Query: Pregnant with an on-campus interview

A reader writes:

I am currently on the job market and am also pregnant with my first child. I am due in the late spring and the timing will be good in terms of starting a new position in August/September–”maternity leave” time will occur over the summer when I will not have teaching duties at my current position.

In terms of interviews, I will be well into and even possibly toward the end of my second trimester by the time flyout season comes along (assuming I have any flyouts!). Given my body shape/size, I suspect I might not appear identifiably pregnant until the bulk of flyouts are over. So my first instinct is to keep the fact that I am pregnant under wraps from search committee members, faculty, deans, etc. while on flyouts to avoid any conscious or unconscious bias.

However, I have to say I was not expecting pregnancy to be so taxing physically. The morning sickness is improving somewhat, but the second-trimester burst of energy I keep hearing about has definitely not happened for me (yet?). Just normal aspects of living (and I am lucky enough to not be teaching currently!) lately have me exhausted by 5 or 6pm.

I also in the last few weeks have started having what my partner calls “the pregnant lady walk.” I don’t know what it looks like from the outside, but internally I know I am walking strangely due to pains in my pelvis which runs down my inner thighs while walking or moving in any way. The pains (which my OB says are normal round ligament pain) get worse as the day goes on, the more walking and moving I do. I don’t mean to complain–they are completely bearable though annoying pains. But I imagine as the pregnancy progresses they will get worse. And in my experience, flyouts are very exhausting–10-12 hour days of interviewing, campus touring, standing while teaching a class, standing while presenting a paper, walking from building to building for meetings, etc. So I imagine myself on a flyout, limping from interview to interview after being dragged about campus on a walking tour and standing during a paper instead of sitting down for fear that sitting down (without explanation of being almost in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy) would create a bad impression. Thus I wonder if I am going to feel like crap on a flyout, if it is best to let the search committee no why I am sitting down or that I would prefer not to take a long tour of the campus and why. (So that I don’t appear uninterested or unprofessional.)

Any advice on what to do in such a situation? Is it better to tell my hosts what the situation is or keep mum and suck it up regarding the tiredness/uncomfortableness?

I haven’t been in the reader’s position, but I have been on a search committee in a similar situation, and like to think that a reasonably good search committee can accommodate the needs of others without  requiring detailed personal disclosure as to the reasons for accommodation.  My search committee chair emailed everyone we interviewed in advance, inviting their information as to accommodations we might provide with respect to our food, lodging, or schedule. (We didn’t ask *why* they might need, e.g., meatless food or a working elevator, we just asked if there were any accommodations they preferred to prearrange.)  One of the short-listed then showed up visibly pregnant, so it wasn’t a mystery why she noted a need for alternatives to caffeine and alcohol at meals, and inquired after the possibility of breaks at two-hour intervals and ready access to a restroom.  She neither hid, nor very much discussed, her reasons for requesting some accommodations, but then, nor did the man wearing the yarmulke or the woman with a cast on her leg.

7 thoughts on “Query: Pregnant with an on-campus interview

  1. My round ligament pain was awful for a few weeks but then improved dramatically! I hope yours does too!

    While there’s some advantage to not disclosing the pregnancy, I think in your case the disadvantages of not disclosing it are too high. Tell them directly, I say. But you can wait until when the visit s being planned. Maybe you’ll feel a lot better!

  2. The description of pain reminds me of Pelvic Symphisis Dysfunction which I had during my second pregnancy. It was a special kind of hell on earth.

  3. ProfBigK, not all search committees think ahead about accommodating bodily needs. I went on one memorable on-campus visit where the department had not arranged for me to have lunch. I figured out they had forgotten at 3:00 in the afternoon, and asked if it would be possible to eat.

    I too think the reader would be better off telling the search committee about her pregnancy before a flyout. It will give her an opportunity to be clear about her due date, and her plans for being ready to start work in August.

  4. Oh, totally agreed, Claire Horisk! I was explanabragging there, but also suggesting search committees *should*.

  5. Congratulations and best wishes for your birth and career as a parent. Commiserations that you are staring at such a bad job market at the same time. I have two thoughts:

    If you do tell your hosts that you are pregnant, you provide those who are sympathetic to both equitable treatment of job candidates (in the grander political sense) and just plain decent treatment of candidates (in the sense of basic accommodations while you’re on campus) the opportunity to make sure that you are treated well. There are always philosophers who are clueless about all this but in most departments SOMEONE is involved with the search who understands or can imagine what it would be like to be pregnant and doing a campus visit. And who also understands that saying things like, “but she’s about to have a baby. How will she cope with a job as well?” is verboten. If you let the department know, that person can step up.

    Informing the department ahead of time will also preempt any awkward backroom speculation about whether-or-not you’re pregnant. (Or perhaps just a person lacking in the vital energy + pee-holding ability that characterizes excellence in the profession? ) Note that (if my own experience is anything to go by) there may suddenly come a day when, having managed not to look very pregnant at all for about five months, you will wake up one morning with a huge baby bump. You wouldn’t want that day to be the day you fly out!

    Good luck.

  6. Interesting to see this very practical discussion of these issues. I’ve been blogging a bit this week about how the perception of parenthood affects the careers of men and women differently, but I hadn’t thought of things at quite the practical level that is taken up here!

    The motherhood penalty: It’s not children that slow mothers down http://wp.me/p1xS1Q-ph

    The fatherhood bonus: Have a child and advance your career http://wp.me/p1xS1Q-ps

  7. I went on the market in 2008-2009, and was about 7.5 months pregnant during the interviews. It was quite obvious I was pregnant, and I had to mention it because I was limited in the time I could do flyouts.

    Here’s the good news: while there may have been some implicit bias that affected my candidacy, there seemed to be much more general understanding and good will that outweighed it. It seemed like search committee members were taking their cue on how to respond to the pregnancy from me. When I acted like it was just not a big deal, many people seemed relieved and followed suit.

    Before the topic of being pregnant came up, there was strange kind of elephant-in-the-room feeling, where SCs knew they were not supposed to ask anything about this, and weren’t sure where those boundaries of appropriateness were. And there I was, quite clearly and obvious pregnant. When I simply raised the issue myself, in a nonproblematic way, it was then on the table for someone to ask nice, normal questions related to the pregnancy (things like, How are doing? Should we take a break here or are you okay walking for a while longer?). If you don’t raise it, there will be genuinely nice people who aren’t sure if you are okay with them asking questions like that, and it will mean they don’t offer accommodations that they otherwise might (like shorter campus tours on the flyouts – everyone wants to show you campus and wow that got exhausting, especially after full days of air travel).

    So – briefly raising the issue, so it wasn’t considered strictly off-limits, made a lot of things much easier and more humane. It is better than letting people wonder, if she really pregnant? or to make their own assumptions about what you might want or need but without asking you directly.

    Also: good luck!

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