Stay-in-School Mothers

May 16, 2005 | 96 comments
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Recently a T&S reader emailed me asking for my advice on the graduate school questions: is graduate education a worthwhile option for a young woman who intends to have children? I wrote back to her (rather astonishing myself at how much I found to say), and I’ve posted here my reply.

A Ph.D. in English had been a long-standing dream and goal for me throughout college (the degree itself—and the process of earning it, of course—was always more attractive to me than the prospect of an actual career in academia). I took the GRE while I was in the MTC, and a few weeks after I returned from my mission I began the process of grad school application. The admission letters began arriving the weekend after I got engaged to my husband, a med student in San Diego, and to my devastation I was admitted almost everywhere except UCSD. My decision to get married seemed, from that perspective, to foreclose the possibility of graduate study for me; it was a real blow, and I felt for a time that it was a sign from God that I was not to pursue graduate education. Fortunately, there was ram in the thicket: in San Diego, I was able to take graduate seminars as an adjunct student while I worked part-time as a nanny, I formed relationships with faculty members and proved that I had the goods, re-applied, and was admitted the following year to the PhD track. I fell pregnant at the end of my second year, when I had completed the most rigorous years of coursework, and took the summer off. When my daughter was about five months old I went back to school; I quit teaching at that point, so my only responsibility away from home was a once-a-week three-hour seminar (there was quite a lot of at-home work, of course, and I took full advantage of naptime!). I completed my qualifying exams at the end of my third year, and I became pregnant with my second child shortly after that. My husband completed his graduate work and transitioned back into medical school then, leaving him with no flexibility and almost no free time, so at that point my daughter began going to a babysitter for about ten hours a week until my son was born. I finished the first two chapters of the dissertation before Jack arrived, leaving only the last chapter to produce afterward. Fortunately, my husband’s schedule was very flexible during his fourth year of med school, so when Jack was about four months old I began working in earnest on that last chapter. To my amazement, everything came together in a few months, and I finished and defended my dissertation before we moved away from San Diego (and before all but one of my cohort of classmates finished, I might add!). At every point along the way, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to continue, but somehow (well, not just somehow–with a lot of work, organization, and support) things always worked out.

Graduate school is hard: PhDs are long (five years minimum), expensive, sometimes unpleasant, and yield uncertain career prospects. You need to be clear about what a graduate education will cost you, and how well it will serve your goals. (I’m taking it for granted here that you want to get married and stay home with your children at some point—I assume that’s why you asked my advice on this issue; if you don’t, then a lot of what follows won’t apply to you.) If you have to pay for graduate school, I’d think twice—and then again—about going: almost all programs worth your time will fund you, and if they won’t you might want to think hard about your prospects. The issue of debt, like it or not, is particularly tricky for women: if you incur a lot of student debt, you may later be forced to work to pay it off when you’d rather be home with your children, or else rely on your husband’s single income to pay off (most likely) two student debt loads. Graduate training is time intensive, generally a five-year minimum, and if it’s important to you to get some time in the workplace before you have kids, you’d probably be better served at business or law school, which will spit you into the professional world sooner. If you think it will be important to you to work part-time outside the home after you have children, then something like nursing or teaching will probably serve you better—unless you like the idea of adjunct work, and some people do (just not me!).

Yeah, graduate school is hard. It was also, for me, exhilarating, enjoyable from day to day, and deeply satisfying. You need to consider the costs, of course, but you also need to be clear on the rewards, which, for me, were great. The intellectual benefits of formal graduate training are real: the exercises I undertook in critical reading, writing and rhetoric profoundly shaped the way I approach intellectual problems and permanently changed (for better or worse, I guess!) the way I read and write, and the sheer brute effort of assimilating and internalizing large amounts of information required a mental discipline I’d never enjoyed before. The sustained effort required to complete my degree fostered concentration and organization, and my supportive relationship with my advisor and colleagues gave me a deep current of confidence in my ability to participate in the professional world. And although I never entered the job market—and never intended to, really—my degree has brought me personal and professional opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have encountered.

I’ve heard it argued that women can derive the same benefits from informal education—night classes at a community college, self-directed readings, etc—as they can from formal training. I strenuously disagree with this, and I feel that it’s unfair to suggest to women that this is so. There are real personal benefits to the kind of informal self-education I describe, to be sure, and it can be a richly rewarding experience. But it simply won’t provide the same intellectual and professional benefits that formal training will: the rigor of deadlines and directed readings, the collegiality of seminars and advisors, and the mental work required to conduct original research and produce significant writing will be absent. Believe me, I’ve done it both ways, and there’s almost no comparison to be made. None of the benefits of formal training are at all important in an eternal moral scheme, of course, and I’m making absolutely no relative judgment between women who pursue informal versus formal educations; I’m just saying that if those things are important to you, you’ll only find them in a rigorous formal program.

Above all, you need to evaluate these costs and benefits by yourself, according to your own desires and objectives; simply smile and disregard those who tell you you’re being selfish, or naive, or whatever (have people really said this to you? sheesh!). Close friends and relatives can be valuable advisors, but you’ll need to learn to ignore unwanted advice or perceived judgements—and the sooner the better. Not so much because you’ll encounter disapproval at church–I experienced very little of this from church members, honestly—but because you’ll undoubtedly encounter it at school. Unless you go to BYU, you’ll almost certainly face criticism and misunderstanding for your faith from colleagues in your program, and you’ve got to learn to soldier on past what people choose to think of your choices.

Let me, then, pose a few questions.
1) Do you really love the process—not just the outcome, in the form of degree or job—of academic research? If you want to combine graduate work and motherhood, there’s a real chance that at some point things won’t work out, and you’ll have to quit school. If that happens, the time and effort you’ve invested won’t be wasted if you’ve really loved what you’ve been doing.
2) Is now the best time to do this? If your goal is to land a tenure-track position, you might want to wait until later in life to earn your degree, because a ten- or fifiteen-year-old degree that’s been put on the shelf while you raise your kids probably won’t be worth much on the job market. Of course, the longer you’re out of the academic world, the more difficult it will be to get back into it: I observed that the older grad students in my program faced some real challenges, no matter how smart and motivated they were.
3) Do you really have what it takes to compete? The best grad school programs are highly competitive, and populated with really, really smart (if often a little lazy and self-indulgent) students. Have you received the kind of feedback from professors and mentors that suggests that you really have the ability and skills? The students in my program who were the most unhappy were those who felt insecure in their abilities, and among these there was a high rate of attrition.

If you do decide to go ahead with graduate school and motherhood—congratulations! Under the right conditions, it’s very doable and a lot of fun. Here’s some advice culled from my experience.

Timing: If at all possible, jump right into a PhD program (unless an MA is the terminal degree in your discipline). MAs are often expensive, unfunded, and, frankly, a waste of time from a professional point of view—and from a biological point of view, if you want to have your kids relatively young (as I did). Don’t tell yourself that you’ll do a master’s just to see if you like academia: if you don’t already know you like it, chances are you won’t. Once you’re in the program, don’t have a baby until you’ve completed the most rigorous years of coursework (generally the first two) and have got a good handle on what your research will entail: putting off kids for a few years will let you be home with them more when you do have them, and will let you get some years of graduate teaching under your belt, which is valuable CV filler. After you have a baby, take some time off (I needed at least four months) but not too much: the longer you’re out of touch with your program and your research, the more difficult it is to step back in.

Childcare: You’re going to need some, and, unless you’re in a really unusual situation, your husband won’t be able to provide all you need. My advice is to pick an upper weekly limit—for me it was ten hours a week—and stick with it: if you exceed your limit, or don’t have an established limit at all, you’ll feel guilty. But don’t feel guilty or negligent for using a reasonable amount of childcare: even non-student SAHMs often use up to ten hours of childcare a week, especially if they’re regular gym goers! It was always important to me to provide all the actual care for my children, so I arranged the schedule so that I would always be the one feeding them meals and putting them to sleep; however, this might not be as important to other moms. And speaking of naps, take full advantage! For many months, my daughter would go to the babysitter’s for two hours in the morning, and then would take a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon, so if I was disciplined I could put in a full 4-5 hours of work, which rivals (or exceeds!) the time any other grad student has available.

Combining two lives: Do everything that you possibly can with your kids, so that you can save your free hours for real reading and writing. You’d be surprised at how much you can do with the kids: when my babies were small I’d put them in the sling and pick up items from the library (thank heavens for remote access and the “Request” button!), drop off and pick up mail and papers from school, even meet with professors. For this to work, you must be organized, however, and I cannot overstate the importance of organization in combining motherhood and school. Fortunately, I found that motherhood made me more organized: I learned to live by and love schedules and routine, I learned to manage and organize many different items and pieces of information, and I found that the scarcity of my time forced me to use it more efficiently. Parenthood, that is, made me a better scholar; I firmly believe this, and it’s not at all surprising to me that my only other colleague (also LDS) who, with me, graduated in normative time, also had two kids during graduate school, while none of our other colleague had small children. Unfortunately, I have not found that the converse is true: graduate school has not made me a better mother, except for providing me with a sanity-preserving outlet. There’s just too little overlap between the kind of specialized knowledge and skills I acquired in graduate school and the mundane, general tasks that constitute day-to-day mothering. There are lot of good reasons to go to graduate school, but its effect on your parenting skills is not one of them (except, as I mentioned, as an outlet).

