Tuesday, November 03, 2009

On Kidlessness

Yesterday's post contains some interesting data that the author of the survey will no doubt have fun contemplating and interpreting, keeping in mind of course the limitations of such surveys and the inferred demographics of this particular blog's readership. I will not summarize the data -- though I hope we will get a summary eventually! -- but I will note that I found it interesting that the majority of respondents are women (not surprising) with no children (perhaps also not surprising, depending on the reason for the lack of children).

There is no information about age of respondent, but would it be safe to assume that many (most?) of my readers -- or at least the survey respondents -- are at an early career stage and are childless now but plan/hope eventually to have children? Or do the data indicate an inclination towards childlessness, at least among this subset of female scientists and engineers?

At the risk of upsetting my ethically inclined bio-colleagues with another survey, I hope that some of the childless respondents from yesterday (female and male), or anyone willing to share their personal data, will leave a comment today that completes this sentence:

I am [female/male] and I do not have children because.. [rest of sentence].

..in which [rest of sentence] might indicate age/relationship status and/or might indicate whether you eventually would like children, whether you would like to but don't feel you can because of career issues, whether you just don't want to have kids (by choice), whether you think it has nothing to do with career issues, or whatever else is relevant to your life.

If I were answering a survey like this at any time before I was in my early 30s, I would have answered that I had no children because I didn't want any. It wasn't because I didn't think I could balance career and family, I just wasn't interested in being a mother. And then I was interested, had a kid, and have always been very happy that I did. Go figure.

194 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am male and have no children because of a bunch of complicated problems that have absolutely zilch to do with work. Suffice it to say that my wife and I would be delighted if we had the problem of trying to balance kids and career.

(Whenever I say this somebody tries to "help" by saying "They do wonderful things with fertility treatments these days." Nope, nothing to do with that, far more complicated, but I hope that adoption works out some day.)

Miss Outlier said...

I am female and I do not have children because I am only 22 (as of today - yay!) and single.

brooklebee said...

I am female and I do not have children because I am too young and irresponsible (23, grad student). I do want at least one in 5-10 years, but we'll see.

kamikaze said...

I am female, and I do not have children because I never desperately wanted them and having them has never been convenient. I am about to defend my PhD and I am working as a post doc, meaning short contracts and not really knowing where I will be next. I live with my boyfriend (we are scandinavian, so we're like a married US couple), so remove the job situation and children would be convenient.

If I really wanted a child, I would have one. I think it is rather like, I didn't even consider it because I didn't have time. That is an imbalance due to my job, but I'm not sure if it is a negative one for me, really.

Anonymous said...

Female, early 30s, early career, no kids for the same reason that you wrote about yourself when you were my age.

I'll probably get flamed and attacked by others for for saying this, but I think there are many women (and men too, but mostly women) who secretly prefer to not have children, ever, but eventually societal pressure and the judgment of others gets to them and they feel - because society and their friends and family all tell them over and over again - that they are not normal or fulfilled unless they have offspring. So they become parents, and then they do find fulfillment because they "have" to (it would be evil to say that one would have preferred to not become a parent when one already is.)

[Yes it is perfectly normal and natural to want to have offspring - all organisms have a innate desire to reproduce. But not every member of a species conforms to every trait. it is also normal to have variation in traits within a population, and isn't the desire to reproduce just one of those traits.]

Anonymous said...

I am female science professor and do not have children because my pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.

Jams.n.Tones said...

I am female and I don't have children because I'm 22 and single. I would love children in the future, and at this stage I certainly intend to continue in my science career while I raise kids.

I'm hoping to find a partner who can support me in this... my ex, who I was with for three years, would often make the odd remark revealing that when children come along, he expected to be the breadwinner, and expected me to set aside my career for children.

It always irritated me a little, but I figured that this situation would seem the norm to him since his mother was a stay-at-home parent. I always corrected him as well, with a quick "excuse me, but I don't intend to ditch a career that I love..."

Anonymous said...

I am male and I do not have children because babies are expensive and noisy....

Anonymous said...

I am female and I do not have children, because despite efforts me and my husband have not been able to get any.

PhizzleDizzle said...

I am female and I don't have any children because I don't want any (at the moment, don't know about later).

Mountainmums said...

I am female and I do not have kids because I don't want any. To clarify, I'm in my mid thirties and I've already gone through the "urge" to have kids, especially since everybody around me is having them. I've thought about it a lot, but it turns out there are a whole lot of things I want more than kids.

muddled grad student said...

I am female and I do not have children because,I'm 26/unmarried - cant even imagine children in my current circumstances.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

I am male and I do not have children because my memory of my own behavior as a child and teenager is extremely vivid.

Becky said...

I am female and I do not have children because I don't really want to have kids. I'm also still in my early twenties, so maybe I'll want some when I'm older.

quasarpulse said...

I am female and I do not have kids because I'm still a student. Also, my husband doesn't want them. Some aspect of the previous sentence is likely to change in the future.

Anonymous said...

I did not post my answers for the student's survey, but I would have also answered "0" children. I am in a long-term relationship and would like to have kids, and for me the question of having kids is clearly linked to my career ambitions in academia (I am just finishing my PhD, so I am at the beginning of the journey). My partner is generally supportive of my career choice, but he also has career ambitions on his own. I am not sure whether it is possible to have a child/children and still have a successful career in academia as a woman. I suppose FSP and many other women show that indeed it can be done, but I am a worrier and always think about "what if the child is not healthy etc", the issue of the biological clock ticking and general relationship issues (living in two places, for instances). I have seen friends/colleagues who have had children and their careers have suffered massively. So, to me it does seem at some level, it is a question of either career OR family.

Anonymous said...

I am female, I don't have kids yet, but I would like them (and soon). I am tenure track at a research I school and I do worry (a lot) about balancing kiddies with my two-body husband and our crazy jobs.

Anonymous said...

Mid-thirties, no children, no interest or intention. In a relationship with another hard-working scientist without kids. Definitely feel as though I would not get done what I wanted to professionally if I did have kids, and also value free time spent on travel and artistic pursuits. About half the female science/engineering faculty I know at my institution are childfree.

Jamie Bougher said...

I am female and I do not have children because I do not want any. I'm currently in my grad student stage, but I do not foresee children in my life. I have enough trouble managing my time and stress level with a puppy in the house. An actual human being might kill me. Plus my husband is in the Army and that just makes it worse because he has no option for flexibility that would allow him to do the caretaker work. He doesn't want kids either.

Anonymous said...

I would expect kidlessness, whether in the young or the post-kid stage, gies people more time to read blogs and fill out a questionnaire. So the respondents are not a cross section of the population.

ChemProf (who didn't fill out the survey and has grown kids)

Anonymous said...

I am male and I do not have children because I have not been able to convince a girl as yet that my genes are worth passing over to the next generation.

A Life Long Scholar said...

I have no children because 1) I feel it is a bad idea to add more people to a planet already suffering serious consequences from human over-population 2) I've never wanted them and still don't (I'm 42 now) 3) The concept of pregnancy, labour, and delivery and the dangers therof both gross me out and terrify me 4) I like the freedom to set my own schedule and move to new countries when I like without taking into considerations the needs of a dependant.

Anonymous said...

I am female (and over 35) and I do not have children because I do not want any (and have never wanted any).

Kate said...

I emailed yesterday, but I wanted to comment today, even though I HAVE kids.

I am female and I have 2 kids. (I'm 30, if you're wondering). I'm an asst prof at small liberal arts college.

Anonymous said...

I am female, 40 years old, and married. We want children but do not have any. My husband and I met in graduate school and were in a long-distance relationship for several years during our post-docs. We finally got married when we had one permanent job and a geographically-flexible postdoc position between us. After several years of trying to have a child on our own, we have given up and are trying to adopt. It is frustrating that now that we are settled and have two family-friendly permanent positions, it is so hard to start a family.

Pippin, the Gentle Pup said...

I am female and I don't have children because neither I nor my partner wanted to have any.

Anonymous said...

FSP, I just posted an anonymous comment in response to the previous post in which I said that I have 3 living children. I didn't read the other comments, but I suspect that narrows things down quite a bit.

May I respectfully suggest that there may be a selection bias operating? That is, women with multiple children in academia, especially with young children and at an early stage of their careers, are too busy to read blogs regularly? :) I just happened to have been browsing while trying to clear the baby-related sleep-deprivation fog from my head, but the very few women I know in my situation almost literally have no time for anything but work, family, sleep.

FOr what it's worth, I have always wanted to be a scientist. (You know that silly furor over how Obama had written about wanting to be president while in kindergarten? Well, I really did write about wanting to be a scientist in kindergarten.) Also, I have always wanted to be a mother to several children.

There is no question that four pregnancies (2 during grad school, 2 as a postdoc; 3 living children and a set of twins who were stillborn, to our complete devastation) and their aftermaths have taken a tremendous toll on my body, and the work-life balance can be profoundly stressful. On most of the difficult days, I can remind myself what I love about both parts of my life, but there are times when I feel that I'm trying to be superwoman and failing at everything. (Commenting on a blog as a form of therapy - who knew?) I try to remind myself that these feelings are probably common to any mom of several children with a busy career. My older kids are lovely little people who don't seem to have suffered ill effects so far, and the baby is too little to really say whether my career has impacted him.

