Chris Uggen's Blog: baby two-step II

Monday, September 17, 2012

baby two-step II

Today my friend Jay celebrates his 6-year blogiversary, which reminds me that I've been at this a long time. Most posts sort of dissolve into the ether, but some seem to get as much (or as little) play as research articles. People rarely cite them in print, but they'll sometimes tell me that they based a paper or thesis on some observation I'd half-raised in a post. Even better, I occasionally hear that a more personal post (usually about failing prelims or acknowledging help or fostering creativity) turned out to hold some meaning for them. One post that pops up in such conversations concerns having children while in graduate school.

I've written a lot about my own kids over the years and have shared many more conversations with students about deciding whether and when to have children. That's probably why there were a few chuckles and what sounded like a "Good gawd!" from the research office on Friday, when Suzy and Sarah saw my old post on babies and the two-step process mentioned in the new issue of The Criminologist, the American Society of Criminology newsletter. In "Parenthood and the PhD" (pp. 28-29), Tracy Sohoni, Stacey Bosick, and Bianca Bersani offer five useful observations and considerations for prospective parents. I'd concur with all they wrote and I've also been referring folks to a helpful comment thread on orgtheory -- part of Fabio Rojas' Grad Skool Rulz.

As of this fall, my li'l nest became empty for the first time since my second year of graduate school. So, as I try to process all that, it was kind of fun to revisit the old two-step process that brought Tor and Hope into our lives. Read it ... if you dare.

babies and the two-step process

it has been slow blogging since thanksgiving, but i'm energized after stumbling to the finish of another semester. my new nephew leif visited and i showed him the chord changes to a cowboy junkies-esque version of ben lee's catch my disease. most babies love music, but really cool babies seem partial to guitars.

on the day i noted riley wakefield's arrival, julie barrows was welcoming althea kay (shown here with sister lily) into the world. so now my other advisees are looking around nervously wondering who's next. my kids were born during years 2 and 5 of grad school and i've always shared my story with students. i doubt that my experiences have any impact on their weighty decisions, but many have been quite procreant. is it just my imagination, or do professors who have kids during grad school tend to have advisees who have kids during their grad school years? is this due to self-selection, modeling, or meddling/advising?

well, here's the story i tell. in '91 i was broke and nervous about fatherhood, given my luxurious ta/ra/fellowship earnings and my partner's new job. when we asked, "should we have kids now?" the answer was pretty clearly "No!" then, i distinctly remember breaking the decision into the infamous two-step process that led to a different answer.

we asked,
step 1. "do we ever want kids?"
step 2. "conditional on #1, is there really a better time to have kids than now?"
No.o.k., that was easy. we had enough money to survive in madison, i was looking ahead to a long tenure run, and i doubted i'd have any more time or energy at 36 or 46 than at 26.

for kid #2, the same thing happened. we asked "should we have a second kid now?" and again returned "No!" then, the two-step got us again:
step 1. "do we ever want to have a second kid?"
step 2. "conditional on #1, is there really a better time to have a second kid than now?"


whoa! that was too easy. at this point we placed a moratorium on further two-stepping. i don't know whether you do the two-step, but it might offer a fresh perspective on big decisions.


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