Above all, of course, be sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit, if they’re forthcoming. I have a sister who broke nearly all the “rules” I’ve outlined here in response to a persistent prompting from the Spirit, and she’s had a spectacularly successful experience in her graduate program.

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96 Responses to Stay-in-School Mothers

  1. Kaimi on May 16, 2005 at 5:04 pm

    Wow.

    I must admit that I find Rosalynde’s unique combination of organization, motivation and intellect to be a strange mix of admirable and dizzying. I take off my hat to a woman who can successfully keep so many balls in the air. However, I’m also relatively certain that I couldn’t emulate her if my life depended on it.

  2. Kaimi on May 16, 2005 at 5:05 pm

    Typing that last comment was a lot of work. I think I need a break. Time to go surf the internet for 20 minutes.

  3. Julie in Austin on May 16, 2005 at 5:06 pm

    Great post, one quibble:

    “If you think it will be important to you to work part-time outside the home after you have children, then something like nursing or teaching will probably serve you better”

    Nursing, yes. Teaching, no. (I assume you mean K-12 here.) Teaching is a singularly bad choice for part-time work: no flex time, no nights, no Saturdays, no summers, low pay. And in general it is hard to get on part-time with a district (although if you are full time and tell them you are leaving, they may offer part-time–this happened to me). Of course, once all your kids are school-aged, it looks a little more attractive (except the pay).

    Jobs that I have seen work well part-time for mothers include: pharmacist, accountant, in-house counsel for a small company, computer programmer, medical billing, seamstress, aerobics instructor, nurse. I worked for a private company teaching test prep classes on nights and Saturdays for awhile. I am sure there are others.

    One other note for the person who emailed RW: If you are the kind to consider this, but ultimately don’t decide to do it, I would put you at high risk for feeling bored and underutilized and oatmeal-brained at home. You’ll need another outlet.

  4. Katie on May 16, 2005 at 5:14 pm

    Rosalynde-I do not know if I would agree with your statement that masters degrees are a waste of time professionally. I am currently getting my masters in religion and my professional goal is to teach full-time at a community college. The CC teacher job is actually a great choice for women who wish to pursue an advanced degree, teach, and yet also have plans to be mothers. I have two friends who have done just that-they teach at CCs while also being mothers. They both unequivocally love it and recommend it to many as the ideal job. For them it has been fulfilling professionally while also offering a very flexible schedule to be with their children. It is of course not for everyone (my friends often lament the complete lack of writing ability on the part of many of the students), but if teaching is appealing and high schoolers are not, it is certainly a viable option.

  5. Jim F on May 16, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    Rosalynde, this is excellent advice, though I think Julie’s minor quibbles are also accurate.

    The only thing I would add is an underscore to the possibility of adjunct work. I know a number of people who teach part-time, both here at BYU and at some other places, and who like doing so. It is part of their career strategy rather than a fall-back position.

    If you are established some place, even as a part-time professor it is sometimes possible to get advancement in rank and some money for research and travel. Though details vary from department to department, we do that here for those who are clearly professional and part-time (i.e., sticking with the job for several years and doing good work) rather than just part-time and then moving on to something else. We depend on those people very much, and they do a very good job.

  6. Rosalynde Welch on May 16, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    Katie, good point. I tried to make it clear throughout (but perhaps did not), that if adjunct or CC teaching is your goal, then things are different. Of course, one should also be clear on what adjunct and CC teaching entails: usually lots and lots of grading (no TAs or graders!), general and intro undergrad courses, low salaries and often no benefits, very little funding or support for research. This is not to say that it’s not a noble or worthwhile pursuit, and kudos to those women who enjoy it and have made it work, but it’s not for me and (in my experience) not usually what PhD students want or expect.

    Julie, thanks for the correction on the teaching point. You know more about this than I.

    Kaimi: Thanks!

  7. Jim F on May 16, 2005 at 5:24 pm

    Katie, I think you are right if there is not already a surplus of Ph.D.s in religion waiting to take the jobs at CCs. It is possible that a person in a field with lots of jobless Ph.D.s will not find a job at a CC with a Masters degree. I think that has generally been the case for those with degrees in philosophy.

  8. J. Stapley on May 16, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    The discipline you are in also has a huge effect on time constraints. If you are in the sciences (i.e., life or hard) there no way to get around being on campus for at least 40 hours a week for as long as you are in the program. In many areas it my be 60 hrs.

  9. A. Greenwood on May 16, 2005 at 5:49 pm

    The rule of thumb, in decisions like this, should be that education isn’t worth putting of childbearing and childrearing. If both can be done, and often they can, so much the better.

  10. Portia on May 16, 2005 at 5:58 pm

    The rule of thumb, in decisions like this, should be that education isn’t worth putting of childbearing and childrearing. If both can be done, and often they can, so much the better.

    The rule of thumb, in decisions like this, is to study it out in your own mind and see if the Lord confirms your answer. And to generally ignore well-meaning bystanders who offer you rules of thumb.

  11. Rosalynde Welch on May 16, 2005 at 6:17 pm

    J., that’s a good point; perhaps I should have specified that my correspondent was a history major.

  12. Steve Evans on May 16, 2005 at 6:27 pm

    Portia, I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you back! You always disappear so quickly, but while you’re here it’s like the northern lights.

    and yes, I’m being serious.

  13. Nate Oman on May 16, 2005 at 6:32 pm

    I wonder if history presents special problems in that any dissertation is going to require a substantial amount of work in primary sources, which are frequently housed in archives that will require many hours of work in child-unfriendly enviroments. I was amazed at the number of hours it took twiddling my thumbs in the national archives to get materials to write a fairly short paper (50 pages) on legal history. I imagine that anything as substantial as a dissertation could require a lot of archival time. I suspect that certain disciplines — English and philosophy come to mind — are a lot more portable than others — say history or biochemistry.

  14. Frank McIntyre on May 16, 2005 at 6:38 pm

    Economics requires no field work and has excellent job prospects in and out of academia. Unfortunately you have to study economics, which seems to be a deadweight loss for a lot of people. Hence the excellent job prospects…

  15. kris on May 16, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    Nate has a good point. One would also want to make sure that your sources are nearby as opposed to having to take long trips to libraries and archives. This is the dilemma that makes me hesitate about going back to do my Ph.D. My true love is antebellum American women’s history but I live outside the U.S. in a city where the university library archives are the best source of Scottish history in the world, outside of Scotland. I suppose, the best course of action for me to take would be to focus on the strengths of the university near me. I think that Laurel Thatcher Ulrich talks about the same thing somewhere as how she chose to focus on more local documents which led to her book Good Wives and then on to Martha Ballard’s diary.

  16. Steve Evans on May 16, 2005 at 7:00 pm

    kris, do you ever check your email? Sheesh.

  17. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 16, 2005 at 7:14 pm

    Unfortunately you have to study economics rather than just revel in the joy of it, but that is the breaks with grad school.

    A PhD in business can often be accomplished in 3-4 years. The PhD project pushes that as the stipends are high, the time period short, the faculty positions outnumber the graduates.

    There are times I wish I had gone for a PhD instead of a JD, though I really enjoy my job.

    My wife is a CRNA. BSRN followed by at least two years in the units and all the cardiac and intensive care certifications followed by 27 months of sixty hour weeks. But, thereafter, part-time PRN work is easy to find and flexible.

  18. laura on May 16, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    Three thoughts from someone who just finished their fourth year of grad school:

    1. Reading your economics book, presentation script or draft of a paper aloud to a toddler puts them to sleep very quickly. This works on my nephew everytime. I think he just likes hearing my voice, not so much the story….

    2. While there are several men with young families in my program, there are no women with children. It really puts you into a different social bracket (I’ve been caring for my 2.5 year old nephew for the last 8 months)- not only are you not able to/do not want to “go out” after classes, you miss out on the group camadarie of studying at school or with friends. Also, no one at school wants to hear about toilet training, Veggie Tails or the latest McDonald’s happy meal toy- all of which have been major topics in my life for the last few months.

    3. Rosalynde mentioned the “Do you have what it takes to compete?” question. I was definitely the competitive sort until I became my nephew’s guardian- all A’s, always in class, worked 20 hours a day, etc. Now that I am caring for a toddler, I’m having to become accustomed to less than stellar grades- not necessarily a fun adjustment. You have to be comfortable making trade-offs on both sides (ie using some childcare and not doing each assignment perfectly).

    But, I wouldn’t trade my experiences in grad school, and I have every intention of finishing.