But it can be done, and for me, it is SO worth it, except in occasional overly-stressed sleep-deprived moments, and once when my 2nd child was chronically ill and I seriously considered quitting grad school for her sake. I love being with my kids, and I love my work, and i know that I am so fortunate to have all of these things plus a wonderful husband.

Or perhaps I should reserve judgment as to whether or not it can be done until I have tenure? :)

Anonymous said...

I am female (mid-career) and I do not have children because I never had any interest whatsoever in doing so. I also wonder why it's so common to ask why some does not have or is not planning to have kids, but not why someone has, or wants, kids. In theory, "You'll change your mind" could go both ways.

Anonymous said...

I am female, in my early 30s, and I do not have children nor do I feel a desire to have them at this point in time. I come up for tenure in psychology next year, and I just can't think about about adding the amount of energy and work and pain that it takes to birth and raise a child to my work load. Moreover, I did not have any role models of working moms growing up, and none of my mentors have ever been female, so having a kid while being a tenure track academic seems impossible.

DisgruntledFemalePostdoc said...

I'm childless (and > 30) because
1.) I don't want any
2.) even if I wanted, with my current career I can't even take care of a potted plant (the last one died during my latest work trip, may it RIP)
3.) the same is true for relationships, i.e. I went through a couple unrelated manifestations of the infamous two-body problem.

Anu said...

I am female, childless because I am only 23 and a graduate student. I am in a relationship and have not decided on the children issue, but am inclined towards it.

Anonymous said...

I didn't manage to fill in yesterdays, but for today
I'm 32, female, one child, hope to have more on day.

Anonymous said...

An anon...

I am male and I do not have children because it just hasn't happened yet. I am in my late 20s and married to another PhD candidate. We want children (only as of a couple months ago) but her PI has made it clear that a baby is not an option. Actually this PI made it clear that it shouldn't be an option in her postdoc either, which means we have at least 3.5-4 years before we are supposed to entertain the subject again. By then I will be back in an industry job, but she will be on tenure track (knock on wood) which seems like a bad time to get started. I feel sad about this fact everyday (as does Spouse), but not having children right now seems like the only way to stay on a good career track (specifically for her).

sarcozona said...

I am a 24 year old women and I don't have children because I believe it's irresponsible (environmentally, ethically) to have a child unless you really really really really want one. And I don't.

Plus, I'm a poor college student and a lesbian and I don't have health insurance.

Anonymous said...

I am a female and I have no children. After graduate school and post-doc wages, we can not afford to. I want children, but trying to afford child care while I'm a post-doc is not possible.

Anonymous said...

I am married, female and I do not have children because I am infertile.

Laura E. Mariani said...

I am female and I do not have children because I'm currently a 25-year-old unmarried second-year graduate student. I have been with my current partner for about 5 years, and we have made general plans to start our own family in the future, but it hasn't happened yet.

I'm working on creating more family-friendly policies at my graduate institution, so that if we do decide to have kids before I graduate, there will be some official support for us (and other student parents).

MGS said...

I am female and I do not have children because my husband and I are both not interested in having children and I don't think I personally can achieve my research/academic goals *and* be a mother (though other women do it all the time).

Anonymous said...

Maybe all of us who have kids were too busy recovering from Halloween to take the time to complete the survey. I know I was.

Avery said...

I am female and I do not have children because I don't think I want any, and I know that I won't be able to figure it out while I'm continuously busy and stressed during graduate school.

chall said...

I am female and I do not have children because I haven't seen it working with my science and job (post doc). Plus I am living abroad with no family close by and US isn't the childfriendliess place (imho) when you are science and working (and I don't want to be a stay at home mother).

so far it has felt as a career vs motherhood. In future, guess it might depend more on the view of the SO?

laura said...

I am female and I do not have children because I'm not sure I want any. I'm 29 years old doing a postdoc and married, but I don't feel like I'm at a spot in my life to have kids... I don't feel responsible enough (which I partially attribute to the grad school process and continually being a student).

Hypatia said...

I am 29 and female. My partner and I do not yet have children because I am starting graduate school next year and don't think that I, personally, do both at once. I know that many do, and I admire them immensely.

Anonymous said...

I am female and I do not have children because my husband and I aren't ready to have kids for financial reasons, though we are definitely going to have them. We are both in our mid-20's.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any children now but we are planning to when my husband also gets tenure (at this point of our careers our lives are completely crazy and we wouldn't be able to take care of a cat).

Anita

Anonymous said...

I am [female] and I have no kids because I found childhood boring and frustrating the first time around, and have no desire to have to experience it again in any form.

Kristy said...

I am female and I do not have children because I am 24 and a grad student. I'm far too broke to reproduce. I am married but right now having a family isn't a priority. I would say that if I did want to have kids, I would be torn. I'm very dedicated to my career and feel like it would be difficult to schedule in children. Though I imagine I may consider having a kid or two in my last year of grad school or maybe while a post-doc.

Anonymous said...

I am a male postdoc, 31, and I do not have kids because I feel it would be unfair to bring the kid in this world when the parents do not have a stable career. And yes, we definitely want to have kids, but with postdoc job and the meager salary it comes with, I just feel not ready. If you ask me where will you be this time next year, my response would be: "Umm, I have no idea."

I guess, with an academic career one becomes a parent much later in the life compared with other professions.

Bob in Boston said...

I am male and I do not have children because I only recently found someone that I would be willing to have children with. I'm 33, and a new assistant professor of physics. The fiancee is 28 and in industry. We'll probably start the kid thing in a few years. I don't know how work-life balance will work; my close friends in similar situations both have nannies.

alh said...

I am female, and I do not have any children because we have not yet solved the two body problem.

The longer explanation: my husband doesn't feel he's ready (I am a TT prof, year 2, age 31). He's been unemployed for over a year. Having a child when we might uproot again doesn't seem like a good idea, but we get a little closer every year :)

Anonymous said...

I am female and 38 years old. I got married for the first time last year to another professor. We have not yet been able to get pregnant. I hope it's not too late but am starting to despair. I would have adopted a few years ago, but on what I used to make as an adjunct, I couldn't afford to raise a child. Now that I have a tenure track job and can afford to have a baby, it may not be an option. This last year has been heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

I am a female in my mid-twenties, and I'm a grad student in a relationship which is effectively marriage with another grad student. We do not have kids because (a) we don't want them, (b) we think we're too young to have them, (c) we'd like to have them after we're married, and (d) having kids in grad school is possibly the dumbest idea I've ever heard of. We would likely have kids in the future, but who knows how far in the future- possibly when one of us is tenure-track.

Kim said...

If I were answering a survey like this at any time before I was in my early 30s, I would have answered that I had no children because I didn't want any. It wasn't because I didn't think I could balance career and family, I just wasn't interested in being a mother. And then I was interested, had a kid, and have always been very happy that I did.

Me too - identical down to the age when my mind changed.

Anonymous said...

For a different perspective - I am female, mid-thirties, and had two children in grad school. I decided to forgo a career in academia because I could not justify moving two children across the country (possibly multiple times) and asking my husband to quit his job. I now work in the private sector in a field un-related to my Ph.D.

Anonymous said...

I'm female, 33, and childless. I happen to work in a field (and department) that would be accommodating to children - in fact our dept head considers himself a surrogate grandpa to several of my co-workers' children. While I watch our three other tenure-track faculty have their second (or fourth) child, I have no desire to start having kids myself. Being a traditionalist in that marriage (and not cohabitation) comes before kids, it may be a while before I get to that point. Family history of fertility issues does not favor me either.

Anonymous said...

I am female and though I am in a tenure track faculty position and married, I am 27 and I don't feel responsible enough to have children. Secondly, I don't know anyone other than my parents who has children and I therefore have no role-models of childbearing and academic career management.

theusualblabber said...

I am female and have no children because till now the circumstances havent permitted that. I am <2 years from finishing my grad school.
Though both myself and my husband want to start a family, the current instability of my postdoc lab does not allow us to do that. We'll plan a baby as soon as I am sure that my current position will last for >1 yr.

Anonymous said...

I am female and 25, and I feel a lot of pressure to want kids but I don't want them. Young kids are annoying, loud, and monopolize all of your time. Every decision revolves around them. And I barely have time as it is to do all the hobbies I want, spend time with my husband, and get my work done. People tell me that kids are amazing and I'll be missing out, and so for that reason I sort of hope that someday my biological clock will turn on. But right now I am too poor and busy to have kids, and I'm relieved that that's the case.

Anonymous said...

I am in my late 20s female postdoc. I don't have kids but can't wait to have them...just waiting for my significant other to move to the same time as me. We will also wait until we are married but hopefully in a year or two :)

Anonymous said...

I'm 42, female, and a full professor in physics.

No kids because my husband (also an academic) and I never wanted any.

Anonymous said...

