeks, and I did not get an extra year to finish my PhD. Nevertheless, I managed to complete my PhD in the same allotted time as the other (all male) philosophers who started at the same time as me.
    My daughter is now 6 and goes to school. Since, I have obtained some postdoc positions and I am currently working very hard at my teaching and publications in order to secure a TT position. Indeed, we put off (perhaps postpone, perhaps put off altogether, we are not sure yet) having another child because of all this postdoc work. I work a lot harder now than in graduate school. If we had terminated the pregnancy, we would still not have any children (whereas now we have one who is absolutely adorable). Bottom line: there is no ideal time to have children when you’re in academia, and graduate school was an excellent timing for me. In fact, I found that having the child right at the beginning of my PhD study ideal, since she was already quite independent (4 years old) when those final months came up. I hope this helps.

  12. I just want to add my 2 cents and personal experience. I completely agree with potential doctoral student/progenitor that to have to choose between life and degree/career is a false dilemma; you CAN have both! I also had my first child while doing my PhD, but further on (at the end of my third year, with one more to go), which of course makes quite a difference (and it was entirely planned). I had a maternity leave of about 3 months, fully paid for. Of course, in your case it would be different, but as you’ve seen from other testimonies here, it can at least in principle be done.
    Another option, which might not be feasible but let me mention it anyway, is for you to wait one more year before you apply, if you and your partner decide that you really want to go ahead with the pregnancy. The first year as a graduate student, when you are still establishing your reputation at your department, can be quite stressful, and it *might* be advisable not to combine it with your first year as a mother (also quite a challenge, but in a completely different way).
    Hope this helps!

  13. while childless myself, i want to co-sign the folks above who say that grad school might actually be a good time to have a child, and that withdrawal of an offer upon discovering you’re pregnant might be actionable. i don’t think you are required to disclose these kind of details about your family unless you need a maternity leave, or just to start a semester late. it might be the case that you still receive your stipend anyway; that would depend on the program.

    and if you are a graduate student in the united states, while the health insurance offered you will most usually be more like that offered to the undergraduates than that offered to the faculty, you are eligible for health insurance through the national association of graduate and professional students. their insurance might not be much better, but it probably will be. and cheaper. i seem to remember prenatal care is covered, but check it out. spousal coverage sadly seems to almost always be prohibitively expensive. also bonus: eligibility for student loans, to get you through that semester off!

    best of luck with your decision!

  14. Follow your instincts on this. There’s good reason to believe that with a partner who acts as a full partner, a reasonable department and your intense labor, you can balance being a parent and a grad student. It’s certainly no more difficult than being a parent and an assistant professor. To my mind, both are necessary to being a person, and having a life. If you’re lucky, you’ll find other women on campus who have walked the path before you did, and who are willing to mentor–maybe even in the department.

    Then, when you’re a full professor or a dean, do your best to make these kinds of choices less difficult for the generation of grad students, male and female.

    Here’s something no one’s said. If you’re a good logician, philosophy needs you. If you’re a good scholar and a good professional, the university needs you. And if you’re a good professional, and a good person, the world needs you. I hope you’ll go for it.

  15. Just for your peace of mind, I would check out the parental leave and discrimination/harassment policies at the university you are considering. I know that ours explicitly forbids discrimination based on parental status. There are issues about practices of applying such policies, often they are focused on faculty and staff. But, good to know nevertheless. My school has no policy for parental leave for graduate students and postdocs (we are working on it). However, there are some departments that have internal practices that allow grad students funded maternity (not parental) leave. For legal reasons, these departments are not allowed to call it a policy. These departments are providing significant pressure on the university to develop such a policy.

  16. One thing to remember: if schools and departments really want access to the strongest students, it is simply imprudent to exclude women who choose to have children.

    If you are accepted to a department, they have decided that you are a good investment, period.

    I don’t know of any time during a career when it is easy to have children, but I know many very successful women philosophers who have children, and the profession is enriched by their presence.

    good luck!

  17. Assuming you go ahead with the pregnancy (and to this I say why not? If you want to have children in life, and you are already pregnant, it seems like a good idea), go ahead with your application as you had planned to do. No one knows what the future holds on any front. Assuming you get in to the program (or to more than one), and assuming your pregnancy continues successfully, a great option will be to defer your entrance into the program by one year. This is a viable option for you, for having a baby, and for having joy of all kinds in your life. It’s very hard to find a good time to have kids and also have a career in philosophy. Philosophy as a field is a difficult one to combine with having a family while being the “primary” caregiver or parent. Nonetheless being a philosopher is only one part of life. It’s important to have children if that is something that you feel is important to you in life. After you have children, you may see how unimportant philosophy is by comparison. Or you may find that it is not a problem to have one child and combine this with a career in philosophy. In any case, taking one year for a portion of your pregnancy and a small bit of time with your baby, will leave your career options intact.

  18. I’ve suddenly had a thought that I don’t think has been addressed yet. Quite a few departments have a period during which finalists visit them. I think these tend to be in May or June. Depending on how you feel about these things, and also on how you would be carrying the pregnancy, you might feel ill at ease, to say the least.