  19. A. Greenwood on May 16, 2005 at 7:51 pm

    What a remarkable story, miss laura. I would read a novel with that premise (grad student becomes her nephew’s guardian, lulls him to sleep with dissertation reading, etc.).

  20. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 16, 2005 at 7:52 pm

    BTW, for more on the econ program people:

    http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2004/02/facts_about_eco.html

    The median “time to degree” is 5.4 years. The range is from 2.7 years to 29.7 (!) years.

    6. 56 percent of graduating Ph.d. students wrote a “three essays” thesis rather than a single block work. This is estimated to save more than half a year’s time.

    7. Only four percent of finishing Ph.d. students received no financial aid whatsoever.

    8. The unemployment rate for graduating Ph.d. students is projected at 2.1 percent.

  21. N Miller on May 16, 2005 at 8:03 pm

    Rosalynde,

    Your comments are excellent. While going to school I worked close with many coworkers at a local company. Some of the people I worked with were stay-at-home moms who had finished schooling before having children with the thought that it would be a good insurance policy if something were to happen to their husband. What a fallacy! One of the women I worked with lost her husband and found that her degree she recieved fifteen years earlier meant almost nothing and ended up having to go back to school any ways. Not that going to school is the worst thing that happened to her, but it isn’t easy when you have a family to take care of. Although I don’t know if working is the desire of the person asking the question, but if your desire is to have something to fall back on, get life and disability insurance on your spouse so that if something happens to them, you can go back to school without the problems that I have seen many woman (and men) face without insurance.

  22. Julie in Austin on May 16, 2005 at 8:30 pm

    N Miller–

    That’s an important observation about the insurance. We frequently speak of an education as a woman’s insurance, but certainly actual insurance is important. (And, I would note, relatively inexpensive for term life for people young enough to have small children.)

  23. Heather Oman on May 16, 2005 at 9:47 pm

    “I’ve heard it argued that women can derive the same benefits from informal education—night classes at a community college, self-directed readings, etc—as they can from formal training. I strenuously disagree with this, and I feel that it’s unfair to suggest to women that this is so.”

    Rosalynde, I totally agree with you. Graduate school is such a focused, intense time that can not be duplicated in any other setting. And although my graduate program was in no way a prep course for a Ph.D, I can not imagine how I would have done it with a child. I knew some women who did have children in the program, and like you said, they had a very difficult time managing everything.

    When I got accepted to graduate school, I hesitated, not knowing if I really wanted to go. I told a professor I was working for at the time, “I don’t know if I want to go right now. After all, graduate school will always be there.”

    He looked at me and said, “That’s absolutely not true. Your opportunities to go to school will not always be there. They are here for you now, and you need to take them. Other things will always be available. School, the way you can do it now, and what you can do with it, will not.”

    I thought he was a little intense and slightly overdramatic at the time, but I took his advice and went. Oh, how right he was.

    I think the bottom line is that you do what you need to do to get whatever you want to get done done–get better organized, have some help, whatever. Still, I think that getting graduate school finished, or at least well on it’s way, before having children is the easier road to follow.

  24. Julie in Austin on May 16, 2005 at 10:16 pm

    “education isn’t worth putting of[f] childbearing and childrearing”

    I realize that Adam didn’t make this up and it is the general counsel of the Church.

    I never faced this issue because I didn’t get married until I had just a year of school left, but looking back, I have to wonder, what bad thing would have happened if I had waited three years to have kids and my kids were now 4, 2, and a baby instead of 7, 3.5, and a baby? Or, is this strictly an obedience issue and we shouldn’t look for reasons?

    (In an era where we say “have as many children as you can,” I can see the place for counsel to not put off starting a family. In an era where we aren’t doing that, I have a hard time seeing a 2, 3, or even 5 year wait as a huge problem.)

    Again, Portia is right (she’s directly following the handbook, in fact), but if we are thinking in generalities, is waiting a few years a problem?

    (sorry if this is a threadjack, but I suppose it is germane to women and grad school)

  25. lyle on May 16, 2005 at 10:25 pm

    “And to generally ignore well-meaning bystanders who offer you rules of thumb.”

    Especially when it comes from Prophets & Apostles, right?

  26. Jonathan Green on May 16, 2005 at 10:36 pm

    Rosalynde, amen and amen. Anyone thinking about grad school should read your post.

    One clarification: My impression is that a lot of grad programs at Big 10 schools require an M.A. as a step towards a Ph.D. Students who enter with a B.A. will be expected to complete M.A. requirements before starting on the Ph.D. In the programs I was familiar with, the M.A. students were funded as well as the Ph.D. students. I completely agree that unfunded grad study is to be avoided.

    Sometime we’ll have to talk about adjuncting. I might have a few things to say about it, both for good and for ill.

  27. nicole on May 16, 2005 at 10:51 pm

    I’m finishing up a phd in business (it took 5 years – which is common at top business schools) which was fully funded by fellowships that were endowed by alumni and other donors. Over the five years my tuition was paid by these fellowships and I received $140,000 in stipends. I was not married when I started my program but I knew that if I did get married, staying home with my children would be a high priority. (Incidentally I did get married 2 days ago. Yes, we are reading the blog together on our honeymoon through a very slow dial up connection.)

    I have often wondered about the ethical implications of taking a spot in a funded program when I may not use the degree professionally. (I accepted an academic job and will start working in the fall, but when kids start arriving, we are going to have to make some hard decisions about our careers and our family.) I’m guessing that the donors who funded my fellowships are hoping the money will be used to educate people who use their education to better society. Further, spots in top academic programs are scarce and society suffers a loss when people who are trained by the leaders in their field do not use their education professionally. I’m wondering what others think about this?

  28. Bob Caswell on May 17, 2005 at 1:12 am

    “Especially when it comes from Prophets & Apostles, right?”

    Lyle, exactly. I often tend to have issues with those Prophets and Apostles who are nameless and ubiquitous at the same time.

  29. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 17, 2005 at 2:30 am

    Further, spots in top academic programs are scarce and society suffers a loss … interesting point, though if you look at the statistics that surround the field, you should lose your concerns in that regard.

  30. lyle on May 17, 2005 at 6:06 am

    Bob, what will you do in Heaven then? The nameless problem will presumably be solved (assuming perfect information); but the ubiquitous problem will only increase. :)

    If a “rule of thumb” comes from a Prophet or Apostle, then obviously they are not “well meaning bystanders” but those chosen by the Lord to lay forth his word in guidance to _all_. For now, let’s just start with:

    A. Kimball

    “After marriage young wives should be occupied in bearing and rearing children. I know of no scriptures or authorities which authorize young wives to delay their families or to go to work to put their husbands through college. Young married couples can make their way and reach their educational heights, if they are determined.”

    http://tinyurl.com/bz10

    If he didn’t know of any, then I feel safe in notlooking pre-1975 for such. Yup…sure enough, looking for any statements about “marriage” containing any variation of “delay children” or “putting off having children” yields a grand total of _0_ hits when searching the Ensign. Probably lots of supportive statements though.

    B. Lee

    Harold B. Lee, “Maintain Your Place As a Woman,” Ensign, Feb. 1972, 48

    ‘I sat this morning with some of my brethren who are among our most prominent leaders. One of the brethren said he had recently had requests from two sisters, at different times, asking if he would give them a special blessing so that they could have children. On inquiry he found that in their earlier married life they had refused to have children, and now, when they desire children, for some reason they can’t have them.

    Another one of my brethren spoke up and said, “That reminds me of our own experience. We married quite young and we had our children, five of them, before my wife was 28. Then something happened and we were not able to have any more children.” He continued: “If we had delayed having our family until after I had my education, which would have been about that time, we probably would have had no children of our own.”

    When I consider those who enter into holy wedlock in the Lord’s own way and receive the divine commandments to multiply and replenish the earth, then through their own designs fail to observe the commandment, I wonder if, later on when they are ready to have the children, the Lord might not think: “Maybe this is the time for you to do a little soul-searching in order for you to come back to the realities for which you have been placed upon the earth.”’

    1. Monson
    “Most of these little ones come to parents who eagerly await their arrival, mothers and fathers who rejoice to be a part of that miracle we call birth. No sacrifice is too great, no pain too severe, no waiting too long.”

    “It is our solemn duty, our precious privilege—even our sacred opportunity—to welcome to our homes and to our hearts the children who grace our lives.”

    “Silently I thought to myself, For 17 years, Mother has provided this service and all others to her daughter, never thinking of her own comfort, her own pleasure, her own food.”

    http://tinyurl.com/dwypy

    2. Packer

    “The laws of God on marriage, birth, and nurturing of little children may seem rigid, but they are very practical. His law decrees that the only legitimate union of man and woman is between husband and wife. For, should that expression of love result in conception, marriage provides shelter for the child who enters mortality innocent and helpless. Marriage ensures security and happiness for parents as well.”

    http://tinyurl.com/7dyb8

    3. Holland.

    “Today I wish to praise those motherly hands that have rocked the infant’s cradle and, through the righteousness taught to their children there, are at the very center of the Lord’s purposes for us in mortality.” Note that he doesn’t say the babysitter, the day care worker, or the nanny who “rocked” the infant’s cradle.