I am female, 32 years old, and have 2 kids that were planned. I am not in academia because I decided that the life that I wanted (kids) wouldn't work in academia. (I am in what one would call a "non-traditional" or "alternative" science career - not doing scientific research directly, but supporting it.) I didn't have any female mentors with kids in my field, but the few that I knew in other fields were superheroes (you know the type). I always got the sense that they had to work 4 times as hard as their male counterparts because not only did they have to overcome the "female-issue" they had to overcome the "can't really focus on research because they are mothers-issue". I could comment at length on this, but I won't.

Since I am posting anonymously, I'm going to say what most parents may not. I love my kids tremendously and couldn't imagine my life without them, but there are moments when I think wishfully of what my life would be like if I was childless (they are toddlers, my daycare is precarious, enough said). I think that no matter whether the woman is in academia or in another career it is incredibly challenging to excel at your job all the time and balance the needs of children (this applies to fathers too, but it is my opinion that the majority of childherding falls on the mother, irrespective of parental careers). Even though my kids were planned, there are things that I never realized would be part of the bargain (the daycare problem as an example). I have also learned that my personality type has a huge influence on how I can balance things - I have pretty high standards, therefore I can turn any job into a high pressure job. I'm still figuring out how to adjust my personal expectations of performance to achieve a reasonable balance in my life.

Anyway, my point is as a student my perception was that you couldn't be female, have kids and be successful in my field (kudos to those of you who are doing it), but also that I have come to realize that having kids has a significant impact on achieving balance and success no matter what your career is.

Anonymous said...

I am female and I do not have children. I am 41. My partner and I decided not to have kids for several reasons. One, neither he or I have perminent positions (2nd postdoc for me, research associate/professor for him after 1 very long postdoc). This is the reason for postponing having kids. Secondly, while waiting for any form of a perminent job I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. As a scientist and a person with the disease, I can no way, with a good conscience, pass on this disease. It "runs in the family" so there is a good chance my children would have it or their children would. I wouldn´t wish this on anyone.

HGGirl said...

I am female and I do not have children because I'm not yet married (though engaged!), still in graduate school, and "only" 26. I definitely plan on having kids when I graduate.

Anonymous said...

I am a 21 year old undergrad with no kids as do not have significant other nor am financially independent or emotionally mature enough. Am entertaining the thoughts of entering grad school but do feel a bit worried seeing some of the comments. (Can a PI seriously tell you baby is not an option?) Would love to have a baby in the future though. But if I do enter grad school, then I would have to wait for maybe about 7 to 10 years before first baby. Am not sure if I can wait that long.

Anonymous said...

I'm female and almost 31. I don't have any children (yet) because my (academic) partner and I are living in different states. We hope we can resolve our "two body problem" one day and start a family before it is too late.

Thinkerbell said...

I am female, 33, and I do not have children. Not sure would want any, but I haven't yet met someone I would want them with, so it's been sort of a none issue. Right now I definitely don't want them bad enough to do it on my own.

Anonymous said...

I am female, mid thirties, recently finished my doctorate, and hoping to have a child soon. I am terrified about what this will do to my career.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe how many comments are "I don't have kids, but want them now or sometime." My question is: Why do you want kids??

I'm a female, older grad student. While my husband and I wanted kids before we were married, we no longer do. These reasons include...kids make me tired, I can imagine having grown kids but not little kids, I'm a climate scientist and I think we have way too many people on this planet already/the world is headed for h*** in a hand basket, I enjoy just me/husband/pets. I have also heard the "do occasionally think of what it would be like to not have kids" sentence before, and I don't think I should have kids unless they are desperately wanted.

There's always room for change, but the ethics part (overpopulation, war, climate change) really weighs on me.

Anonymous said...

Female, non-scientists academic, age 27 (almost 28) I do not have children because I am not married. (Yes I believe in abstinence before marriage). Once I am married I do not intend to have more than one or two children, and it would be perfectly acceptable to me to adopt rather than to actually give birth (actually would rather be prefered - I do not have a high tolerance for pain).

Anonymous said...

For the person who asked why people never seem to be asked why they have kids/want to have kids, here's my reason: I had a kid because I failed in my career, and choosing the failed career over family seemed pointless. I love the kid, even though I probably wouldn't have had him if I had been a success.

(For data point: I'm female.)

Cloud said...

Since I have kids (the second is sleeping in my arms as I type...), I shouldn't be commenting on this post. I will say that I was profoundly conflicted about the idea of having kids earlier in my career. It was only once I met my husband that it became obvious to me that I wanted kids. I started my family when I was 35. I was fortunate to have no fertility issues despite the late(ish) start.

However- to the anonymous who confessed to thinking longingly about what a childless life would be like- I do that, too, a bit. I find that what I miss the most is the freedom to travel like we used to. I think most people daydream a bit about the road(s) not taken. I am for the most part very happy with my life, but there are certainly some things that I miss because of the life I've chosen. Luckily the things I've gained outweigh the things I miss.

To those looking for role models of women combining careers in science and motherhood, can I suggest using the internet? I know of a few blogs written by professors who are also mothers (this one, Blue Lab Coats, Dr. Isis' blog....) I know that it would be nicer to have examples you can actually meet and have lunch with, but don't discount what you can learn from anonymous bloggers online! Also, a lot of bloggers will take the time to answer personal emails looking for advice and/or data points about what combining career and motherhood looks like.

fooledyouonce said...

my original post does not show up on your site for some reason....

I am female and decided not to have children

Anonymous said...

I am 37, female, postdoc looking for a job, in a committed relationship, and have no children because it's just not something I've ever wanted to do - just, utter lack of interest or motivation.

That said, if I did want kids - I have NO idea how or when I would handle it. It seems like Mt. Everest.

Anonymous said...

I am female (30 yr old assistant prof., chemistry) and I do not have children because I don't want children yet. I have never had a burning desire to have babies and enjoy my life as it is.

Having the added responsibility of children is not something I want to deal with while starting my academic career (or deal with in general). But that being said, regardless of what I was doing I doubt I would want children yet. If I really had wanted to have babies, I would have.

Also, I have no desire to get married.

Sally said...

I am female and I don't have children because my husband and I have only been married for a year, just moved to new jobs this fall, and would like to wait till our lives are more settled.

Anonymous said...

I am a 26-year old Ph.D. student. I'm done with coursework and hope to finish my research/dissertation in the next year & a half.

I don't currently have children, but my husband and I hope to by the end of next year. I plan to pursue a career in academia, but am willing to give that up as long as I have interesting work (research!) to do...
---
For those of you that have been unable to get pregnant, I sincerely wish you the best. A lot of our friends are struggling with miscarriages, infertility, and adoption struggles; those are some reasons why my husband and I are going to try to start a family a little earlier than we had originally intended...

Anonymous said...

Didn't reply yesterday (worried about the blog readership biasing the poll too much) but - female, 30, PhD student, no children but expect children within 5 years

Anonymous said...

I am female and have no children b/c I am 29, first year on the tenure track, recently relocated to a city where I know no one and don't see how I'm going to manage my job and get out enough socially to find a partner. Seems most academics I know married someone they met in grad school... And are men who have stay-at-home wives. And to be honest, knowing that I have a younger sibling who will require life-long care due to disability has probably stopped me realistically considering a child. Interestingly, as soon as I landed my TT job, my mother decided it would be a good time for me to produce a grandchild. She has clearly given up on me finding a husband...

Anonymous said...

I am a female thirtysomething postdoc and have no children because I biologically/ genetically unable to [still coming to grips with that]. This inability to have children also extends to adoption - I'm not a viable candidate, according to several agencies.

Anne said...

I am female and I do not have children because I'm 22, and am not even within shouting distance of getting married or anything grownup like that. I'm just starting my PhD, and kids are an object of the distant and foggy future. I've never been totally committed to the idea one way or another - I kind of assume that if I meet someone I want to have a child with, then it'll happen!

Anonymous said...

I am a 33year old woman who is married and about to go through tenure (end of year - biology). My husband and I do not have children as I have fertility problems. I requested an early tenure date to allow me the time and space to go through IVF. This was granted and I think that this reflects the very positive work environment in which I work.

For all of you who have children and sometimes wish you didn't. Think of us who don't have that chance. Obtaining tenure is difficult enough despite having to work through the emotions relating to infertility.

Anonymous said...

I am female, 40, had couple of successful post-docs (publication wise) and have 2 kids. My career was killed during baby stage of my second child when pressure of 2 young kids at home was too high for me to handle and work-environment around me was not supportive at all. I hope to come back to academia now when my kids are not babies anymore and I am feeling stable and I can devote time to science. No, I don't regret about it. Although I love science dearly, I can not imagine life without those little cute smile around me.

Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly answering the question, but my data are still relevant, I think.
I am female and never wanted children because I didn't think I could do two things well. I got pregnant by mistake as an Assistant Professor at age 40. I was surprised to be so happy about the mistake and am now delighted with my 2 and a half year old. I can't imagine handling more than one though...

Who, me? said...