    I would hope that it is illegal to deny a grant to someone because she is pregnant. But lots of things are illegal and still done.

  19. Just a heads up: In the US, the deadline to accept an offer of admission for (most?) philosophy PhD programs is April 15th, so (most) visits are done in March or early April. Funding will already have been decided at that point (unless you visit off the waitlist) so hopefully the situation jj mentioned will be avoided in this case.

    Good luck with your decision!

  20. Greetings, all. It immediately struck me as quite illegal to request parental status on applications or withdraw acceptances based on parenthood, at least for any public institution in the USA. Private schools may be quite another thing.

    I remembered (correctly, as it turns out, hooray!) that the University of Wisconsin included both federal US nondiscrimination language on its website as well as its own policies — If you find info such as the following helpful, then check out the websites of the graduate schools you are considering; I found the right page with ease by simply typing “maternity” into the search bar of the school’s home page.



    1.Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. Prohibits treating a female applicant or employee differently from male applicant or employee on the basis of the female’s pregnancy or capacity to become pregnant. Amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    (SEE ALSO Sex, Federal: 4.Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as amended. This statue prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment, in educational programs and activities that receive assistance from the Federal government.)


    1.Chapter 111.36, Wisconsin Statutes, (Fair Employment Act). Prohibits discrimination against any woman on the basis of pregnancy childbirth, maternity leave or related medical conditions.

    2.Chapter 36.12, Wisconsin Statutes, provides that, “no student may be denied admission to, participation in or the benefits of, or discriminated against in any service, program, course or facility of the UW System because of the student’s race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status or parental status.”

  21. Hi Everyone,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I’ve started researching and compiling data regarding resources and policies with respect to phds who undergo childbirth or adoption while a doctoral student.

    As already pointed out, these policies vary widely from school to school where some schools already have support policies in place to other schools who have but a few scant words (such as “a leave of absence is granted on a case-by-case basis for compelling reasons including the birth or adoption of a child”) on a Leave of Absence form.

    Graduate Student Parent Accommodation Policies: Such policies enable a student to take time off without risking losing funding, graduate student housing, health insurance, while making accommodations for time-to-degree, and timeline-adjustments for qualifying exams. In some cases, child-care subsidies are also available. Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and MIT, are among the universities that I have found, which offer the best grad student parent support policies.

    Leaves of Absence/No Policies: With no support policies in tact, students might be forced to request a Leave of Absence, a ridiculous option that might leave the graduate student without health insurance, grad housing, and funding. In some cases, the time-to-degree clock might still be running. Also, if a university lacks a graduate student parental support policy, it might also be pretty likely that said university will offer little in the way of child care subsidies and affordable health insurance. Among some of the universities who made little-to-no reference regarding graduate student parental leave support are CUNY Grad Center, Stony Brook, Boston U, Marquette (which seems a little odd given that it is a Catholic University), University of Arizona, and UC Riverside.

    Child-care: I had not thought about this but from what I gather this can be one of the most costly aspects of parenting while phding (or parenting while working in any field, I suppose). Make sure to inquire whether or not your university offers child-care subsidies. These could slash your child-care expenses in half––an important detail, especially since child-care could run up to $3000 per month in some major cities.

    Health Care: Make sure you’re health insurance extends towards dependents. Back in 2003, for example, a report on health insurance for dependents of Yale Graduate Students was released: students most often had to apply for state-provided, low-income health insurance (called HUSKY) for their children because the health insurance premium available to grad students through Yale was simply way beyond a graduate student’s income. Because of waiting lists for such health care options, some grad students had to have their children go uninsured for some months. (See http://www.yaleunions.org/geso/reports/BabyBlue.pdf for that report.) In 2007, Yale totally revamped their support system for graduate student parents and it looks like they have dramatically improved the quality of support.

    Potential and current graduate students comprise a diverse population. Universities who offer graduate student parental support policies increase their own access to the best students by maintaing a framework work where graduate students of all types–male or female, single or partnered, with or without children–can excel. Furthermore, without such policies in place a female graduate student who becomes pregnant is left to choose between continuing studies/research uninterrupted, or interrupting her doctoral trajectory by taking a Leave of Absence for child birth (which in most cases, paralyzes student status and therefore removes access to the wide arrange of resources that make living on a graduate student income possible).

    A lack of grad student parent support framework reveals an implicit bias against women at the institutional (top-down) level, since women are the ones who must endure the physical demands of a child birth. If a university maintains a support policy, then a female grad student can receive accommodation for child birth while still completing her doctoral studies/research in a seamless manner. If a university does not maintain such policies, the student is forced into a false dilemma where she has to choose between giving birth and interrupting her graduate student status, or continuing her doctoral trajectory in a seamless manner. But there IS a third option: a women can do both under the right conditions and with the right accommodations.

    One final note: Before last week’s transvaginal sonogram, I would have never thought about researching these types of policies. Even if my parter and I don’t go through with this pregnancy, I am now well aware of the types of graduate student life resources I should inquire about if I get accepted anywhere. I am saddened that one of my top two choices offers some information on child care, no information on a grad parent accommodation policy, and does not offer family housing. At 29 years old, I might be close to 37 by the time I finish. It would have been more than awkward to end up at a place, get pregnant in my fourth year, and then find out that there are absolutely no resources available to my child (as relayed by some on forums like The Chronicle’s).

