Career in science and motherhood


I am coming to the end of my phd and making the decision about whether to stay in science (medical genetics). I love what I do but worry about how it is going to fit into my life. I will be 26/27 when I finish my PhD and by 30 want to start having children. If I get a postdoc position how can I fit in having children? Can you take maternity leave/further time off during a postdoc or after? If I put my career on hold, can I ever go back? What are the chances of me having a permanent position within 3years of finishing my PhD, hence being in a good position to take time off?

I am worried that I will put in lots of effort over the next few years in a post-doc position, only to find when I have children, I leave science and can't get back to it. If that is the case, I think I should be finding an alternative career now.

I have tried to find information on how women manage a family and an academic science career and can't find anything. If anyone knows of such resources I would be grateful.


I did Computer Science and I'm a woman.. but probably on the other side of the fence to you as never want kids.. and if I did.. I would want the bloke to stay at home and raise them as I think it's a bit crap spending *so* much time and effort getting a PhD, just to drop out of the workforce for a few years.

My friends parents.. both have PhD's.. she was out of the workforce for 4 years before trying to come back.. what does she do now? Manager at Supermarket as no research lab would touch her as the research had moved on so much, so fast..


Out of interest.. why don't you.. when / if you have kids.. JUST take maternity leave and your partner can raise the children at home?


It depends on whether bluetooth's partner has a phd and whether they are willing to give up/take time out of their postdoc or career.
Have you thought about taking statutory maternity leave to which you are entitled and then looking at daycare thereafter?
I know daycare can take quite a lot of your wages before you've even seen them, but if it means keeping your career, I think its worth considering.


wow bit of a bleak perspective there PC_Geek. I know in academia having kids is some crazy taboo, but I think if you keep your connections with your supervisor/department and friends you've made along the way you should be able to drift back in. I think most job opportunities are based on 'who you know' as well as academic achievement.
Also any post doc supervisor's main concern is about losing funding more than anything, If you start a post doc and find yourself pregnant within a week you can see how they may be peeved. Speak to your supervisor when you are ready to start a family I'm sure a compromise can be reached.
And remember having kids is supposed to be a great experience, enjoy it! don't get so wound up about your career prospects that you miss out!


Well, when I was doing research I found it quite difficult to combine the two, partly because my work involved being available at the drop of a hat when specimens arrived (being hospital based there was no chance of knowing in advance when a piece of 'interesting' material would arrive, and at least 30% of the time it was in the middle of the night). It was also partly due to the male dominated nature of the work, they just didn't understand, my prof had to wait to get funding for me, because, as he put it, he wanted me to work with him, but he wanted to get a man in place first not something he would get away with now, well he might but it would have to be more subtle. So I suppose it depends upon how much juggling you would be prepared to do, and, I'm afraid to say, how the department views women with children working, which is still a sad, but unfortunate aspect of working in a male dominated area that you have to take into account.


I am in the same dilemma. I actually want to have kids i the middle of my PhD. I start in oct,and my PhD is for 4yrs. I was wondering if I can have a baby in yr 2, and if so will I be payed maternity leave or will I be penalised for this



Does your institution have some kind of careers department or "women in science" representative you can speak to? I'm in a similar position to you, in terms of how old I will 4 years after my PhD starts, and in terms of when I would like to have children. I met the womens' careers rep in my college in a different context and she actively encouraged me to go to see her because of the difficulty that the place I am studying has in retaining female staff beyond post-doc level.

So there is support out there



simuzosha, it depends on who your funder is. british funding sources in general won't pay you even maternity leave, as your funding is not a wage but a studentship. you are thus not entitled to anything. either you keep working full time on your PhD (and keep being paid) or you interrupt your PhD AND your studentship in order to take it up again later. you could try not interrupting your studentship and hope that you will finish within the funded time slot anyway, but if you don't finish, you won't get extensions - maternity is not a cause for claiming extensions (only for claiming interruptions). that's what i understood, anyway, maybe others have better knowledge. at the end of the day, it is up to your funder, so check with them (check the "contract" you signed).

'PhD students receiving a stipend from a doctoral training grant are entitled to receive a stipend during maternity leave in line with statutory maternity provision. They should also have their studentships extended by a corresponding length of time.'


and there is some more information here:-§ioncode=26
It does seem to depend on your instution exactly what they offer.


'And remember having kids is supposed to be a great experience, enjoy it! don't get so wound up about your career prospects that you miss out! '

Not everyone wants kids though... that's why I wrote in my post 'as I never want kids' ...

However, you're right about keeping good links with people and I don't think my friends Mother did this.. so it might be a very valuable thing for Bluetooth to look into.

My post might be 'bleak'.. but I don't think having kids and combining that with a career is all chocolate boxes, roses and smiley faces.. I think it's hard enough being a parent, let alone a parent who works *and* does the majority of child care (and let's be honest.. it's *usually* the woman who does more than 50%)...

Yes, it can work.. but it can,and probably will be very, very tough.. hence why maybe it's a good idea to have 'Bleak' Vs 'Positive' .. least she can see two sides of the coin and make her own educated decision


'It depends on whether bluetooth's partner has a phd and whether they are willing to give up/take time out of their postdoc or career.'

If they weren't willing to take time out of their career.. personally I wouldn't have kids with them as that's kinda like saying 'My career / Postdoc is more important than yours', surely?...

Having kids should be a compromise and I have sadly seen so, so many women being the ones to make ALL the sacrifices because they seem to want a child so much...

One of my friends accidentally got preggers in the 2nd year of her PhD... she decided to keep the kid.. she dropped out.. her boyfriend carried on with his..

Now they have split.. she is a single mother, no PhD... no job.. he's got his and has just been offered a Postdoc in Nueral Networks.. he doesn't even see the kid..


Hey bluetooth,
I'm the youngest of three, my parents both did PhDs and went into academia - both of them started their doctorates when I was a small child and my older brother and sister were in primary school but they managed fine.


Thanks for all the advice. I guess I always thought I would want to be an hands-on mum and be around as much as possible for my kids, especially in their early lives. So I would really need to be in a job that allowed a short break, plus coming back part time/working from home perhaps. Is this AT ALL possible? Or am I kidding myself, and should I get myself down to the careers centre to find a new career?