I am female and we tried, briefly, to have kids about 2 years ago. Now we're not trying, and likely won't again in the future.

In retrospect, it's a good thing, because I'm starting a PhD (entomology) in January and our household income is going to drop by, oh, lots. I likely would not be able to pursue this new career path if we had a toddler right now.

Principle Investigator said...

I am 35, female, and an assistant professor of biology at a SLAC. I would like to get married and have kids, but that hasn't happened for me yet. I have been insanely busy ever since I started graduate school, and of course it only got worse with my faculty position, so I can't imagine having one or more children without a partner to contribute substantially to childcare, either personally or financially.

Anonymous said...

I am female, 29 years old, and have no children. I do think I want children, eventually (in 3-4 years) (although I do have moments of ambivalence), but right now is not a good time (I'm pre-tenure, my partner is still in grad school). I do worry a lot about being able to balance my career and family, though, and this is the primary reason for the above-stated ambivalence about having children. It just seems like it is so hard, especially in academia and in my particular field.

Cloud said...

anonymous @ 11:14- believe me, I am extremely grateful for the chance to hold my child and think about what my life would have been like if I had chosen not to have kids. I am very, very aware of how lucky I am that the decision was mine to make. I definitely do not regret my decision. I was just saying that I think it is normal to wonder about what life would be like if I'd chosen differently, and to miss some of the things that I gave up.

I hope you get the same opportunity some day. Good luck with the IVF.

Amy said...

I am females and I do not have children because I don't want them. Cats are vastly better company and much neater about their poops.

Kevin said...

If I had answered this question when I was a young as most of the people here, I would also have been childless. My wife and I did not have a child until I was 41 and she was 36. We had wanted kids earlier, but not been successful.

I do sometimes worry about the trend to childlessness among intelligent people. Lower reproductive success for desirable traits does not seem like a good thing in the long run.

cmb said...

It's actually really sad to me that so many women believe that you can't have kids and a career. Not because I think that's easy, or because I think people who don't want kids should be made to have them or anything, but just because I think it's become a sort of ingrained thing in academic culture--you can't have a kid before you get your phd, you'll never finish. And it's not easy, but it's not impossible. I wonder how many women inadvertantly get in each others' way by assuming that that grad student with a kid is either a bad mother or a bad academic. I'm not saying that everyone does, but I still long for the day when it's not so special to be a grad student with a kid. The day that it stops being so unique is the day that people stop assuming that having a kid makes you less of a scientist.

EcoGeoFemme said...

I am female and I do not have children because I am not yet married to my (non-US citizen) partner, do not have a stable job/health insurance as a grad student nearing graduation. I want children, and I would like to have them in the next 5 years. However, I am concerned about the logistics of having a child (leave, day care, etc.) during a post-doc. However, I will probably have a child during a post-doc anyway.

another junior FSP said...

I am female, 36, early career tenure-track faculty, currently no kids but my husband and I have been trying for several years and anticipate this status changing in the next 6 months.

I look forward to encountering the difficulties balancing work and family first-hand!

I did not fill out the survey yesterday.

Monisha said...

I'm female and 39 with two kids, 4 and 7; one was pre-tenure and the other was the just-past-tenure sabbatical child. I ALWAYS wanted kids, was less sure about marriage, and had planned on adopting post-tenure if i didn't meet the right partner in time. Life with two is crazy occasionally (though we were a two-body problem, we have been deeply fortunate in getting a fast, easy resolution), but for those who WANT this and are fortunate enough to have their family-creating means work out well, it is do-able. (And yes, my husband and i did agonize about the environmental implications of making two more americans in a world that really doesn't need that).

For those who don't want it, that's completely understandable, because all those bad qualities of young children? They are really a pain. My sister is also an academic, and she and her partner have elected to remain childless for many of the reasons outlined by other commenters. Similar decisions were reached by one of my closest research collaborators and her partner. And while I am happy with my choices, I think that these other women in my life are also deeply happy and fulfilled human beings in their choices. I find it useful to be so connected to people who are childless by choice, in part because it is a good antidote to smug, horrid, child-obsessed living; and they enjoy connections to kids in their lives. (not to mention the fact that since i had kids, my sister gets no pressure from my parents to procreate...)

Diane said...

I am female and I do not have children because my husband and I just do not want any. I'm 38 and have never felt any differently on the subject, even when I was younger and newly married and in an entirely non-sciencey field. Not everyone is cut out to be a parent. I don't dislike kids (and they seem to love me for some reason, which is unnerving) but they make me nervous because I don't know how to interact with them. I'm much better with dogs.

(My husband and I are both only children. I don't know if that has anything to do with it!)

Anonymous said...

Female, early 30s, early career.

We plan to have kids later for career and financial reasons.

luisa said...

how about "those of us who do have kids really wanted to reply yesterday but decided we were too tired after cleaning up the peas off the ceiling and the poo off the high chair and actually making the manuscript revisions contributed by co-authors yesterday that we couldn't do during the work day due to various crises" ? :)

Anonymous said...

I am female, did not fill out the survey, and I have two young kids (5 and 2 yrs). I am on my second post doc (I'm 35), and gave up "the dream" of an academic career long ago. I am starting a full time research job soon in a gov't lab. As it turns out, it's not just b/c of the family that I didn't pursue the tenure track thing, but the fact that I really just like to be in the lab. All the time. A side benefit is that I don't have to work tenure track hours while having two small kids.
I have certainly made sacrifices (some involving career) for my family, but for me it has been worth it. We seem to have struck a good balance for our family -- we'll see how long it lasts!

For those who can't have children and really want to, my heart goes out to you. I wish you the best. For those who don't want to have kids, you will get no "you don't know what you are missing" from me. It is hard work, and worth it IF ITS WHAT YOU WANT. So if you don't want it, don't! Enjoy your freedom!

Anonymous said...

I am female, 28, married postdoc. No children yet because I live abroad and would like to have them when I return home in the next year or so. Am concerned by the whole children/career thing. It would make most sense for my husband to stay at home (both in terms of his career and personality) were it not for the fact that he earns twice my salary and has a secure job. We'll see!

Anonymous said...

I am a female and have no children because I'm unmarried, and in my 20's, and feel like i need to be married and older before I start that up.

Anonymous said...

I am female, 27 years old, high school science teacher. No kids yet, but will probably have some at some point. My boyfriend lives far away, so that would need to change. Teaching 14 yr old kids has made me not want to rush into that. I also don't feel like I am in the science career I want to be in and not sure what I want.

Social Scientist said...

I am female and I do not have children because...

...I'm single.

On an academic's salary I don't make enough to adopt.

It's too late for me to have children now (I'm over 45).

I would've loved to have children, but I hold the view that I want children of mine to have both a Mommy and Daddy actively there for them. I didn't find (or get found by) an available man who was ready to be there involved as a parent. So finally my options closed. Overall I made a decision that still feels sad, at times, but I think it was the best for all involved.

Anonymous said...

Female, 36, do not have children because never wanted any. Partnered with another woman for 11 years so children cannot happen without massive planning.

Anonymous said...

I am female and I do not have children yet because I will not even consider having children until I complete my PhD. I'm 29, married, and hope to finish my degree this year.

I also struggle with very strong ambivalent feelings towards kids. Screaming babies and stinky diapers make me want to run away (just like everyone else, right?) Considering the stress, demands on my time, and the difficulty with balancing kids with my career also makes me want to run away. But then I read about babies or see some movie or even commercial about babies, and I start crying! Stupid biological clock. I think I will actually want to have babies when I'm 40-45, but unfortunately that's not a good time biologically for a woman.

Anonymous said...

I am female and I do not have children because I did not have time before tenure, and now (very sadly) seem to be too old to have them. I am a tenured professor of biology at a major research university.

female Science Professor said...

I'm relieved to see at least a few comments from people > 40 years old.. or even 45.. Even so, I am feeling very old today.

Kea said...

I am female, 42 and have no children because (a) I am still trying to establish a physics career and (b) the right guy never came along.

Anonymous said...

I am a female, assistant professor, 39 ys old. I don't have children because of typical two-body problems that prevented my husband and I to live in the same city full-time. I always thought I couldn't handle the part-time relationship + baby + tenure track, so I decided to wait. Now that I'm approaching 40 I decided to try it anyway, but it's not happening.

Anonymous said...

"Female, non-scientists academic, age 27 (almost 28) I do not have children because I am not married. (Yes I believe in abstinence before marriage)."

Sweet Jesus...we have religious people on this blog! Hey FSP... how about you do a survey on how many religious people we have among the readers of this blog.

lost academic said...

I am female, I am almost 28, I have been in both academic and the private sector, but honestly, both have similar disincentives towards having a baby right now or in the near future (the planning future, you might say). I have always wanted to have kids, but I have firmly decided somewhat recently that if I cannot make a reasonably claim that their lives will be somewhat close to what I'd want them to be, I'm not going to even start. We are never going to be in a position to adopt or foster, either. I personally will always feel that a chance I truly want (to prove that good people can raise good kids) will be gone in the case that I can't make it work, but the risk of failure here hurts people other than myself.

