Is two babies too many?

Sep 06 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

It seems to take about a year after having baby number 1 that people around you start asking about when you’re planning on having baby number 2 (which in my opinion is almost as rude as asking when you’re planning on having baby number 1).

The other day I learned that a post-doc from across the hall who just had her second baby is not coming back to work, because sending two kids to daycare (or any other form of paid childcare) will cost (much) more than what she makes as a post-doc. Will she be able to come back into academia if she would want to after her kids start going to school? I don’t know. For me, the realization that two kids are too expensive for us is the kind of sad reality too. In the old days, when a post-doc was supposed to last about 2 years, this would work out well. You could have one baby before tenure and in case you want more than one baby, you could have the next one when you had secured a better paying job. But now that it is not uncommon (at least in my field) that a post-doc is more like 5 years, what are you supposed to do when you want a family of more than one baby? I guess you could see the money paid to the daycare as a good investment in everyone’s future, but do you then need to take out a loan in order to pay for daycare? Or one of us would have to quit academic science and find a ‘real’ well-paying job somewhere else. Or: in my opinion the best solution: universities should provide subsidized daycare!!

Seriously, if there were no worries about finding a daycare place and paying for it, my life would be much better. If only BlueEyes would stop crying when we drop him off there in the morning (because the new classroom and the start of separation anxiety seem to converge for him), everything would be icecream and unicorns here.

22 responses so far

  • Jessica Light says:

    I remember reading a lot of posts on Female Science Professor's blog about this topic ( My feeling is that there never is a good time for 1 or more kids. If you want 1 or more, go for it. Yes, it's going to be hard but every family will make it work in a way that works for them. Hopefully in a way that everyone will be happy and healthy. Not only would subsidized daycare be great, but so would a real maternity/parental leave! Granting agencies are now taking into account individuals that have left academics for a time to raise a family. But there's not enough of that and it doesn't always translate to the job market, sadly.

  • scicurious says:

    I know a guy who's still in grad school and going on FIVE kids. His wife stays home, but I have no idea how they manage.

  • Dr24hours says:

    I have a friend who is a medical resident with 4. His wife stays home, and he makes like $50K. In general, we Americans have trained ourselves to be profligate. We forget that it's quite possible to manage a family of 6 on $50K/year if we're not in one of the big metropolises and we're willing to shop at Value Village and cook at home.

    • babyattachmode says:

      True, the babies themselves don't cost too much money (until they go to college I guess), but the cost of daycare is about 75% of my salary for one baby. We do get a scholarship now that helps us pay that, but we have to apply each year and it's always unsure if we get it. If we wouldn't get it it would be very hard to pay for rent, car, phone and flying home once a year...

      • Dr24hours says:

        Aren't there less expensive options that that daycare? I don't know what you make, obviously, but here you can get daycare for $500/mo.

        • babyattachmode says:

          Yes here you can get daycare for about $600 minimum. However, there they just pile up the babies in bouncy chairs in front of the TV. And since I'm dropping off my child and not a bag of dirty laundry, I happily pay more for extra quality.

  • GMP says:

    We spaced our kids (7 yrs between the first two, 4 between the second and the third). My first kid was in grad school and there was no way in hell we could afford another daycare until I got a real job. Nobody says you have to have a baby every 2 years.
    Even on a prof salary, it's not easy to pay for more than one daycare at a time.

  • sara says:

    I'd say no. We are currently going through the 'how many babies is enough' discussion in our house. I think the 'too many' question is a factor of what your work/life priorities are, what your existing child(ren) are like, money, timing and fertility. We think having more kids is about more than just money (though money is important!). It's about how many years you want kids at home, how loud you like your house, how much you want to curl up with a book instead of head to the playground, etc.

    There are options for $$ as well --spacing out kids is one option, hiring a nanny to cover two kids at once is another. I feel your pain though -- every penny we pinch pales in comparison to the astronomical amount of money going to daycare.

  • miko says:

    The math is pretty for student/postdoc couples: if you want 2 kids in daycare, one of you has to quit.

    Any female science trainees out there whose husband either stayed home or dropped out of academia for paid employment?

