What's the BEST time to have a baby if you're in or hoping for a tenure-track position? : whenever you want to have a baby. I think all times are just about equally good or bad, depending on how much you enjoy stress and dramatic life changes.
One of the hardest phone calls I have ever made was calling up the chair of the department I was moving to and telling him that I'd be arriving with an infant. I was afraid that he'd think I wasn't serious and that I was not going to be a valuable addition to the department, and I was afraid that my chances for tenure were harmed, and so on.. But he was really great. He had kids, and lots of faculty at that time had very young children and babies, and he said he understood the importance of balancing family and career. My husband (who had moved to University #1 to be with me 4 months before our daughter was born) and I immediately put our baby-to-be on a waiting list for the child care center at University #2. The waiting list was at least a year, and in fact it was exactly a year before we got in.
What did we do that first year? For the first 6-7 months, we brought out daughter to work with us. We set up both our offices so that she could nap and play safely, and we both spent a lot of time holding her while working at a computer, with lots of breaks to walk around and play and go outside. We handed her back and forth between our offices depending on teaching and other commitments, and we were both given a light teaching load the first year so that we could set up our labs and take care of our daughter.
At about 7 months, we felt that our daughter was ready to play with other kids, but we still didn't have a place at the childcare center on campus. We explored lots of options -- in-home daycare, childcare centers etc. -- and toured some daycare places that were very sobering, they were so grim. Finally we found a nearby daycare center that seemed like a good place, and our daughter immediately loved the excitement of being around lots of other kids. She was fascinated by it all, and although we started her off at a few days/week, we quickly realized that she was very happy at daycare and would be fine at 5 days/week (though we tended to drop her off late and pick her up early because although it was a pretty good daycare center, it wasn't great).
Once we got into the university childcare center, life was a lot less stressful. The child care was superb and our daughter was healthy and happy. Having excellent, convenient child care was a major reason both my husband and I were able to settle into our new jobs and do well. I know these centers are expensive for universities to subsidize (and they aren't cheap for parents either), but they are so important for faculty, staff, and students, it makes sense for universities to invest in them. I wish our university would expand its child care center. The waiting list is now well over a year, and some people never even make it off the waiting list.
My husband and I have a somewhat strange schedule regarding work vs. family, but it has worked very well for us. We have one night a week that is family night (we are all home together), but my husband and I divide up the rest of the nights: he gets 3 nights, I get 3 nights. We can do whatever we want with 'our' night. Typically, we all have dinner together and both of us spend the early evening at home, up to the point where our daughter starts her going-to-bed activities (bath, reading, etc.). One of us stays home, and the other can go to the office/lab, do errands, work at home, or whatever.
There are just too many interruptions during the day for me to get everything done. Well, I will never get everything done -- there is an infinite amount to do -- but if I didn't work at night and some weekend afternoons, I would spend all my time on teaching and administration and never have enough time for research.
I also like that my husband and I both take care of our daughter. I have friends who have not had a night to themselves in 6+ years because their husbands wouldn't know how to take care of the kids alone. I can't imagine that. I travel fairly often, and people often ask me "Who's taking care of your daughter when you're away?". I think that question might well be the one my husband hates the most, as it rather strongly implies that he and all males are not capable of or willing to take care of their children. Wrong!
9 months ago