Anonymous said...

I had a baby at age 31 during a post-doc and before solving the two-body problem. Now at age 37 in a pre-tenure science faculty position (having "solved" the two-body problem) I would like to have a second (and final) baby but 1) I didn't get enough support from my husband during the early years with the first kid even though he already had tenure (and I don't think it would be any different the second time), 2) there were fertility issues that were unpleasant and will likely be worse with age, and 3) it's hard to imagine I will have the energy (read 'enough sleep') to deal with a baby and keep my research going at its current pace with a new grant and a bunch of grad students. What I need is a wife!

Anonymous said...

I am female, 30, childless, and currently on the job market for a faculty position. I do not have children because the time has never felt right, and because but my husband (also 30 , but not an academic) does not. I do want children in the future, but not without the support of my husband.

STP said...

I am female, 35, and have one child (19 months) and a second on the way. I am an asst. professor at a SLAC. I chose this career path after graduate school because I knew I wanted to have a family. At the time, I was not even dating anyone, but I was very lucky to meet my husband very shortly after starting my TT job.

I did not want children until I was ~28 years old. And when we got married (at 33), I was frankly terrified of going off the pill. I was told as a graduate student (by the only female professor in my department) that getting married would ruin my career because people would think I just wanted to have kids, and I definitely internalized that.

Several women at my current institution have made comments that my choice to have children pre-tenure is risky, but I decided to do it because that was what I wanted to do. My childless female department chair has been great, as have all my departmental colleagues. Some administrators have made snide comments, but I'll survive.

Oh, and I didn't fill out the survey yesterday.

Anonymous said...

I am female, 29 years old, and do not have children because despite infertility treatments, I was unable to get pregnant. Through the stress of treatments and dealing with this loss, my marriage fell apart and now I am divorced. I am desperately afraid I will never be able to have children. If I had children, I would welcome the challenges of balancing my career and my family.

Anonymous said...

I am a female, in my early 30s, and have no children because my partner has not yet been ready to have one. Perhaps the focus on our careers (we're both senior postdocs in Science) is a factor in his discomfort, one part of a larger picture. I plan to have kids, preferably in the next few years.

Anonymous said...

I am female, 27, and I am just finishing my PhD in physics. Although I would like to have children, I don't have any yet. I am single, which is one of the biggest reasons I don't have children. I can't imagine balancing work and children as a single parent at this point in my life.

Anonymous said...

I was in the same shoes as FSP in not wanting children until my mid-thirties.... most likely changed my mind bc I finally met mr.right, a grounded, non-scientist regular guy who gave me some healthy perspective of how life is not limited to having an academic career. I happily had one, and would have had an other one if I could; but by then advanced age, multiple miscarriages etc have made things much tougher. Incidentally I'm much more productive now that I do have a life, and wouldn't feel so lost if I were to lose my job. It is not my whole identity any more.
So in reading the other comments, many stories are of people who had children early, and sometimes had to put careers on hold, but more often of people who delayed childbearing until mid-late thirties, and sometimes found out it was too late. How sad. It does make me think that there's something fundamentally wrong in how we train SP, and of course it disproportionally affects women (who are less likely to have a younger spouse, not that it would matter in this case, but it does help the guys). There seems to be no space to even think about having a family early on. Also, it has been noted several times that most academic women have academic spouses, in much larger proportion than academic men. I wonder how that is true of women with kids too.

JaneB said...

I am female, 41, and do not have children because an appropriate relationship has never worked out for me. I want(ed) kids and I'd like a partner... it's clear to me that the moving around of the early part of a science career is a big part of the problem - nearly eveyone Iknow from college who is a scientist is married to someone they met during their undergrad/PhD, and my then-partner split up with me when I got a post-doc in Canada (essentially). Then in the post-doccing years I just didn't meet anyone right enough to compromise my moves for, and then... I dunno, all my male colleagues married and had kids, nearly all to women they'd been with since university or grad school, and here I am. Looking at the evidence, I'd say my 'mistake' was in not finding the right man in my early 20s during teh grad school stage. But... well, it just ahsn't happened for me, and think what a moron I'd feel if I hadn't taken that post-doc, stayed with a man who wasn't perfect for me, and never had kids anyway?

Anonymous said...

I am female, 34, expecting baby #3 in a few months. My husband and I were nudged into having our first while we were still in grad school because of a medical issue, but in retrospect I am very happy with that path. I finished my PhD while expecting #2 (defended 3 weeks before his birth) and am stay-at-home mom-ing right now, but I am still doing some stuff in my field and expect to start a postdoc within the next few years. I like that we will be finished having babies before we're 35, I feel like my work schedule was more flexible as a student than it will be in the future, and taking time off between my PhD and a postdoc will actually be less detrimental to the career than doing it later. Also, my kids rock my world (in a good way), so even if it turns out to be bad for the career, I am very pleased to have them.

Anonymous said...

I am female, mid 30s, tenure-track. I have one young child. Always wanted kids, but never wanted them _right now_ ... eventually, though, it was just time to do it or risk losing the chance. I'm very happy about it but don't yet know how it might affect tenure.

Anonymous said...

I do sometimes worry about the trend to childlessness among intelligent people. Lower reproductive success for desirable traits does not seem like a good thing in the long run.

This is a very worrying attitude. First of all, if by "intelligent people" you mean those with advanced degrees like the readers of this blog, I think it is better replaced by the phrase "privileged people." Yes I too have a PhD and am an academic, but let's face it, it is a privilege to have been in a position to be able go to college let alone pursue an advanced degree. There are many many people in this world who are equally 'intelligent' but were not fortunate enough to have the opportunity or life circumstances to pursue higher education in their young adulthood. But without the unique complications of an academic life - like the two body problem, and much delayed getting of a 'real' job with benefits - I would suspect that there are many, many "intelligent" people who do have an easier choice of raising families and are in fact doing so. I don't think that the numbers of academics choosing to remain childless, is 'worrisome'.

Anonymous said...

I am female, married, in my late 20s and I don't have children.
The whole bunch of reasons why can be divided into external and internal ones.
Among external are:
1) The lack of stable immigration status. We can be ordered to leave country in a few weeks if one of us loses a job.
2) Money. A graduate student + post-doc salary is small. We are used to live with less but our friends in exactly the same situation have 1 year old daughter and about $20,000 in debt as the result of that.

The main internal reason is my sheer egoism.
All those sacrifices I have to make in order to have kids will not necessarily pay out. Parents remind me of gamblers who hope for the best outcome (no wonder that maternity clothes shops offer 529 college funds applications!). But too many bad things may happen. A crime rate and drug use rate, for example, are not getting any lower year after year.
A kid may disfigure my body, ruin my career and as a result I still may need to live in a nursery home at the end of my life. I prefer to take my future in my own hands.

Anonymous said...

I'm female, in my early 30s, in early career (assistant research professor in physics). I have no children because my husband (who is not in academia) and I are just not interested in having any. You only have one earthly life, and there is so much we want to do that we don't want to be tied down for at least 18+ years financially, time-wise, energy-wise and geographically.

Anonymous said...

I am female, married, and in my early thirties. No kids yet (two-body problem) but hope to soon.

Anonymous said...

I am female (30 and a finishing grad student for the added information), and I do not have children because I have not gotten to that point in my relationship, but plan to someday! Who cares about work/family balance. :-)

Drama Mezzo said...

I am female, and I don't have children because I never wanted any.
Life-threatening or debilitating autoimmune diseases are rampant in my family, and I find it unconscionable for my sister to have had four kids. I am past child-bearing age now.

RJ said...

I am female, 39, and I do not have kids (yet?)

I don't have kids because I stayed with the wrong guy in my 20s, and haven't met the right one.

Culturally, there was pressure to get a career established, pay student loans off, buy a house, travel overseas before settling down in early 30s. When time came to settle down, we broke up.

I do want kids, and a husband, but I definitely don't want to go the solo parent route.

Anonymous said...

I am male and have no children because I don't enjoy their company (which in turn is primarily because they're immature and way too prone to following peer pressure). I knew from early childhood that I wanted to be a scientist, and from early adolescence that I didn't want children. I'm now in my late 40s and happily married for 8 years. My wife, who's also a scientist and is some years older than I am, is also happy with our not having kids -- this was one of the first issues we discussed when we first met.

Anonymous said...

I am 25, no kids, but my partner wants kids (she is 30). We don't have kids because I am not ready (and may never be ready). Who knows if we will ever see eye-to-eye on this one...

I relate to other comments about "why would you want to have kids". Huge time drain, logistical nightmares, climate change, etc.

Anonymous said...

I'm 33, female, single, and have no kids because I just haven't found a person that I want to have them with yet. At this moment, even my dearly-loved cats drag on me and keep me from traveling and doing things sometimes, and a kid seems like it would amplify that conflict. But, kids seem like they'd be nice too. Maybe someday...if I find someone.

Anonymous said...

I thought I submitted this earlier but maybe I did something wrong and it didn't show up...I would like to contribute my outlier data point! I am female, 50 years old and, like FSP, a full prof in the physical sciences at a research U. I have 4 kids.