    “The young years are often those when either husband or wife—or both—may still be in school or in those earliest and leanest stages of developing the husband’s breadwinning capacities.”

    http://tinyurl.com/byd78

    4. Eyring.

    “For some of us, the test in the schoolroom of mortality will be to want marriage and children in this life with all our hearts but to have them delayed or denied.”

    http://tinyurl.com/bz10

  31. lyle on May 17, 2005 at 6:10 am

    First, Prophets are hardly “well meaning bystander.” But hey…whatever fits your fiddle.
    Second, Prophets will probably not be anonymous in Heaven, but they probably will be more ubiquitous.

    From Pres. Kimball:

    http://tinyurl.com/bz10

    After marriage young wives should be occupied in bearing and rearing children. I know of no scriptures or authorities which authorize young wives to delay their families or to go to work to put their husbands through college. Young married couples can make their way and reach their educational heights, if they are determined.

    There weren’t any pre-1975; and an Ensign seach pulls up a total of _0_ such statements to date.

    Of course, as with all counsel, we can ignore it; if we accept the consequences:

    Harold B. Lee, “Maintain Your Place As a Woman,” Ensign, Feb. 1972, 48

    I sat this morning with some of my brethren who are among our most prominent leaders. One of the brethren said he had recently had requests from two sisters, at different times, asking if he would give them a special blessing so that they could have children. On inquiry he found that in their earlier married life they had refused to have children, and now, when they desire children, for some reason they can’t have them.

    Another one of my brethren spoke up and said, “That reminds me of our own experience. We married quite young and we had our children, five of them, before my wife was 28. Then something happened and we were not able to have any more children.” He continued: “If we had delayed having our family until after I had my education, which would have been about that time, we probably would have had no children of our own.”

    When I consider those who enter into holy wedlock in the Lord’s own way and receive the divine commandments to multiply and replenish the earth, then through their own designs fail to observe the commandment, I wonder if, later on when they are ready to have the children, the Lord might not think: “Maybe this is the time for you to do a little soul-searching in order for you to come back to the realities for which you have been placed upon the earth.”

  32. Tim on May 17, 2005 at 7:38 am

    It is interesting that whenever the topic of finishing an education or working mothers come up, the men trot out the “do not delay children” quotes. Yes, prophets have told us to multiply and replenish, but Julie in Austin (#24) makes a great point that no one has addressed.

    I think we all would agree that prophets no longer require women to have as many children as they can physically stand, so, what is the harm in spacing out the number of children you decide to have, and women pursuing productive activities while keeping family their first priority? Are women required, as soon as they are married, to stay at home and never leave?

  33. Joe on May 17, 2005 at 8:12 am

    I’m new to the site and a first-time commenter.

    I have a relative with the following history: She began graduate school in English in her early 40’s as a recently-divorced mother (with primary custody) of 10 children ranging from 19 to 2. She eventually finished a PhD, landed an academic job, and got tenure, while simultaneously mothering the kids alone. Her ex-husband had the children for about one weekend a month and six weeks every summer; she handled them the rest of the time. She did not use day-care or commercial baby-sitters; relatives occasionally watched the kids but not more than a few hours a week. She did most of her academic work very early in the morning.

    This is not meant to say that all mothers who want academic careers should pursue them; everyone’s situation is different. But it can be done, even under very challenging circumstances.

  34. Audrey in Houston on May 17, 2005 at 8:52 am

    Tim, due to the fact that woman have only a window of child-bearing opportunity, if you space your children out or wait too long, you will probably have less children.

    There is also a myth among highly educated women (perhaps mostly non-LDS?) that due to advanced medical technology women can easily have children in their late 30’s and into their forties, but it’s not true. If a women waits until after the age of 35, she will have a harder time concieving and face a higher risk of complications.

  35. lyle stamps on May 17, 2005 at 9:12 am

    Tim: You’ll find more agreement if you find a Prophet who says as much. Further, _nothing_ is required. President Monson’s address in April, “Constant Truths for Changing Times” warned both fathers & mothers to spend more time with their children. He said “Do not put off being with them now.” Is that a commandment?

    Of course, “we can all agree” that working mothers don’t harm their children with daycare, etc., because a recent “study” found no evidence of any harm, right? [I’m thinking of a report by the NPR “family” expert, who said working moms should stop feeling guilty due to this ‘study’].

  36. John Mansfield on May 17, 2005 at 9:16 am

    The heading “Combining Two Lives” I thought was leading to some consideration that a student-mother is also a wife. This aspect of the matter didn’t enter into this letter, though, and it seems to be a background assumption that the husband and wife are working in harmony to accomplish things together. This should be worked on and not taken for granted. Finishing a dissertation and a marriage at the same time is not unheard of.

  37. Tim on May 17, 2005 at 9:18 am

    Audrey in Houston-

    You say that women who wait will probably have fewer children. So what? You’re not required to have any particular number of children. Is someone who has 5 children a better person than someone who has 2 children? Is there some kind of contest going on here? Church leaders have specifically instructed us not to judge each other by how many children we choose to have.

    I agree that it may be more difficult to juggle children, work or school responsibilities, but men do this all the time – right? Women shouldn’t have to shoulder the whole burden of child rearing alone. Flexible work and school schedules, and part time day care or babysitting are widely available. Why not allow women to take advantage of these if they choose to?

  38. Kaimi on May 17, 2005 at 9:21 am

    Lyle,

    Most of your quotes don’t relate to the question. Yes, parenting is good. And that’s what most of your quotes stand for. You’re smart enough to know that “I wish to praise mothers” is not the same as “don’t get an education if it means putting off parenthood.”

  39. Steve Evans on May 17, 2005 at 9:24 am

    Kaimi, don’t look a gift Lyle in the mouth. You either have him comment, or you don’t. If he comments, you know what to expect and shouldn’t complain.

  40. Mark B. on May 17, 2005 at 9:29 am

    That is a pretty glib “So what” Tim. I don’t believe that Audrey was suggesting that we measure others’ righteousness by the size of their families, or that there is some minimum number of children that we are to have.

    It is not a “so what” issue for people who desire children but find them inconceivable. (Yeah, I know it’s a groaner, but Truman Madsen is partly to blame.) And delaying having children will reduce the number of children a family can have. And that can be a source of real concern for couples who now want to have children but find that they cannot.

  41. Tim on May 17, 2005 at 9:32 am

    C’mon, Lyle – it’s insulting that you would attribute my beliefs (or anyone’s) to a study I heard one day on NPR. Let’s be real.

    The number of children born into a family and child care arrangements are personal decisions. People who struggle with these decisions probably listen to the counsel of the prophets and pray for answers to their questions. And even if they don’t, and decide not to have children or to ignore them in day care, what are you going to do about it? How is this any of your business (or anyone else’s)?

  42. Tim on May 17, 2005 at 9:46 am

    “And that can be a source of real concern for couples who now want to have children but find that they cannot.”

    I think most women understand that it is harder to conceive as you get older. Right? So let women make their own choices! If you end up having “only” three children instead of five, what’s wrong with that? Why browbeat women into thinking they have to have children immediately after they get married or else they are sinners? Children are important, but women should be able to choose when they have them.

  43. Jonathan Green on May 17, 2005 at 9:49 am

    I think the comments about various bits of prophetic counsel on child rearing are misplaced. Not wrong, just not in the right thread. Can a husband and wife maximize their educations, support themselves, and start a family? Go back and read Roslaynde’s post; she’s saying that the answer is yes. Grad school is certainly not for everybody, and the strains are real, and not all programs are good fits–but it can be done. My wife and I had our first child exactly halfway through our three years of coursework in our respective programs, and we have not yet found a better setup for truly equal parenting. We passed off the baby in the hall between meetings, we each had long days on campus (but different days!), and we paid neighbors for a bit of babysitting a couple hours each week. There was a relatively short period of time when this kind of thing was possible for us, and I’m glad we took advantage of the opportunity when we did.

    Having a spouse and/or children as a grad student will cut down on opportunities to network with others in your program (which is what chatting about poetry or economics over a beer or a coffee until 3 AM with one’s peers accomplishes). For the long term that might be a handicap, but for the medium term it can be a great help to avoid distractions on the way to finishing the d*rnn dissertation, which is where a lot of students (for many reasons, often very good ones) drop out of the program.

  44. Bob Caswell on May 17, 2005 at 10:03 am

    You know, I may be alone here, but even if there were counsel from our leaders saying that we should not avoid having children (and some of lyle’s references to ambiguous talks on the subject can be interpreted as such), I think I’d treat that for what it’s worth: counsel. Just like Adam’s rule of thumb that started this mini-threadjack, most of what I hear on this subject I consider briefly and realize that well-intentioned pieces of advice – be it from Adam or an apostle — rarely make me drastically change my life. Not that that couldn’t happen, it just rarely does.

