Monday, May 11, 2009

what a shitty mothers' day

I really thought I had the finances figured out. I was convinced we were doing well, ahead of the game, and that we would be able to afford a baby, particularly the high cost of full-time daycare, with minimal scrimping. Hubby didn't believe me, so I set out to produce a budget spreadsheet that would prove it.

Well, I went and proved myself wrong. Dammit. So on Mothers' Day, of all possible days, I learned that I really can't afford to become a mother any time soon, at least not while I'm in grad school. This made me very, very sad. I'm estimating another 3 years here in PhD-land, then I guess I'll move on to a post-doc. It seems bad form to get pregnant the instant one is in a new position with a higher salary, so I'm guessing another year of waiting and settling in there before we start trying. That's 4 years! I want a baby now! I already put it on hold for a year for Hubby's master's degree, and I'm sick of waiting!

Hubby saw how upset I was and switched from his usual fiscal conservatism to trying to convince me we can make it work. He's so confusing. I don't know what to do. We have a lot of debt (mostly student loans) that make our budget really tight, so we're considering talking to a financial advisor about how we can shift things around, or refinance, or whatever it takes to get some wiggle room in the monthly budget. I'm really not the least bit concerned about baby gear or basic supplies, since we can get a lot of things secondhand or as gifts, but the daycare...that's like a 3rd mortgage payment (our student loan payments already add up to a 2nd mortgage)! How does anyone do this?


  1. Hi,

    I am so sorry for you! My mother in law once said something very wise to us: If you look at it from a financial point of view, it will never be the right time to have children. Maybe once your 45 years old.. But if you're aspiring a career in science, money won't be that much even if (!if!) you have a post-doc postion.
    Such positions are often only for a year or two, - and making a child takes 9 month. Further, depending on where you are and what kind of funding you have, it may be that you (as a post-doc) are not entitled to nursery subsidies and maternity leave at all. That is the reason why most people wait until they have tenure (and often, by then it is too late). This is the most common problem.
    My advice is, if there is a way, any way, do it now. Now, you are in a situation where you don't mind the cutbacks, and where your timetable in research is most flexible. It will only get worse until you get tenure.
    Daycare is expensive. Is an Au-pair an option? Or grandparents, a self-organized day care where duties can be shared with other parents in a similar situation?

    We were surprised, and then adapted. We moved to a cheaper place, but still, daycare is (still) the largest chunk of expenses. But, once they go to school, this is not the case anylonger, so it is just for 4-6 years, depending on your school system.

    I wish you all the best!

  2. I agree with previous post. We have been told that if we wait for best time financially it may never happen with a career in science.

    But I understand your concern. Daycare in our area is $$$ (almost fainted the first time it came up in discussion), but there are ways and programs you can join. I love your blog b/c it is the topic I most wanted to discuss on my blog and lately I have been so discouraged about having kids that I moved on to other topics. SO, from one aspiring mommy scientist to another....keep your head up and put those scientist skillz to work finding an alternative solution!

  3. I am expecting in 3 weeks, and will be starting a new postdoc in October. The key there was finding an a great person to work for and doing my best to secure funding. As for daycare, have you looked into options in your area? The cost can vary dramatically depending on the location and type of care. Also, look at the things you have and how to make it work. For example, my husband and I are both postdocs, so that means we are poor, but have flexible schedules. Try finding other parents with flexible schedules and take turns with the babies, or hire a high-school student in the afternoon so you can write/read at home for at least a few hours a day (esp. when thesis writing). As a grad student there are 2 options for making more money: a double TA and more student loans. Also, consider applying for grants on your own. If you have your own money, you are not as subject to the whims of your adviser and sometimes they pay more.

  4. I just found your post and had to comment (though belatedly). If you are ready to start a family, you should absolutely do it!

    During the first two years of my PhD, I told myself that we could only afford to have a baby if I got fellowship support (my existing TA stipend is pretty meager). I did not get one, and realize now the ability to start a family is way too much to have riding on the unpredictability of funding sources. We now have a 15 month-old daughter, and have made it work. We shared a nanny part-time with another couple for the first few months to keep costs down. I know of other grad moms who do child swaps (we didn't have time for that). One option in addition to those mentioned by others is a "mommy's helper" to help entertain baby while you are working at home. This usually involves someone younger (i.e., cheaper) than a full-fledged babysitter.

    Now we are moving to daycare. Every penny I make will be handed over to the daycare, so we may have to take out loans (on top of existing student loans!), but daycare would be money spent eventually anyway (or so I tell myself). Like Anon. mentioned, daycare prices are really variable - ours is acutally pretty cheap ($30/day) - it is a nonprofit daycare run by another grad student in her home. She employs international students who teach the kids Spanish!

    Honestly, I have had a few professors tell me that as busy as I feel right now, I actually have more time and flexibility as a grad student than I will as a professor. An added plus is that by the time I have a job and am trying to get tenure, my kids will be in school.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Hi everyone, I am in the same position as mommy-scientist. I've wanted a baby for 2 years now but we are having fertility issues. My doctor told me that my chances of getting pregnant naturally are lower than the average woman, in addition to the fact that it might get harder faster as I age than normal women. My best chance of getting pregnant is IVF. I am a new post doc (started in Jan) and am doing mostly reading right now. I started to think that maybe if I'm going to do IVF now is the time since I can be at home reading as much as possible. I'm worried that once my experiments start up I wont be able to come home if I feel sick (from the IVF hormones). I am quite close to my PhD mentor and she said that it would be best for me to wait until I have my own post-doc grant (another year or so). What do you guys think? Any advice would be really appreciated!
    Also Mommy-Scientist: I agree with everyone else, if you continue to look for the "best time", you'll wait forever. This is the same situation I am in! Like everyone else WILL make it work once the baby is a reality.