Dr. Bad Ass said...

I am 47, married (for the second time) and I don't have children because I am infertile.

Amy said...

I am a 31-year-old female. I have a toddler and just returned to my postdoc after taking nearly a year off after my child's birth (a VERY rare choice in my field). I didn't want a child during grad school. Once I started my postdoc, I decided it would be a good time to have a baby. Having my son has given me the perspective and patience to be a better scientist---for multiple reasons I won't go into here. As for the possibility that having a child has somehow derailed my career---even with a child, I'm still more productive and conscientious than some of the childless colleagues in my dept. I don't see how work/family balance issues are somehow more difficult to navigate in academics than in any other field. Having a family is hard work. Having a career is hard work. Doing both is really freaking hard. It can be done. But dang, is it exhausting.

Anonymous said...

I am a 33 year old first year phd student, married. Husband is not in academia. Never thought I wanted kids, kind of can't stand the idea of dependents, until after being a few years into relationship with husband. I was a 'non-trad' student who didn't start the undergrad degree until late 20s. Though I have a strong urge to make another person with this person, first time in my life I have EVER understood the urge to breed, I know that if we do it will destroy the only other thing in life I have ever cared about, my career in math. Spent most of my 20s not caring about anything, and I can't throw out my career. And yes, I have mentors that do it all. But I can't figure out how to do my laundry or feed myself in grad school, let alone feed someone else. So that's that.

Also, and this is rough, I know based on personal strengths, etc, that a child would ruin my marriage because my husband simply can't manage his time well enough to contribute to childcare/house duties enough.

Anonymous said...

I am female, 31 years old and married. I'm in industry (software R&D) but I interact quite a bit with academia. My husband is also in industry. I do not have children because I never had to urge to reproduce, I do not like the idea of having dependents, and most family relationships I know of are toxic so I do not look forward to start a family of my own. In addition, I am considering joining a startup or creating my own startup, which would give me no time to care for children. The catch is that my husband wants children.

Anonymous said...

female, 36, married, tenured

I would never have given birth pre-tenure (never got pregnant) b/c of my career. Career is more important to me than having children, and I am the breadwinner. Now I know I don't ever want to be pregnant. I entertain the notion of adopting some day, and my husband and I discuss it occasionally, but it is not a priority.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm not the only female who doesn't want to have children. in my circle of friends and family and colleagues, I AM the only one. The other women I know who don't have kids, do still want to have them in the future, I'm the only one in my circle who is planning to remain childless. If I were given a penny for every time my family and friends tell me it's somehow bad to live your life without ever becoming a parent, and abnormal to actually choose it to be that way, I'd be rich and able to retire right now.

Do men face equal societal pressure to become parents, or is it only us women who get pressured to have children?

redSwissChard said...

I'm 29 years old, female, and just defended my Ph.D. Until the past year or so, I was vehemently opposed to the idea of having new children: They consume too many resources, and as a population, our top priority should be slowing rates of climate change. Two years ago I met my boyfriend, who has always wanted kids. I realized that convincing him to have n-1 or n-2 kids (where n>2) with me might be a more environmentally beneficial reproductive strategy than abstaining altogether, assuming he would otherwise find someone with whom to have n kids. He doesn't yet know this is my strategy, but we have to start talking soon, as I'm about to move away for my postdoc and he will submit his ranked list of where he wants to do his residencies.

There's still a good chance I won't have kids, though. Even if eventually find Mr. Right, I'm terrified I can't balance a career, a kid, and my own well-being. I'm very worried I can't be a successful researcher as it is. I'm afraid it might take me many years to gain the confidence I need, and to incorporate both productivity *and* fun into my life, to be able to think about having a child. My ovaries might have atrophied by then.

It's reassuring that some people have said that having children helped them become more productive, though there seem to be plenty of counterexamples.

This is a very depressing topic.

Anonymous said...

I'm 29 years old, female, and just defended my Ph.D. Until the past year or so, I was vehemently opposed to the idea of having new children: They consume too many resources, and as a population, our top priority should be slowing rates of climate change. Two years ago I met my boyfriend, who has always wanted kids. I realized that convincing him to have n-1 or n-2 kids (where n>2) with me might be a more environmentally beneficial reproductive strategy than abstaining altogether, assuming he would otherwise find someone with whom to have n kids. He doesn't yet know this is my strategy, but we have to start talking soon, as I'm about to move away for my postdoc and he will submit his ranked list of where he wants to do his residency.

There's still a good chance I won't have kids, though. Even if eventually find Mr. Right, I'm terrified I can't balance a career, a kid, and my own well-being. I'm very worried I can't be a successful researcher as it is. I'm afraid it might take me many years to gain the confidence I need, and to incorporate both productivity *and* fun into my life, to be able to think about having a child. My ovaries might have atrophied by then.

It's reassuring that some people have said that having children helped them become more productive, though there seem to be plenty of counterexamples.

I'm getting so depressed thinking about these uncertainties and tradeoffs.

Anonymous said...

Female, 33, untenured. No desire to have children, just don't see what benefit there is. Companionship, love and support can be enjoyed with your other relatives (hey they are family too!) or more strongly with close lifelong friends or spouse/partner. I see no "need" for me to have children. And if there isn't an absolute "need" then having children makes for an illogical "want" given the huge drain in time, money, energy, and constraints it places on your life forever.

Anonymous said...

I am female and I do not have children because:

I am in graduate school
I am unmarried
I do not want children now
I probably will not want children ever

I plan to remain in academia and hope to run my own lab, but I don't believe I would allow this to prevent me from having a family, if I desired it.

James said...

I am male, 38, and to the best of my knowledge don't have any children. This is because I haven't found someone I want to have a kid with who feels the same about me.

Lucy said...

There are plenty of women in my field (immunology) and plenty of them have children. it's difficult to see why an academic career, for me, could be a reason not to have children.

ditto what Anonymous said at 11/03/2009 12:58:00 AM.

Idealistic though it may sound, part of the reason I work in the field I do (HIV) is because i want to help make things on this planet better. Bringing more people into an already overcrowded world, and having to devote such a huge proportion of my time to just one, doesn't really fit with that.

Anonymous said...

I am male and I do not have children because I am 25, single, and too busy and focused on myself at this stage of my life, but I want to have children in the future.

Anonymous said...

Didn't answer yesterday's survey though I do occasionally comment here. I am in my early 40s, female, married, would love to have children but cannot have birth children due to medical issues. We are in the process of adopting.

In my department, 75% of undergraduates are female and 75% of faculty are male (this is roughly true of my field overall). One of my female professorial colleagues has a baby (as does one senior female administrator - a PhD). One of my other female professorial colleagues has a school-aged child with a disability. Both of the female faculty with kids (FFWK) are at the bottom of the promotions ladder, despite long service and (I feel) good work.

Anonymous said...

I am female, late twenties, in a STEM PhD program and married. My husband has an industry job and wants kids. I am mildly terrified about how kid(s) will affect my budding career but I also don't want to wait too long and regret not being able to have them.

Professor in Training said...

I am female and I do not have children because I don't want to be responsible for any other living being as I can't even look after myself.

amy said...

I'm absolutely horrified by the number of women saying they felt pressured (implicitly or explicitly) not to have kids because there was no way to combine motherhood with success as an academic. Do we need any other explanation of why there's a gender gap in academia? People like Larry Summers, who want to blame it on women's inferiority at analytic reasoning can just stuff it. There's something seriously wrong with a profession that has standards of success that make people feel like they can't have children, for god's sake. It's fine (great, even) if you don't want children, but it should at least be an option.

Ok, got that out of my system. Now to answer the question: 38, female, no children because can't find a partner. My flaming feminism may have something to do with that! :)

Anonymous said...

I am female, almost 38, fifth year on the tenure track in an engineering field, in a commuter marriage. I am raising one child, always wanted 2, but the lack of two permanent jobs and the male-ego problems with me doing better career-wise prevented me to have another one. If I am healthy and able to, as soon as I get tenure I'm going to try to have another child, regardless of the marriage being commuter or traditional. Once I have tenure, I know I can make it by myself with two kids. I hope it'll not be too late.

Anonymous said...

I am female, married, 37 and I do not have child because I am waiting till I get tenure in 2 years; hopefully it will not be too late.

Anonymous said...

I am a 38 year old female and I don't have children because neither my husband nor I really wanted them. If one of us had, the other would have been happy to go along but in the absence of that, having kids because it would make my mom happy didn't seem like a sufficient reason.

lusenok said...

amy said...

...There's something seriously wrong with a profession that has standards of success that make people feel like they can't have children, for god's sake.


What I seriously loathe about academic science is a culture of absolutism. There is a dominating and overpowering idea of sacrificing everything for the sake of "knowledge". This idealism has no relation to real life situation.
That's very different from engineering approach. Engineers always deal with imperfections of real life and got used to working with what situation gives them without absolutizing anything.
I may have a small data set but my fellow female engineers have 2 or more kids while academic scientists rarely have 1 and the parents of 2 are considered heroes.