  45. Cordeiro on May 17, 2005 at 10:03 am

    Regarding Laura’s comment (#18) – not only do economics texts put toddlers to sleep, they have much the same effect on the reader – hence my “gentleman’s C” in Econ 101 at BYU.

    My father pursued a master’s degree when I was five or six and had three siblings. I don’t remember much of his experience, he somehow managed to be a father and a student at the same time – at least to the point that I didn’t notice the difference.

    As a older boy I spent many hours minding the printer as it churned out my mother’s master’s thesis. She managed to graduate magna cum-laude at the University of Utah with a master’s in secondary education. She received the loudest and most raucous applause from me, my six siblings, and my father.

    I, too, pursued a master’s degree while simultaneously juggling roles as a bishop’s counselor, and most importantly husband and father. My family in those days was made of of my ravishing wife and my infant/toddler son.

    While I may have pursued my education in a way both similar and different to that of my parents, I did what I had to do, when I had to do it. Any plans made regarding my family were done in consultation with me, my wife, and the Lord.

    I’m wary of those who continually pound the table, quoting scripture, prophets, and the media to support one view over the other. Family size is not something to be debated anywhere but amongst a husband, a wife, and the Lord.

  46. Michael Linton on May 17, 2005 at 10:07 am

    I am actually rather disturbed by some of the comments on this thread. The prophets have counseled us to counsel with the Lord about when to have children. They have also said that we shouldn’t delay having children until we can “afford” it. This represents a departure from the earlier statements of “have as many children as you can!” I think the wise counsel is to seriously consider the time you have, the number of children you and your spouse feel you can support and nurture, and the other goals and ambitions which you have. My wife and I had one child when we started graduate school and had another during graduate school. There are 4 years between them. That was perfect for our situation and our ability to love, nurture, and support our children.

    Lyle’s quoting of anecdotal evidence used by a general authority to scare women into having children early in their life is mindless sheep talk. Just because one individual and his spouse couldn’t have children after 28 and he finished his education does not make this a universal truth or absolute commandment to follow. The idea which I hope the general authority was trying to express is that we should consider all aspects of our physical, spiritual, economic, and emotional situation in order to determine when to begin trying to start or continue a family.

    Either we truly have free agency and are expected to utilize our mental faculties, or we should all be trotting into the temples at 18 and cranking out babies.

  47. Bob Caswell on May 17, 2005 at 10:08 am

    I should also mention that the advice from Rosalynde is far more helpful and useful, as it’s much more specific and much less rule-of-thumb-ish. But that kind of golden information is why we blog and/or talk to those experienced with the specifics of such a situation rather than rely on all the rule-of-thumbs out there.

  48. Frank McIntyre on May 17, 2005 at 10:23 am

    Laura, are you studying economics? If so, where?

    NIcole, I am glad to hear that you are finishing— and that you got married!

  49. Tim on May 17, 2005 at 10:31 am

    I’m sure this post is going in a direction Rosalynde did not necessarily intend, but, from anecdotal evidence of my life – lots of people came out of the woodwork when I was planning to get married to tell me not to rush having children. People who I always thought were happy with their choice to have children while they were in school, or parents of close friends who had “honeymoon” babies, all told me in confidence (of course), that they wish they would have waited to have children until they were more financial secure or had gotten to know their spouses better, etc.

    Having children can be a wonderful thing, but not when you are constantly worrying about how to pay for groceries or rent.

    But wait, haven’t we already had these conversations on T&S? About 300 times in various forms? Why do we keep harping on the same issues? It’s getting boring.

  50. Steve Evans on May 17, 2005 at 10:35 am

    Tim: ” Why do we keep harping on the same issues? It’s getting boring.”

    Tim, feel free to go elsewhere if you’re bored.

  51. Russell Arben Fox on May 17, 2005 at 10:41 am

    “Having a spouse and/or children as a grad student will cut down on opportunities to network with others in your program (which is what chatting about poetry or economics over a beer or a coffee until 3 AM with one’s peers accomplishes). For the long term that might be a handicap, but for the medium term it can be a great help to avoid distractions on the way to finishing the d*rnn dissertation, which is where a lot of students (for many reasons, often very good ones) drop out of the program.”

    Amen, Jonathan, though the pressures of children don’t weigh on every potential Ph.D. exactly the same. The family-and-grad-school thing brings with a host of complications, some of which are ultimately to one’s advantage, but quite a few of which are not. And while these complications obvious ride hardest on dual-grad-school couples, it weighs down every other possible arrangement as well.

    While I was at Catholic University getting my Ph.D. (1996-2001), there was exactly one other person which children in my program, and we–almost unavoidably–became close friends. We and our spouses watched each others’ children, gave each other lifts to and from school and work, bonded with one another to the exclusion of everyone else in the program. We couldn’t help it: it was impossible for us to, as Jonathan points out, BS until late in the night with all the other unattached folk in our program with us. That was good enough as long as we were both in our coursework. In the end, however, we dealt with the pressures differently. The presence of children, and the need to keep them fed, ultimately drove my friend out of the program; once the dissertation stage had arrived, he really needed a greater level of intellectual interaction with faculty and other students to keep going, and of course he didn’t have that and I couldn’t make up for it. So time dragged on, and the financial need increased, and finally he bailed. In my case, Melissa and the girls essentially served as a constant reminder that I needed to get the damn thing done. Which I did in pretty good time, as least as compared to many others in my program, who had no real attachments forcefull them to concentrate.

    I’d never say that starting grad school with a family already in place, or even with one in the planning stage, is an advantage in the fullest sense. I am glad that there are programs (financial and otherwise) in place to make it possible, though, since that opens up graduate education to a lot of people to whom otherwise it would be closed off. And the family may serve an important disciplinary function as one goes about earning that degree. But unfortunately, you probably can’t know you will respond to those particular demands until you’re already committed to it.

  52. lyle stamps on May 17, 2005 at 10:53 am

    Kaimi:

    President Kimball’s words have nothing to do with “I wish to praise mothers.” In contrast, some of the others are more general and open to interpretation. However, I admit that I probably am on a tangent, opened by another, which I responded to. My apologies to Rosalynde. In explicit answer to the question, IMO:

    Yes, graduate education is a fabulous goal for a young wo[man], married or not, who plans to have children. Can it be done? Yes. Does it require work? Yes. Does it create the potential to tempt you away from your role in obeying God’s first commandment to his children and raising up righteous children? Yes, but it is just a potential problem, and one that can be dealt with when/if it comes up. I have full faith that folks don’t just listen to 1 radio story on NPR/1 scientific study, and just chuck out prophetic counsel to follow the ways of the world.

    “Lyle’s quoting of anecdotal evidence used by a general authority to scare women into having children early in their life is mindless sheep talk.”

    Yes, Lyle’s quoting of anecdotal evidence used by a [Member of the First Presidency, a Prophet & Apostle] to [inform men and women]” about the pro/con of personal childbearing decisions is “mindless sheep talk.” Baah! I like my nice woolen coat that keeps me safe from the dangers of the world. :)

  53. lyle stamps on May 17, 2005 at 10:55 am

    Tim: There are two answers to your latest question I can think of:

    1. The answer is clear; but folks want to kick against the pricks; or
    2. The answer isn’t clear, lots of people face it, continually, daily…and so it keeps coming up because it remains a relevant issue.

  54. Tim on May 17, 2005 at 11:06 am

    Steve-

    Glad I could coax you out to comment. Why don’t you usually write more than one or two lines in your comments? It would be nice to hear what you have to say, beyond the pithy one-liners.

    I like this blog, but some of the conversations ARE a bit repetitious.

  55. M.J. Pritchett on May 17, 2005 at 12:53 pm

    As the views and counsel of the church leaders change overtime, the leaders rarely “revoke” the counsel of prior leaders, they simply stop repeating it. Lyle’s collection of quotes is quite instructive as to the views of the current leaders, by comparing those themes of earlier leaders which continue to be repeated with those items that are no longer repeated.

  56. lyle stamps on May 17, 2005 at 2:32 pm

    MJ: Maybe it has more to do with current leaders presuming that we already understand the past counsel and don’t need it repeated? i.e. that it is understood to already be part of the lesson? Hopefully the Saints can “grow” in understanding and don’t need everything repeated a nanozillion times. Actually, the what meaning does “silence” have was recently debated in another post. Perhaps it deserves its own thread?

  57. Steve Evans on May 17, 2005 at 2:38 pm

    “Why don’t you usually write more than one or two lines in your comments? It would be nice to hear what you have to say, beyond the pithy one-liners”

    Tim, truer words were ne’er spoken. That’s why I have my own blog, you see. Commenting is tough work.

  58. Rosalynde on May 17, 2005 at 5:05 pm

    Re: the birth control issue: I think the April Ensign quote-montage entitled “Multiply and Replenish the Earth” is a pretty good indicator of where the leadership is on this issue, both in what it stresses and what it doesn’t. I will say that it would be intensely unfair to suggest to a married woman in her childbearing years that she could undertake and complete a PhD program without managing her fertility in some way; I can confidently say that this would be absolutely unfeasible.