  • Dr 27 says:

    Thanks for the shout out! I don't have any as you know, and I plan to keep it like that for as long as possible ... even though I'm 31 and by many standards I'm apparently ancient and pruny ... whatever. I like Jessica's lines of: "Yes, it's going to be hard but every family will make it work in a way that works for them. Hopefully in a way that everyone will be happy and healthy." Indeed, I've seen my share of people being students and having 3 or 4 kids (I know of two at least, one of them from my year who had 4). I don't know how they did it, but they seemed happy with their choice and made it work. It would sure be nice to have subsidized childcare at universities, and of course, a clear policy of parental leave .. not just a verbal arrangement with your PI.

    • ARC says:

      Ancient and pruny at 31?? Seriously?! Nearly everyone I know around my Big City, in the Tech Industry has had their kids well into their 30s, or even at 40! I had my first at 34 and am working on #2 at 37 and don't feel old at any mommy-gatherings! I can think of only one close friend who had a kid in her 20s and she was 29.

      That's one nice thing about industry - the "rules" around leave are very clearly laid out. jerky bosses don't have much influence there.

      • I don't think your old at 31 at all, but I do think it's good for people to realize that fertility drops dramatically between 35 and 40. In my opinion, if you know you want children then why wait? I at least would have been devastated if I had realized later in my life that I had waited too long.

  • Jessica Light says:

    I'm an assistant prof and my husband has been working on his dissertation in history (defending next week!). He's pretty much been a stay-at-home dad while writing. And once he defends, he'll probably be stay-at-home at least part-time while I work full time. We may look into part-time day care in the next 6 months or so (baby is almost 1 year).

  • Michelle says:

    I'm a female grad student/mom. I took time off from grad school to have a kid---it delays getting the PhD, obviously, but it's worked out well for us. In my case, I'm 100% certain that I do *not* want another child, so I can't add to the "when to have a second kid" discussion.

    However, I want to comment on the cost of childcare. We put our kid in the university's excellent childcare the tune of $1,325/month (more if your child is under a year of age). Two kids costs almost twice that (there's a *small* discount for multiple children). And, yes, I verified that this is a typical "tuition" for the preschools/daycares in the area.

    The only way we were able to afford that was because I got an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Without the Fellowship, I wouldn't have been able to pay for childcare; the typical departmental stipend just wouldn't be enough.

    I'd love to see the NSF offer more childcare grants for grad students and post docs. The greatest concentration of universities (and hence grad students and post docs), including the Boston area, the San Francisco area, and the Los Angeles area, are all high cost-of-living areas. Ordinary post doc salaries and graduate stipends aren't enough to cover childcare.

  • chall says:

    My expereince here in the US is that the cost of daycare is the single biggest cost of having children (until school - private is a big option where I live due to not too great public schools). Having one parent stay at home is cheaper in so many ways. And i don't know of any men here who are "stay at home dads"...

    A few of my co-workers and church people have 'solved' part of this by one working night shifts then other one day shifts... it means both of them are extremly tired but it did save them a lot 0-3 yo. I would be ok with working part-time with my spouse doing that too if we had children, my parents did that and it made a lot of sense to me. Employers need to be ok with that though, not usual here afaik 🙁 and not for me atm.

  • European Academic says:

    This blogger had a stay at home husband (I think, check her older life-balance posts):
    Although she is not in US, so that doesn't help you...

  • Thanks for your comments! It's nice to read other people's experiences and solutions to this 'problem' (I say 'problem', because this morning on the bus to work I realized that this is quite a first world problem...)

  • chall says:

    IBAM: you know, it's only a 'problem'if you think about things before they happen, right? (tongue in cheek since I'm right there with you on being a thinker and liking to know what happens before giving birth to a baby and will there be money/support etc.)

    However, where I live now I can tell you that there are plenty of people who have children without having any thoughts about it before... with some pretty bad things coming out of it. Although, many times it seems to "work" too... just not as well?! And even if I think there should be some thinking, I know for a fact that I probably over thought my life ... I don' know, hope you're not offended but sometimes it might work out fine even if everything wasn't thought out to a t beforehand?

    (note; I'm obviously not living proof of my last paragraph since I have no children, did a post-doc and am over 33... ^^)

  • Drugmonky says:

    Having children, no matter how many, is not a rational act. It is not possible to reason out the ideal way to do it.

    • babyattachmode says:

      True, having children is a very irrational act, but choosing not to have them IS a rational act. And since there are multiple ways not to have children, we have the luxury of thinking about we don't want to have them.

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