Anonymous said...

I didn't publicly post my survey response, but am compelled to post to balance the responses:
female, 39, pregnant with first child, untenured in large research I.

I cannot claim ever wanting children but promised my husband that I would in those premarriage conversations. Perhaps could have happened earlier if my postdoc PI had not specifically forbade me from getting pregnant. Sure that is illegal, but he made it so miserable for parents that I did not want to bring a child in to that world (an easy excuse if you don't really want a kid in the first place). Then, I wanted to get my independent lab on track. I did the typical - I'll get pregnant after my R01 is funded. I ran out of excuses really.

Anonymous said...

I am female, 28 and married to another scientist in the same field (but different subfield) and I have no children because I don't want to have them. I rather love my tubal and not having to worry about feeling trapped by mommyhood and dealing with a pre verbal human because I know that wouldn't end well.

(that said I'm a grad student, my husband is tenured -different institutions for the two of us- and I worry less about children and more about if my first postdoc will be a separation that eventually leads to me filing for divorce because I often times feel like I'm raising a 40+ yr old child right now as I try to finish my dissertation work)

Liberal Arts Lady said...

Female, in my second year on the TT at a SLAC and am childless because our financial situation up to this point has been too tenuous (and downright crappy) to even consider supporting an additional human being. At this point we're finally comfortable, and will likely just see what happens in the next few years in terms of reproduction. My SLAC seems very child-friendly, so career pressures don't really worry me in that regard.

Anonymous said...

I am a tenured FSP.

At ~40 years old, I gave birth to one healthy planned child. I was unwilling to have a child until after tenure because if I did not receive tenure as a result of lower output, I would have resented my child. We are using all commonplace technologies to avoid more children. Any accidental pregnancy in the future will result in an abortion.

I never considered a child until I met my current partner. When all previous partners asserted "I will do half", my gut said they were full of shit.

I would like to comment on a previous post that concerned "the day that people stop assuming that having a kid makes you less of a scientist..."

I would like to note that having a kid DOES MAKE ME LESS OF A SCIENTIST. I think less than I used to. I produce less. I mentor my graduate students less. I have less funding. I read less. I have fewer ideas. I have less energy and time to pursue the ideas I do have.

This is true even though I am healthy, have a healthy child, have outstanding daycare, have good health care, have a helpful spouse, and have occasional help from extended family when one of us is out of town.

I do not regret my decision to have a child - my child brings great joy into my life - but years after the event I am still continually exhausted. I am glad I waited until after tenure.

Morgan Price said...

I am male and kids seem like more effort than they are worth.

Liz H said...

I am a 44-year-old female science prof and I do not have children because I never wanted to.

(God, I wish all questions were this easy.)

Hope said...

For Anonymous 11/04/2009 11:04:00 PM – a comment on the blog of someone who can relate?

Anonymous said...

I am female, 35 and have 3 kids. I am not an academic, I'm married to one. 4 years ago I put my career on hold and became a housewife and full time mother to better support our family's move to a new country where English is not the native tongue. We came here so that my husband could work as a Postdoc and we made this decision together. While i've never actually wanted to be a SAHM, I must say that it hasn't been too bad and I am pleased that we made the move. Now we are facing another career related move, possibly to another country, the discussion is centering around where the fella should apply next and choosing a place where I can go back to work (I was a teacher).

I don't think that either myself or my husband has found that having kids and an academic in the house is an easy combination. But I know we wouldn't swap the kids for anything and I certainly wouldn't swap the academic even though his career has caused more BIG changes in my life than all three kids combined.

Anonymous said...

I am female and in grad school. I don't have kids because I haven't found the right father yet, but I would like to have kids someday, and keep working. Often, when I tell people I'd like both kids and a career, they try to convince me that (a) it is impossible, (b) I don't actually understand how much work it is to have kids, or (c) it is not really what I want. None of the above are true. During the past 2-3 years it became increasingly clear to me that I do want kids someday (preferably before about age 35), and that my long-term (now ex-) partner did not want kids, ever. To those who asked about why people want kids: in my case at least (to my great surprise, actually), there is no rational reason for this, but I am sure it is what I want (I know this because, for example, having my partner tell me repeatedly he didn't want kids resulted in feelings of despair and physical pain). It may be because I grew up in a relatively happy family and this has brought me a lot of joy, which I would like to pass on and expand to the next generation. As a result of all this, I recently made the difficult choice to break off my engagement and hope that within the next few years I will find someone to raise a family with.

Anonymous said...

I am female, tenured at an R1, and wouldn't have had children if my husband hadn't talked me into it. (Well, his role was also more than that.)

Seriously, I was terrfiied by every part of having kids, including what it would do to my career. It felt like a total leap into the unknown. In deference thereto, we waited to start trying until the week my tenure case went up. And now I'm 41 and up in the middle of the night with the 2nd kid, a 2-month-old, on my lap while I read blogs.

I'm now sold on the idea of kids, at least for me. So I'm glad my husband made the case. But I'm also glad to be done with reproduction. 5 pregnancies, 3 losses, probably age- and stress-related, and I feel I've paid a real price.

Back to work.

HennaHonu said...

I am 23, in a PhD program, have a long term partner, and do not have children. I did not fill out the survey.

My partner really wants kids. He's an engineer and I am in a biology-related field with field work, cruises, culturing experiments, etc. I've never been sure about wanting children. I need to have a clean living area to not go insane and am constantly cleaning up after my partner as it is. I love science with all my being and am struggling to be successful at research. I want to be able to go abroad for years - maybe for a post-doc? - and feel I will not be able to "settle" for over a decade. I mean, 2-3 more years of PhD, 1-3 2+ year post-docs, and finding a research position (preferably in a federal, non-profit, or private lab rather than academia). That doesn't even include time to travel or enjoy life.... I also identify with not wanting to increase our global problems.

We are unlikely to get pregnant, but if we do we would probably keep it. He wants one and I can't imagine being okay with an abortion if there is the possibility of a loving family... but I will be miserable if I have to give up my career.

Anonymous said...

I'm a female, early 40s. Tenured science professor, traditional academic track. Had kid during postdoc. One of my criteria for partner was his willingness/enthusiasm for sharing the work of child-rearing. We have a rich fun life, with occasional complications due to clumsy juggling.

Pedey said...

I am 32, female and young faculty. I don't have kids yet, because I haven't found the right partner. But would like a few someday, even though I am sure they will make me less productive.

Anonymous said...

In contrast to what someone said, I want to balance that out and say that I am not less of a scientist because I have a child at all and my child doesn't exhaust me at all, I LOVE doing everything for and with him. I am just more selective about what I do at work. I don't participate that much in waste research time type events in the department. Recruitments, open houses, get togethers, dinners, organizing safety, meetings about let's hear ourselves talking, bla blablas... Those eat up a lot of research time. If you are good at managing time and at deciding what to focus on, you are not less of a scientist. Maybe less of a "good citizen". And nobody's perfect. It's a mistake to try. I don't even have a shred of guilt about it.

Anonymous said...

" 'Female, non-scientists academic, age 27 (almost 28) I do not have children because I am not married. (Yes I believe in abstinence before marriage).'

Sweet Jesus...we have religious people on this blog! Hey FSP... how about you do a survey on how many religious people we have among the readers of this blog."

At least two. Five if you count my husband and officemates when I send them posts I particularly like.

Anonymous said...

I'm a female, 34 years old, in a junior faculty position. I would like to have kids, but then realize it's a bad idea given how my husband (who's not in academia by the way) is difficult enough to live with as it is - does not help out around the house, and also makes even less money than I did when I was a postdoc thus I don't think he would be a good person to have and raise kids with (I would essentially be doing it alone AND at the same time be primarily responsible for bringing in the bulk of the household income) but I'm stuck with him.

Ktbug Ladydid said...

I am a female scientist (in training), age young, and do not have kids because 1. I'm not married, and personally only want to consider children until I'm in a serious, civil-bound union; 2. I'm not able to currently care for children in any capacity, since I can barely care for myself and my dog; 3. although I love kids and know my parents would be amazing grandparents, I'm really not sure I'm mentally, emotionally, and physically cut out to be a biological mother, in which case, 4. I'm not economically stable enough to consider adoption. Oh, and I'd prefer there to be a a dude in the picture before I think about kids.

Bea said...

I am female and I don't have kids because I've never wanted any. I have contemplated the pros, cons, risks, rewards, and consequences of having children and concluded that my life is better spent contributing to the world in other ways.

Sciencegrrl said...

I am a female who has never wanted children...it's just not for me. I never played house, never played with dolls, never wanted to be a mother. Everyone told me "you'll change your mind" but I haven't and won't. I have nothing against other people's children and I am a favorite aunt but I just don't want any of my own. I teach, coach, mentor, so I'm not a selfish bitch, I just have other plans.