  59. Audrey in Houston on May 17, 2005 at 6:16 pm

    Tim, I don’t feel I implied that women should have as many children as possible, nor the idea that anyone should be judged on family size. I was simply stating that the opportunity for having children should be taken into future/educational planning.

    My husband and I are preparing to go to move to grad school this fall for his MBA, we have a 2 yr-old and it has been a concern about when to have another child. I hadn’t realized at first that if we had a 4-5 yr space inbetween children that it would probably mean one less child than what we are hoping to be blessed with. My mother had to have a hystorectomy at the age of 34, I have to also consider that something similar may be in my future.

    I was not taking any sort of stand on the total number of children, I was simply stating that a lot of non-LDS women I have known (and they tended to be more intellectual types) truly felt that they could wait until their mid thirties to have children and then found that it was very difficult.

    With regard to the original intent of this post, if a women can work it out with her spouse, and is financially and emotionally able, she can do anything whether it be to earn a PhD, run a amazing preschool, write the great American novel, or master the fine art of underwater basket weaving.

  60. Audrey in Houston on May 17, 2005 at 6:19 pm

    …or raise 12 children!

  61. Anna on May 17, 2005 at 6:48 pm

    I’m going to steer clear of the whole birth control kerfuffle and ask a few questions that (I hope) are more directly related to the original thrust of the post.

    First, Rosalynde’s advice seems to be geared toward someone who is already married, possibly someone who already has children. Any counsel for women who are considering more school and currently single, but do know they want to get married and have children? Obviously, being single means not having to worry about childcare and the like for the time being, but the decision-making calculus can get pretty complicated when the very huge factor of marriage and children remains very unknown.

    This is especially true when it comes to debt. Rosalynde advises (quite rightly, I think) against avoiding debt as far as possible. But if you’re single, how can you predict whether you’ll have a shot at paying off (some of) your debt before having kids, or whether you’ll get married sooner than you think, or whether you’ll never get married at all and end up really grateful for that expensive education? So, any wise counsel about managing unavoidable debt?

    As you might guess, this comment is completely motivated by self-interest. I’m female, single, 23, and starting law school this fall.

  62. John Morley on May 17, 2005 at 7:02 pm

    Anna,

    Without the benefit of any particular expertise (I’m male and married–but I am a law student!), I’ll venture a tentative answer to your question. Rosalynde has pointed out in this thread that law school and business school are a little different from Ph.D. programs, because the commitment is a lot shorter. Your earning power may also be a little higher. Then again, your debt may be greater, since Ph.D. programs are typically funded.

    You might want to think about a timeline, though. One year to meet someone. A year or two to date and marry, then a year or two (gasp!) before you start having children.

    You’ll have greater earning power during your year or three as a lawyer than you would if you didn’t go to law school (which ought to partially balance out the debt in your calculus), and if your husband is making enough to pay the bills, your entire paycheck for the handful of years you during which you work can go to debt retirement.

    Plus, you may want to consider the consumptive aspects of education: perhaps it’s something that’s worth spending money on–not a lot, but enough to get what you want out of it.

  63. lyle stamps on May 17, 2005 at 7:09 pm

    Anna: Good luck. 1L year doesn’t have to be (all) bad. However, re: debt…if you are starting law school in the fall and have already chosen your school; you have already largely made your choice. The only options to influence your debt level now are whether to maintain or obtain a good GPA to maintain or obtain a scholarship; and whether you can/should get a paid clerkship during your law school time.

  64. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 17, 2005 at 7:57 pm

    Anna, focus on GPA over everything. Remember, David O McKay was 28 when he got married.

    BTW As you might guess, this comment is completely motivated by self-interest. I’m female, single, 23, and starting law school this fall. I’d recommend Planet Law School. Ignore the ranting and focus on the preparation schedule.

    Wish you the best, and would note that BYU, at least, encourages women to go to law school.

  65. Johnna Cornett on May 17, 2005 at 8:17 pm

    Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I finished my undergrad and decided not to go to graduate school, because I didn’t see how I could rear the children not yet conceived while in an intense seven-year program (linguistics was my field) followed by a seven-year tenure-race. I interviewed the women on faculty I respected who were mothers, found that not only did they do work very early in the morning (cool) and have very full days (hmmm), but they were married to men who had some flexibility to their jobs (another professor, and a filmmaker.) My husband, is a 120-hour a week man. He wanted to be supportive. Nine months earlier, I had passed up an opportunity to intern in Munich with US radio doing Uzbek, because I didn’t see how to be married and living in another country from my husband. My husband had advised me to go, figuring he would wrangle something relevant to his graduate work in Germany, or visit, or something. Now that I’ve been with him 16 years, I see that I underestimated his resourcefulness. At the time I was making my graduate school decisions, he said he would transfer to some medical school near wherever I did my linguistics work. I could imagine him transferring, but I couldn’t imagine him working less than 120 hours, so I declined to take the problem on, of how to be a wife and a mom and a student.

    Of course, he never gets to be a less-than-120-hour man, because I took away his opportunity.

    Julie in Austen said: I would put you at high risk for feeling bored and underutilized and oatmeal-brained at home. You’ll need another outlet.

    Informal education doesn’t build on itself to an increased competency. Bored and underutilized and oatmeal is true, but the problem isn’t just that you have a sense of ennui, that we should just expect you to get over your spoiled self.

    If something about intellectual something is part of who you are, you don’t get to discard this. The problem inconveniently stays until you address it, and accrues interest, and if unaddressed, even your ability to care for your children will be undermined. So don’t think you’re escaping or solving the problem by simply not enrolling in graduate school. You’ll need something real in the graduate school place, and your husband and kids will need to give something for your sake, so they can get all you back.

    Yes, nicole, at the time I also fretted about the tax dollars and scholarship money offered to support me. I’m practically 40 now, and I say take it. I see the other no-paycheck moms at school, who have background. They make use of it and do serve society.

  66. laura on May 17, 2005 at 8:23 pm

    Frank (#48)- I was in economics, but have decided to get “just” an MBA instead, so I’m now at William and Mary in Virginia.

    But reading press releases from WEO and the IMF as bedtime stories was much easier than reading finance or statistics to my nephew, so that was how I studied for my econ classes.

    Anna- In my experience, having to care for a child while in school has been very expensive. I was able to live comfortably within my scholarships and stipends until my nephew came to live with me. Part of it is just having expenses for two, but a lot of it is that time is so limited, that you end up paying extra for convienience- premade dinners at the grocery store, babysitters during finals just so you can study, etc. Just for factoring into your decision…

  67. Michael Linton on May 18, 2005 at 12:07 am

    Anna (#61) – If you’ve already picked your law school, which is probably the case, then you already have a fair idea what the debt load will be. The factors to mitigate that include scholarships (which are unlikely to increase beyond what your current financial aid package is), paid summer associate positions, and donations/gifts from family.

    My experiences as a married law student (now 2 years after graduation) are probably less relevant, but my general advice would be to let the Lord worry about marriage and focus on your school work and economic welfare. The biggest factor on the marriage front is whether you plan on limiting your dating to LDS guys and, if getting married is a big concern, will there be enough LDS guys at the law school you attend.

    While I was at UVA, I gave the candid advice to a potential female transferee from BYU that she should probably stay there if she really wanted to get married. The chance of finding a young, single LDS guy in Charlottesville were pretty slim. They probably haven’t gotten any better in the last 2 years.

    As for minimizing the financial impact of law school, the largest factor in that (i.e. where you attend school and the tuition cost) has, I assume, already been made. All that remains is to determine what your possible career path might be and try to maximize your earning potential during summers to minimize your school debt. There are obviously paid summer associate positions which can range from $600/wk (my personal worst) to $2800/wk at a big firm in DC, Boston or NY. Actual net earnings will, of course, depend on associated living expenses. If you fancy public interest law, there are fellowships and various law firm stipends which you can compete for. You can also try to win writing contests (the lottery win of legal financial aid).

    If you have more questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

  68. Julie Smith Allen on May 18, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    I have never posted to this blog before, but I have become an avid reader of it thanks to my sister Liesl Buskirk. I was particularly interested in Rosalynde’s post, because we were freshmen together at BYU, served missions at the same time, got married within a few months of each other, started grad school within a year of each other, and had two kids (a boy and a girl each even!) while pursuing a PhD in literature. The main difference between our trajectories seems to be that she is finished already (I graduate in June) and my husband is starting his graduate program this fall, so I will be teaching 3 or 4 classes (I don’t know yet if that will be as an adjunct or lecturer). Grad school has not been easy, but it has definitely been worth it, although I do think it would have been much more difficult without an incredibly supportive husband and really good kids (good sleepers!). I have at times felt anomalous as a grad student LDS mom (although having my sister Jen doing a PhD with kids at the same time helped me keep things in perspective), but I encountered very little (overt) criticism of my choices, either to pursue a PhD in Germanic Languages and Literatures or to have children at the same time. Fortunately, many of the students in my department at Harvard had kids, either as single parents or in marriages, which made for a supportive departmental climate. For me, the short answer to the question to which Rosalynde was responding was that it is entirely possible for an LDS woman to have children while getting a PhD and to enjoy both experiences and keep her testimony, if only you really want to do both. I firmly believe that the Lord wants his daughters to realize their potential as individuals and as mothers, but the path of that self-realization is different for each of us.