    Lastly: In my search for program information regarding these issues, I have compiled a google spread sheet with grad student parent policies (or lack thereof), info on child care and subsidies (or lack thereof), and info on health insurance (or lack thereof). I hope that future female graduate students in philosophy and other fields find it useful. There are currently about 20 American universities listed (some I actively searched for, others I just happened upon). I might add more as I find more information. The spreadsheet is public and you do not need to sign in in order to edit it or add to it. If you have updated info, a program you want to add, or change it for the better, by all means please do. Graduate Student Parental Leave Policies: https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AtwpfFMXjQc1dHkzam40QnRkOFRnR3Z0eVFsWnhmN1E&hl=en
    Or, if you’d like to shoot me the info my email (just for these purposes) is phdwhileparenting [at] googlemail [dot] com.

    Thanks again everyone. I’m glad there is a place where encouraging and informative collaboration can take place.

    Fingers Crossed on All Fronts,
    potential doctoral student/progenitor

  22. I can speak for UNC’s philosophy program when I say that under no circumstances would we rescind an offer to someone because she is pregnant. I’m Director of Graduate Admissions, so I know what I’m talking about. Frankly, I would be amazed if any graduate program would do such a thing—and if it did, such a program must have such a woman-unfriendly climate that it would be a mistake to go there anyway.

  23. Potential doctoral student/progenitor: a very impressive spreadsheet — good work! I hope Leiter picks this data up and encourages programs to self-report on parental leave, child care support, and insurance options. Not only would it be useful for prospective students, but it might also encourage DGS and Chairs to think about ways to expand the support available at particular institutions.

    On the question of when/whether is the “best” time in a career or life to have children: I was advised in my early 20s by a couple of close mentors that it would be best to have children in grad school because the time demands (of racing the tenure clock, of publishing, of service and teaching) are greater for junior faculty than for graduate students, and because most women are in their mid-to-late 30s, or older, by the time they become (if they become) full professors. I had just decided to leave graduate school at the time due to gender-based problems with my primary advisor. So I got married and had my first child. When I returned to philosophy some 10 years later, I was in my 30s. My husband and I wanted another child, but I didn’t want to be pregnant while attending classes grad school; I figured it’d be tough enough to be slightly older than average. We decided to time the pregnancy so that I’d have the baby in June, take the summer off, and then start grad school in the fall. (Obviously I was ridiculously lucky to be able to do this, among other things.) I am now in the 4th year of a TT position, applying for tenure this year, and just had my 3rd and last child on the same sort of schedule last summer. In other words, I have an 18 year old, a 7 year old, and a newborn, each of whom were born at very different times in my career and life.

    Because I’m in the unusual position of having had children in my 20s, 30s, and 40s, and as a non-philosopher, a philosophy grad student and a junior faculty member, I sometimes get asked what the “best” time to have children is. As alpha suggested above, there really isn’t any particular time that is clearly better. There are so many factors that can vary from person to person, pregnancy to pregnancy, institution to institution — and so many pros and cons and arguments both for and against waiting. Consider the challenges of breastfeeding, for example: graduate students typically don’t travel much, at least early in the program, and so it’s much easier to have a baby as a grad student because you don’t have to worry about travel and breastfeeding, etc. On the other hand, at many universities graduate students have difficulty finding a private place to express, whereas junior faculty members often have their own office. Or consider the more general question of whether it’s better to be a parent earlier in life. You’re only young once, and it’s nice to have some freedom in your 20s. On the other hand, pregnancy is tough on the body and the chances of abnormalities go up exponentially as you age, so from a purely biological point of view it makes sense to have children sooner. Etc.

    The only piece of advice I offer to prospective philosopher-parents is this: make sure you’ve got the resources for child care, and an extremely supportive partner/friend/family member. Prospective doctoral student/progenitor is absolutely correct in saying that full-time child care for young children can be very expensive. In our area (Connecticut), it runs between $15k and $20k per year. And that’s just for the basic time you’ll need to attend or teach classes. Add the long late hours doing research and things like conferences and colloquia, and you’re going to need someone who can occasionally step in to give you a few hours here and there to sleep, exercise, laugh and enjoy life.

    I wouldn’t trade the time I’ve had with my kids for any amount of philosophizing — in fact, having kids is what has helped give my life the shape and balance (perhaps even purpose) that I need for some modicum of sanity — but I’d be the first to say that balancing a PhD and now work with a newborn wouldn’t be possible without the support of my husband. I am also exceptionally lucky — not just because I happen to have three beautiful daughters, was accepted to the only program I applied to, and was able to get a job in this crazy market — but also because my mother happens to own three child care centers and a preschool in the town we live in, so I’ve got a wide range of choices for high-quality, free child care.

    Luck is important in any endeavor — but the closer you are to the threshold of the possible, the more luck you’ll need.

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