It frees me up to a large extent to make career and personal decisions, but I resent the automatic assumption that I WILL have kids at some point,"Well that's fine for now, but when you have kids you won't be able to..." and now that I'm applying for jobs, I'm just telling search committees straight up that I'm childfree by choice.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to judge anybody, but I have to point out that although some seem so sure they know what they're talking about, you really don't know until you have your own children, no matter how many nephews you've known or how many children you've worked with. I never liked children and I still don't like other people's children, but I LOVE mine to death.

Aurora said...

A great post and an interesting read for a professor with 'many' kids. My comment is for the one that said "I am female science professor and do not have children because my pregnancy ended in a miscarriage." Here's a virtual hug. I hope you try again and maybe think of it as the baby wasn't ready to come out and will come out when ready.

Gail Carmichael said...

I am female and I do not have children because... I'm 25 and just started a PhD in computer science (but I am married). I do want kids, and I want them before I'm 30, so I'm going to start getting serious about it after comprehensives.

Anonymous said...

I am female and I have 0 children. I am a post-doc and I find it socially irresponsible to bring a child in this world without having a full time permanent (or at least less insecure than a postdoc) job.

By the time I get such a job (if ever) I may be too old... I am not even sure how I feel about that.

Anonymous said...

I am female and I do not have children because I do not want them. I am an adjunct assistant professor with no hope of a tenure track job due to geographical restrictions and general sloth. This doesn't really influence my (and my husband's) preference against child rearing.

mathgirl said...

from Anon 11/06/2009 09:56:00 AM

"...you really don't know until you have your own children, no matter how many nephews you've known or how many children you've worked with. I never liked children and I still don't like other people's children, but I LOVE mine to death."

I couldn't agree more with this. I have a baby. I've never liked babies or kids. In fact, I am uncomfortable around them, and I totally hate how they take everybody's attention.

Somehow, I wanted to go through the experience of having a kid (I know it isn't logic, but that's the way I felt), and I don't regret it at all. I totally adore my baby!!!

About affecting productivity, it's hard to say so far. It helps to be in a country where you can take long maternity leaves.

Isabel said...

"Sweet Jesus...we have religious people on this blog! Hey FSP... how about you do a survey on how many religious people we have among the readers of this blog."

Grow up, please.

Anonymous said...

I am female (CS PhD) and I don't have children because neither I nor my husband wanted to have any– in part due to environmental concerns.

DrDoyenne said...

Female, 59, no children (never wanted any, nor did scientist husband). No regrets.

It's a personal choice that has little to do with my science profession.

If you want children, don't let your career interfere. If you don't want children, then don't feel guilty (and tell the busy-bodies to butt out).

FrauDrLOL said...

I am a 32 year old female postdoc and I do not have children practically because I am single (by choice) and more generally because I had a hard time myself as a child.

DrL said...

What a great idea for a post! Let me join in:

I am a female postdoc and I do not have children, because it has not happened yet. I guess I did not have time for it yet? During grad school – are you joking? Forget it. After grad school my relationship fell apart and I only found an appropriate guy at 30 y.o. (I did not spend too much time guy-hunting because of job-hunting/trying to postdoc/career turmoil)...

A few years later I am in my fourth postdoc and how can I think about starting a family where all those positions are short-term and in different places? At the moment I am in Japan and my husband is in UK (and we are both from Eastern Europe) and it will stay this way for another 3 years.

Money and immigration status problems mentioned by someone else earlier in the discussion do not help either.

Time (or lack of thereof) is also an issue. Jobs in science are the intensive ones. I would not even consider having a dog or a cat, as I cannot give them enough of my time (but I am considering adopting a turtle).

Even though I want to and plan to have kids (decided at the age of 31) with lack of support, family and friends, and unknown childcare options I would be crazy to get pregnant. Plus here I think it would cost me my job (and therefore the visa, but who needs the visa if they have no job?)

So it is clearly career versus family/children dilemma.

Helen Huntingdon said...

I'm female, 40, and don't have any kids because I never wanted any.

Skinner's Rat said...

I find it peculiar that even though the FSP posed this question to childless people, plenty of parents felt the need to chime in. What part of "I am [female/male] and I do not have children because.. [rest of sentence]" did the parents not understand?

I didn't respond to the survey, but I'm a 38 year-old female behavioral science prof with tenure at a rural regional campus. I do not have children because I've never had any maternal desires. I got myself fixed 2 years ago and only regret not doing it sooner. I have a great job during the week and spend my weekends playing in a bar band, so my life is quite full.

To Anonymous 11/06/2009 09:56:00 AM: You are so right that we childfree folks don't know our feelings about children until we have some of our own. Thank you for helping us see the light. Now you can go tell it to the people featured here: http://badbreeders.net/

Helen Huntingdon said...

I'm only partway down the comments, but I've seen a few about minds changing in the 30s and one commenter hoping her biological clock would kick in.

I've always understood the biological clock urge to basically be that when you see a mother with a baby or young children, you feel a primal sense of overwhelming desire to have your own.

Mine kicked in at 34, but in reverse; on seeing a woman with young children I would feel a primal surge of overwhelming relief that that was not my life.

Anonymous said...

I am a childless, 48-year-old single woman (never married). I cannot remember at any time in my life ever wanting children.

O. Frabjous Day said...

I am 38, female, unmarried, straight, and sexually active. I do not have children because I have always had access to affordable, effective birth control. In a convenient alignment of desire and fortune, I also don't want kids. But really, I don't have them b/c I am privileged and lucky.

Anonymous said...

I am 30 years old, 30 weeks pregnant with my first child, and about to start as an assistant prof at a big university. I have always wanted children, I have always wanted a career in science. I'll manage somehow, with the support of my (also scientist) husband... I know plenty of very successful female academics who have combined family and career sensibly. I'm surprised by the high proportion of childless respondents to this survey.

SunnyQ said...

I am female (30 yo) and I do not have children because I've focused on my career and never thought I was ready. I do, however, have my first on the way - my husband has taught me the important lesson of remembering to live a little outside of work. :) I look forward to having one or two more kids during and/or after returning to grad school to get that PhD I've been planning on (but also not ready, until now of course) and then return to the work force to put it to good use.

(I also hope it isn't too late for this response!)

Anonymous said...

Anon12:50:"I'm surprised by the high proportion of childless respondents to this survey."

what's so surprising about that?? I'm actually surprised that there are so many people these days who DO want to have kids - given the world overpopulation problem and the fact that there is now less "need" for people to have children. we don't all live on farms anymore requiring children to help out, nor are women bound by societal rules to be dependent on husbands for financial and social security. These and other progressive changes suggest that there should be more people tending toward childlessness since there are more lifestyle options available now (without becoming a societal outcast, I mean) than in previous generations so there are more paths than ever to living a life of personal fulfillment.

Anonymous said...

I'm a 32 year old PhD student, finishing this year, and have no kids. Although that would be nice for my partner and I in the future, I have had $0 stipend until this year, and racked up debt. However, as I have applied at some European schools for jobs, if I end up in Scandinavia, you'd better believe I'll be trying to get knocked up right quick, once I settle in. (This is unlikely to be the case if I end up in a US/UK position.)

Anonymous said...

I am female and 38, in a tenure track position. We waited for a very long time (I've been with my partner for 17 years) to try to have a child because we wanted to be in reasonable financial shape, and because I had a super long (though ultimately successful) postdoc. We always wanted kids but said to ourselves that either way would be okay--there are a lot of benefits to a childless life.

However, when we started actually trying, and having some issues, I realized that this was really important to me. We finally lucked out this year and are expecting our first child soon. I am just now coming to terms with the fact that the option to dedicate all of my free time to work will be gone, and childcare will be competing with all of my other interests.

One other point that hasn't been discussed here: my husband is staying at home with the baby in the early years, which is going to make things a lot easier (well, not financially).

Anonymous said...

I'm 32 and never wanted children until recently. I have a highly prestigious research fellow position and also a two-body problem (my husband would love to have children) where my husband and I live far apart. I recently got pregnant accidentally had an abortion because I panicked and thought that having a child right now would kill my career prospects. I think I am right from everything I have seen (sadly I am not as good a time manager as FSP). But now I think about having children and I feel sad that academia really doesn't allow it (for me at least, congrats to those of you who have done it and done science well too.) I really love science, and my colleagues seem to think I am good at it, but I am pondering taking some time off then returning to work in a field without the insanity of the tenure clock (maybe a lower pressure field like consulting!). I think that until the realization that kids might take a few hours of your week sinks in with employers, and employeee (both men and women) have the option to be paid less for fewer hours, I really can't live up to doing both family and career well.

Anonymous said...

I am female, 25, married, and a graduate student with a non-academic husband. We don't plan to have kids because we don't really want them, although his brother and sister both have two each and we love being an aunt and uncle. Also, we agreed before we got married that if we ever did want them, there's so many children that need adopting we'd go that route. I am surprised at the number of other women who don't want to have kids--I always felt like I was the only one!

Anonymous said...

I am female and I do not have children because it's just not the right time yet. I am in my mid-20's (which feels too young for motherhood, to me anyway), starting to wrap up my PhD, and facing an uncertain few years ahead as my fiance and I navigate the academic job market. We both want to have kids eventually, though.