  69. Jordan on May 18, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    Ana-the solution to all your troubles is easy.

    Go to the University of Michigan Law School!

    (Now back to your regularly programmed SISM thread…)

  70. Kaimi on May 18, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    Jordan,

    I’m sorry, but advocacy of Michigan Law School is against our comment policies, so I’m going to have to redact your comment. This is a Harvard-Columbia-Chicago blog only.

    There are exceptions. We do let Gordon plug UW from time to time. And we all look the other way and pretend that we didn’t realize that Adam went to ND, back when we hired him. (Nate was asleep at the wheel that day).

    But UM? Not within the recognized parameters, sorry.

  71. Jonathan Green on May 18, 2005 at 4:40 pm

    Welcome, Julie in Cambridge. We need more Germanists around here. We’re almost ready to overthrow the Korean RM cartel that holds T&S in its iron grip.

  72. Russell Arben Fox on May 18, 2005 at 4:44 pm

    “We need more Germanists around here. We’re almost ready to overthrow the Korean RM cartel that holds T&S in its iron grip.”

    Hey, watch it, Jonathan; some of us bridge that divide. Well, almost.

  73. Jordan on May 18, 2005 at 4:49 pm

    Hey- for German studies too- MICHIGAN!

    For a while, at least until I and another LDS German Ph.D. student (who posts here from time to time himself) left the department and went to law school, the saying was that in the German department at the University of Michigan you were either a mormon or a communist (though some were probably both… :-) )

    Gotta love the UM German department. I do/did.

    Where’s the redaction, Kaimi? You can’t redact a wolverine out of the picture…

    What was this thread about, again? Oh yeah. There are lots of SISMs in the various humanities departments at UM.

  74. Jonathan Green on May 18, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    Sorry, Russell, but we have determined (n>.98) where your true loyalty lies. Task Force John Fowles has been assigned to neutralize you (after a show trial, of course).

  75. Jonathan Green on May 18, 2005 at 4:58 pm

    …and since Julie Allen Smith has been lurking a while, she understands that this is just what happens at the tail end of threads where the discussion has run its course. (Right?) I really do hope to hear more about your experience some time, and what you’ll be doing in the fall.

  76. Jordan on May 18, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    Hey- my comment was relevant. I threw in a line about SISMs… ;)

  77. Blake on May 18, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    Rosalynde: After reading your post I am positive that I couldn’t possibly do it. Being a woman in graduate school is well beyond me.

    I admire what you have accomplished. Good luck in the post-modern, ultra-feminist (translate that “man-hating”) , textual world of English. My sense is that philosophy is more your style — but who am I to say? As a blood-sucking lawyer I have nowhere to go but up!

  78. Christian Y. Cardall (TSM) on May 19, 2005 at 8:31 am

    Graduate school is hard: PhDs are long (five years minimum), expensive, sometimes unpleasant, and yield uncertain career prospects.

    As you pointed out, it needn’t be expensive in all disciplines; I think what you said about thinking twice if you’re not funded is a wise indicator of prospects.

    I managed to finish a Ph.D. in four years, but that says more about the superficiality of my dissertation and laxness of my committee than anything. Ironically, however, five chapters of that dissertation were five published papers that remain my most-cited work to this day. Since I’ve done what I consider to be “deeper” work since then, that just tells me that there are superficial ways to higher citation counts that do not necessarily involve deep or seminal work. At least, that’s why I tell myself. And I kid myself that the same holds true for comment counts in blogging! ;-)

  79. Anna on May 19, 2005 at 7:44 pm

    Many thanks to all who responded to my questions way back when. I don’t know that you made me feel any better about debt, since you told me that by picking my school I’ve also already picked my debt, and I’m going to Harvard, but oh well…

    Jordan, I was interested in Michigan, but they waitlisted me (after I had already decided to go to Harvard).

    Going to law school still seems like a pretty crazy thing for me to be doing, but everything has fallen into place in ways too serendipitous to ignore. (Maybe the insanity of law school increases its appeal?) I guess I’ll just trust that this is the right decision for me and forge ahead, hoping that the serendipity continues.

  80. A. Greenwood on May 19, 2005 at 8:40 pm

    “most of what I hear on this subject I consider briefly and realize that well-intentioned pieces of advice – be it from Adam or an apostle – rarely make me drastically change my life.”

    When it comes to well-intentioned pieces of advice from Adam, that’s not a problem.

    I have a bee in a bonnet on this subject mostly for the reasons that Tim pointed out. Once you get married, everybody you meet tells you wait having children for one reason or another. No one, but no one, ever brings up anything the apostles have said on the subject, or talks to you about the _holiness_ of having children or anything. A close personal friend of ours, who just got married, happened to mention that she and her husband were hoping to get pregnant on the honeymoon. She got attacked, browbeaten, and vituperated. Sara and I were, I believe, the only ones beside her husband who were sympathetic. Because (1) we thinks it’s admirable and (2) we’ve had the same problem. When we’ve happened to mention that we’re excited about having a large family, most Mormons (Mormons!), especially the ones our own age, don’t take it well. To their credit, they usually(!) don’t tear into us, but you see their comfort with us click shut. We’re not, they’ve just realized, Their Sort of People. Even people who we know are planning on having lots of children act embarassed that we’ve been forthright and unabashed about it.

    Let me be clear, though. I’m not asking for tolerance. I’m not asking for equal footing. I’m arguing that having children and lots of them is not just an acceptable choice, but it is in the main a superior choice. Education is great. Parents should sacrifice a lot for it. But not children.

    If I had to choose (not everyone is given a choice, though most are, and not everyone has to choose, though many do) I would prefer to be the ignorant father of a large brood.

  81. Christian Y. Cardall (TSM) on May 19, 2005 at 9:58 pm

    Adam: No one, but no one, ever brings up anything the apostles have said on the subject, or talks to you about the _holiness_ of having children or anything.

    I know of at least one.

  82. Jack on May 19, 2005 at 10:47 pm

    Three cheers, Adam!

    I’m one of those “ignorant father[s] of a large brood”, and I must say that as I’ve begun to earn some of that ignorance, I’m beginning to ache for the formal education I never got. But even so, now that getting a formal education is next to impossible, I couldn’t imagine cashing in on my “brood” for something less valuable. I think, with the clear understanding that having a family and getting an education need not be mutually exclusive, that If one finds him or herself in the end having sacrificed too much on the family end of the spectrum in order to secure an education that the regrets will be far greater than if he/she had chosen the other way around.

  83. Henry Drummond on May 19, 2005 at 10:52 pm

    Once you get married, everybody you meet tells you wait having children for one reason or another.

    On the one hand, I’m sorry that Adam has had this problem, because the choices he and his wife make about the size of their family is emphatically no one else’ s business.

    On the other hand, I find his story refreshing in a perverse sort of way because I have only ever seen and experienced quite the opposite — that, once married, everyone decides to offer unsolicited advice on the need to have children early and often, yes, quoting all the choice tidbits that Lyle previously quoted out of context. And when you don’t immediately begin breeding, they become enormously intrusive, rude, judgmental and downright vicious.

    For those who experience infertility — as in my marriage — this continual stream of snide and nasty comments from members, including priesthood leaders, temple sealers, and people we barely knew, becomes unbearable. Not to mention the unsolicited fertility advice (a Relief Society president advised my wife to try standing on her head after sex — go figure).

    And I have seen the same sort of thing often enough to know my experience was not unique, or even unusual.

    Generally, it seems to me best to heed Brigham Young’s advice: “Mind your own business.” A couple may have no children because they are in graduate school. They may have no children because they simply can’t. Or they may be having lots of children. It’s their stewardship. Keep your nose out of it.

  84. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 19, 2005 at 11:09 pm

    My wife would never have finished graduate school without the solid, continuing prodding of the Spirit. That was an interesting experience, and it gave me a completely different perspective.

    I’ve a friend who went to law school after heryoungest graduated from high school. She loves practice. It is never too late, and probably never too early.

  85. obi-wan on May 20, 2005 at 9:15 am

    If I had to choose . . . I would prefer to be the ignorant father of a large brood.

    While I firmly believe in the right of Adam Greenwood to conduct his familial stewardship in whatever way he and his partner and the Lord determine is best, I find this homily to be, as a general matter, a poor “rule of thumb.”

    Bearing and raising children is a privelege and a responsibility. We have an obligation when we invite one of our Father’s children into our home to provide materially, spiritually, emotionally for that child’s welfare. There is no obligation for us to run faster than we are able, no honor in raising many children badly over raising a few children well.

