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July 22, 2011


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Franita Tolson

First, congratulations on your new addition! I taught while pregnant last fall and it was a great experience. The students were very understanding, very cooperative, and did what they could to make my life easier. Class went quite smoothly on most days (even when I was feeling very run down).

Generally speaking, students asked me about the sex of the baby and his name (which I provided) but you should feel free to not provide this information if you are not comfortable or willing. They will understand.

A side benefit is that my students were always bringing me food, which was great then but I am paying for now.


Still trying to lose the baby weight


Good luck. I wouldn't worry too much about student reactions and agree with what Franita said above. It's your call how much information to share. Many of the students won't care that you're pregnant while others will be ultra-curious. I'm currently 38 weeks along with number two and am finishing up a clerkship. It's a differnet situation but I've found that most people don't bring it up and with the others, it's pretty easy to respond in a way that discourages further conversation without being rude, if that's how you want to handle it.

For what it's worth, I've found that I'm far more relaxed this time about everything. My own current concerns are similar to yours from the last time around - I will be starting a teaching fellowship with a 2 or 3 week old - eek!

Lisa McElroy


That's wonderful news! In my very first semester of teaching, I was pregnant, about four months at the beginning (when they couldn't quite tell for sure) and seven-ish months at the end (when it was painfully obvious). I had the same concerns that you had: I was a young woman, plus I didn't yet have a track record. I decided that I couldn't ignore the obvious and that it was easiest just to make it a non-issue. About a month in, I decided to make a very quick announcement that, yes, I was pregnant, yes, I was feeling fine, and yes, it was another girl.

I was really astounded at the outpouring of support and enthusiasm from the students. They were very considerate (offering to carry things for me, for example), and it seemed to engender a nice connection (not too personal, but, hey, it was obvious, so didn't feel like I was hiding something from them). I got a lot of nice cards and congratulations from them when my baby was born.

Because I was a young woman obviously juggling work and family (I also had a one year-old at the time), I decided to embrace the opportunity I'd been given to role model for students how to do the best you can. Because female students, in particular, will have to make choices about both family and career within ten years or so after graduating from law school, I wanted them to see and talk with me about the various choices I'd made and the obstacles I'd encountered, as well as the thoughts they were having about how/whether to combine a legal career with kids. I still do that, now that my girls are 10 and almost 12; if I have to cancel office hours to take a kid with chicken pox to the pediatrician, I tell the students that, then make sure I make up the time (so that they see that having kids isn't a cop out). I've talked with lots of colleagues about this approach, and some agree with me, while others don't. But just as your tattoos and class discussions work for you, this approach to the issue works for me and for my students.

Another plus: my second daughter, who is now 10, knows that she was welcomed into the legal academy from very early on.


My humanities prof wife was pregnant with twins a couple of years ago. Her undergrad students told her that seeing her get increasingly big and uncomfortable (the boys ended up being 6.5 and 7.5 pounds, so she had a LOT of baby in her) was the best birth control advertisement that they could think of.


I had a very similar experience while teaching as an adjunct while pregnant -- I actually wasn't sure how to handle it and wasn't showing very much until the end of the semester, so I didn't mention it until my belly became the proverbial elephant in the room. Once I acknowledged that I was pregnant, the students were really warm, curious, and supportive. I just answered their questions honestly and didn't reveal much more info than they asked for, which, fortunately in my view, wasn't too personal.

My question for everyone else out there is slightly different: I'm now beginning a tenure track position and my husband and I are considering having a second child. What do y'all think about having a kid during/ just after my first academic year on the job versus waiting another year or more? Things I'm thinking about are: 1) I'm not getting any younger; 2) I'll have time later to catch up, publishing-wise; BUT 3) I might be viewed as non-serious; 4) I'll go crazy trying to start a new job with a toddler and a newborn.


Jessica Owley

Pondering's question is connected to the discussion about parental leave in my previous blog post.

My perception is that senior faculty understand that junior faculty will be having kids. Two seems the magic number these days and lots of folks here at Buffalo seemed to assume that I would have a second child soon. I think in the long run, deciding when to have kid two is best made based on your family needs/desires (your age/health, age spacing of kids, financial stability, etc.). Not sure timing can ever be "perfect." Either you catch up on publishing or you stop your tenure clock and take an extra year.

A more senior person is better equipped to give feedback here, but my perception is that the only things you can do to show you are "non-serious" are to either (1) not write anything or (2) blow off teaching obligations.

Orin Kerr


My two cents would be to do whatever you think is best for your family. You're now a tenure-track professor, which means you're on the inside (congrats, BTW): Your colleagues will want you to succeed, and they totally understand that your family choices are extremely important: It goes with the territory of entry-level hiring these days. Consistently with what Jessie suggests, I think the key is just to show your good faith effort to stay engaged in writing and teaching and to catch up when you can.

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