    I have met some families who are doing splendidly with 9 or 13 children. Good for them. I have met many more who are entirely overwhelmed and overextended with half as many — not merely overextended in their ability to provide material resources (although that is sometimes an issue) but horribly, horribly overextended in their ability to provide for the family spiritually, mentally, emotionally. The resource issue is a particular concern for mothers. There are far too many women in my stake who have been forced to cope with their not-necessarily inspired reproductive choices via Pr*zac or other chemical means.

    Couples are responsible for determining the carrying capacity of their family in consultation with the Lord. It may well be that they prayerfully choose to keep that number small, for any of a variety of reasons, including graduate school. Like Henry Drummond, I would deplore well-meaning but officious social pressure that attempts to force couples to revise their stewardship choice either upward or downward.

  86. Rosalynde on May 20, 2005 at 10:11 am

    Adam: ” I’m arguing that having children and lots of them is not just an acceptable choice, but it is in the main a superior choice.”

    Adam, I don’t think you have actually argued this; so far you seem merely to have asserted it. If it weren’t nearly impossible to discuss the subject without wounding many readers, and if it weren’t guaranteed to provoke a flame war (and it it weren’t a far stone’s throw from the original topic), I’d be interested in hearing you make the argument: you seem to suggest here that it’s not so much a negative objection to artificially managing fertility ( a la the Catholic position on birth control), but rather a positive claim that the culture and dynamics of large families are superior to those of small families. Like I said, though, let’s keep the discussion on email, unless you want to put up a separate post on it.

    Listen, Adam, you’ve made it abundantly clear to me that, because I delayed pregnancy and have spaced my children, thereby diminishing the total number that I could bear, I’m not *your* sort of people. That’s fine. Like you, I don’t ask that other people approve of my choices, and I don’t especially mind them voicing their disapproval. Furthermore, I find the rather huffy assertion that childbearing and rearing is an exclusively personal matter protected by a sacrosanct curtain of privacy—a la Henry Drummond and obi-wan above—to be largely unsatisfying: communities have a lot at stake in the reproductive practices of its members, and it’s to be expected that members of the community will energetically express their views on the matter. Again, that’s fine with me.

    So go ahead and argue the superiority of your large brood. You can even tell me that *I* should have a large brood too (actually, I already hope to do just that–although our respective definitions of “large” may be different). And, if you like, you can cite apostolic statements from the 1960s about women bearing as many children as they possibly can until the cows come home; I’m likely to find it quite interesting. You can even form and promote your theory on why statements like that are no longer forthcoming; heaven knows I cherish my own pet theories on why apostles and prophets say and don’t say certain things. Just don’t tell me that apostles and prophets currently proclaim your view that large families are inherently superior to small ones, because this simply isn’t true. (and I’m not saying you’ve done this.)

  87. lyle stamps on May 20, 2005 at 10:23 am

    Drummond: Out of context? Wow…what alogical planet do you come from? I didn’t think Pres. Kimball could be any clearer on the subject, and more in context. The others are largely in the vein of reinforcement of the blessings of following his counsel. Wow.

    Similarly, you feel that folks should mind their own business. This has some application; but as you apply it, it sounds alot more like Cain’s “Am I my brother’s keeper” than anything else. Obiwan said “Couples are responsible for determining the carrying capacity of their family in consultation with the Lord.”

    Yes. True. What the discussion here is about is not who is _responsible_; and who should/shouldn’t offer advice/reproach/praise. It is about what factors a righteous couple will take into consideration when making that decision; i.e. whether delaying children to get a graduate degree is something the Lord is going to approve. One side cries “no, Latter-day Prophets have already laid down a bright-line rule that the Lord is simply not going to overrule because it came from him in the first place.” The other cries “Yes, and butt out, it’s none of your business what factors are considered in our consideration, regardless of whether they are prophetic or not.”

    Yes, my formulation is biased. Feel free to re-frame.

  88. Mark Martin on May 20, 2005 at 5:34 pm

    Anna,
    If you are still reading… at least being at Harvard Law School will put you around many bright, young LDS single males. The Longfellow Park wards are great. Just be aware (no surprise) that there are twice as many bright, young LDS single females in those wards. Best wishes in all aspects!

  89. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 20, 2005 at 9:01 pm

    obi-wan

    having met many, many, many screwed up kids whose parents bred like rabbits far beyond their capacity to care for, educate or fulfill the requirements that the scriptures state parents have a duty to fulfill, I’m convinced the force is with you. It doesn’t hurt to look at President Kimball or President McKay and count the number of children they had. You can learn a lot from that.

    You can read my thoughts about the typical criticism I’ve received for having two children that people meet … http://adrr.com/living/uone.htm

    But, I’m in a ward now where no one criticizes that we have only two children in our household and everyone loves them.

    But it is truly evil to abuse children the way some do, in ignorance, enslaving them and chaining them down to destruction, as sometimes happens when people put numbers over common sense. On the other hand, I did have a Stake President my dad adored who adopted more children than the largest family seems to have and did well by them. I know a good family with nine children who may make it yet :). So it is possible for some.

    With us the flesh gave out before the will did, for others God gives other directions. Some think they know better than God and choose to share the fact that their wisdom is greater with those they choose to criticize.

    As I’ve noted, perdition is their father.

  90. A. Greenwood on May 20, 2005 at 9:27 pm

    “Listen, Adam, you’ve made it abundantly clear to me that, because I delayed pregnancy and have spaced my children, thereby diminishing the total number that I could bear, I’m not *your* sort of people.”

    Not at all. I take it that in a not insignificant number of cases, couples are guided by God to postpone childrearing for a time or to space their children. In an even greater number of cases, folks aren’t maximally fertile. I have always operated on the assumption that you fell into one of these two categories. I assume that of everyone, until disabused.

    What I do object to is folks who look at the choice between childrearing now and something else (education, getting to know spouse, firm financial footing, etc.) as if it were presumptively an equal one, or worse, who think the presumptions favor the something else, or worst of all, who can’t even bring themselves to see childrearing now as a choice.

  91. Julie in Austin on May 20, 2005 at 10:19 pm

    Adam re your comment #80:

    If I were to have your experience (and I don’t: when I tell people that I feel that our family size is to be four children, I’ve never gotten negative feedback), I would think that people attacking me were feeling guilty about their own choices (i.e, wondering if they were supposed to have large families, afraid to ask, afraid of the answer, etc.). I am wondering if this is the sense that you get. If it isn’t, to what do you attribute their reaction?

    (Just a note: given our previous, um, disagreements on related matters, perhaps you think I am baiting you. I’m not. Since I’ve never announced to anyone a plan to have a ‘large family,’ I don’t know what kind of reaction that brings, and I am curious about your take on it.)

    I do think that this statement is one of the most sensible things I’ve ever heard on this issue:

    “I take it that in a not insignificant number of cases, couples are guided by God to postpone childrearing for a time or to space their children. In an even greater number of cases, folks aren’t maximally fertile. I have always operated on the assumption that you fell into one of these two categories. I assume that of everyone, until disabused.”

  92. A. Greenwood on May 21, 2005 at 11:44 am

    “I would think that people attacking me were feeling guilty about their own choices (i.e, wondering if they were supposed to have large families, afraid to ask, afraid of the answer, etc.).”

    You are probably right. But I don’t think this can explain those people who appear to be on the way to having a pretty large family themselves but look embarrassed when we say something.

    I think that on those occasions in the past when we said something about having a large family, we said it more in enthusiasm than in throwing-down-a-gauntlet-to-the-world, but perhaps my memory is playing me tricks?

  93. Rosalynde on May 21, 2005 at 6:43 pm

    Adam, thanks for you generous clarification, and sorry if I poured on a little too much huff above.

    Also, thanks to all the commenters on this thread, especially those whoshared their personal experiences: I’m on vacation now, so not checking or following up much, but it’s been great to hear from all of you, including some long lost friends.

  94. A. Greenwood on May 23, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    To the “big families can lead to unkempt children” crowd:

    I’ve known big families that were badly managed. The parents were bone-weary, cleaning and food were haphazard, moral and spiritual education suffered, which along with very sporadic parental love and guidance led in some cases to unwanted pregnancies, drug addictions, etc.

    And yet (1) these things also happen in small families and (2) it’s hard to fault the parents for having reach that exceeds their grasp. We set too much stake on being able to control the outcomes. We are too inclined to think that children aren’t worth it unless they turn out a certain way.

    I love people. I want more of them.

  95. A. Greenwood on May 23, 2005 at 1:44 pm

    “If I were to have your experience (and I don’t: when I tell people that I feel that our family size is to be four children, I’ve never gotten negative feedback), ”

    I think we have different ideas of what constitutes a large family here. :)

  96. Julie in Austin on May 23, 2005 at 1:50 pm

    You know, I wanted to ask you and RW how you defined ‘large family’, but I hesitated. I don’t consider four kids a large family, but I guess that is entirely subjective.