Timing of baby and grad school

I am in my late 20s and married to an amazing man. I have a liberal arts degree, and after much unhappiness in the workplace + a job layoff, I enrolled in a grad program. I love what I’m pursuing (speech pathology), as it’s much more rewarding and interesting. I’m an INFJ personality type, and the cutthroat business world wasn’t for me.

However, I am feeling very stressed about when is the “right time” to have a child. I considered this before beginning school but assumed I would figure it out, though I still have not. My ideal age is 30-32, and my husband agrees, but this is when I will be new to my career (I graduate when I’m 29).

I fear I won’t be taken seriously if I get pregnant in my first few years of work. I’ve also considered getting pregnant while in grad school and trying to “time it” so the baby is born after the degree is completed but before I begin working. I know ultimately no one can decide for us, but I’d appreciate any insights from you & your readers.

11 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I have been thinking about your question a lot. And I think what you really want is to grow a great career and be a successful new mom at the very same time. And you know that is not possible.

    Because the beginning of a career is when people focus 100% on their career to grow quickly and look like a star. And the start of motherhood requires pretty much all your energy because it’s a new job and a new identity and you get no sleep.

    Ideally you would have started a new career earlier or you would put off babies later. Both are pretty much impossible now, though, given your age.

    So I think you will have to give up the career part. That is, you just have to sort of get what you get in terms of career. You don’t know how many hours you’ll want to work when the first kid comes — no one knows until the kid is there. And honestly, you might not even care that much about your career once you have a kid.

    I think what you really want is to be great at everything. And that’s not possible. Not from where you are now.

    When my son was a toddler he had an occupational therapist, and an physical therapist, and a speech therapist and a feeding therapist. All of them were young. All of them got pregnant and told us they would resume their schedule after two months, and only one came back (she was a single mom and needed to support the child). So I stopped agreeing to start with pregnant therapists.

    And you know what? That’s not so bad. Because those woman loved their jobs, and they were so happy to be pregnant. And the reason they didn’t come back to work was because they were so happy to stay home with their kids. So everything seems fine. And I think maybe you are just scared. And you should be happy that you have choices and are not a single parent with many fewer choices than others.


  2. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    30-32 was my target age range for having kids too. It worked out well & I had two kids at 31 & 33, after trying for a year for the first.

    If I were in your situation I would plan to graduate, find a job & then after a year or so unapologetically plan to have kids. I guess my thinking would be that a year in a job covers the steep end of the learning curve, so the minimum time to figure out the particular politics, gain more clarity on my own definition of ‘meaningful work’ and network-the-hell out of the job. Then I’d try for kids, knowing how unpredictable it could be. The idea is that after having kids I won’t want an amazing career but that I will want something, anything rewarding that fits in, so the more intel I can gather the better. I’d never let other people’s perceptions of me stop me from achieving that.

    I guess as an INTJ you need to be aware that you are most at risk of agonizing in search of the ideal work-life balance (case in point, you have started now and you don’t even have kids). So beyond anything, as Penelope suggests: be happy with your choices. Get good at telling yourself you are doing well and enjoy the ride, kids are something else.

  3. Rayne DeVivo
    Rayne DeVivo says:

    There is no perfect time. At this point in your life, the younger you are, the physically easier pregnancy will be. 27 is easier than 32. I had my first son halfway through law school and my second 2 1/2 years after graduating and, yes, my career has suffered quite a bit. I have never been able to give 100% effort to work in the 8 years I’ve been an attorney. Would shifting the timing a couple years later ultimately matter though? I don’t think so. Nearly all the women I graduated with who now have 2+ children downshifted. The women who have the biggest careers either haven’t had children, have local grandparents who help all the time, or did school with elementary aged children.

  4. Mary
    Mary says:

    INFJ working mom here–you should go through and read all of Penelope’s past info about INFJs. If I remember correctly, she says that for many INFJs, no job will feel as important as your kids & family. Personally that’s become true for me; I’ve downshifted & I’m working towards staying home. I’m in my early 30s and still have student loans to pay off–if I could go back in time I wouldn’t have bothered.

    Also, as Rayne posted above, having a baby–and the recovery, and coping with being up all night–will be much easier at 27 than 32. Before I had my own I would never have thought that a few years would make a difference, but it really can.

  5. Renee
    Renee says:

    Finish your program, finish your clinical fellowship and earn your Cs, and then do what you want. You’re going into an intensely female-dominated profession that is, in general, friendly to PRN and part-time work, and school schedules. There are certain settings that are less flexible than others, but most of your supervisors and coworkers will have been in your situation.

  6. Lauren Bishop
    Lauren Bishop says:

    Penelope – another INFJ here… I don’t entirely agree with your take because of her degree and the public sector opportunities available.

    School SLPs are in high demand in rural and inner city areas. I work in management for a rural school district and we *really* need SLPs…. so much so that we have hired companies that provide virtual speech therapy services (telemedicine style).

    Working as a school SLP has several advantages.

    1. Friendly family leave policies; understanding employers
    Most new parents in our district take a full 5 months of protected leave. Management is almost all women. There is an understanding that people need time away to take care of their families. Employees are not punished.

    2. The school schedule rocks
    Vacation! 1 week at Thanksgiving, 2 weeks at Christmas, 1 week at spring break and a few months at summer. In our District, unused sick leave accrues. If you worked for a few years before your due date, you could build up a bank of time to draw from with your full pay when you go out on leave.

    If you time the pregnancy ideally, you could end up with substantial leave… 5 months and then a summer vacation on the end of it. If you are unable to ideally time the birth, given you take your 5 months, you would have to return to work for a maximum of 3 months before you get summer break.

    3. Flexibility to stop out and come back.
    If you don’t want to come back after 5 months of leave, you can apologize and resign. If you were good at your job and conduct yourself with integrity around your exit, getting re-hired is not out of the question. Don’t underestimate your value.

    4. In schools, the pay increases are generally not performance based
    There are salary schedules. As long as you can do the job, you’ll get “promoted” to the next salary level. This is a double edged sword, but it can benefit new parents who are not as focused on climbing.

    5. You can pivot out of schools if/when you want a change.

    You should also look into virtual SLP companies (like Presence Learning), which allow you to work part time from home as an independent contractor.

    Having said all of that, you’re an INFJ. Be realistic about your desire to work while parenting. You know how you grew unhappy in the private sector? That probably has more to do with the fact that you are an INFJ than what field you were in at the time. INFJs are notorious for becoming disillusioned with workplaces. Liking what you study does not ensure you will have long term job satisfaction, especially when work pulls you away from your raising your children.

    Good luck! I hope you’ll keep us posted.

  7. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    Just speaking from my personal experience because it might give you some insight:

    I think you just have to go with the flow and do what works for you and your family during each season of life. I agree with what someone said earlier about the fact that “there is no perfect time.” Life is always changing and so will you and the people around you. You’ve got to stay versatile and adjust as needed.

    Here is my journey so far:
    -Age 22 – Earned my bachelor’s and worked for a few years.
    -Got married at 24 and worked a few more years while dealing with low job satisfaction.
    -Had my 1st child at age 27 and became a stay at home mom.
    -Had a second child at age 28.
    -Missed the working world but couldn’t bring myself to cart my children off to daycare. I wanted to be there for all of their first milestones in life.
    -Age 29 – With a 1 and 2 year old, I began to take online graduate school courses while staying home with them. I got used to the strange sleeping schedule that comes with having children, and I didn’t find it hard to do school. It was online full-time and my grades were never less then a B. Got most work done when children were doing things like: napping, playing with other family members or friends of the family and after their bedtime. I also found out and ordered my course books weeks before classes so that I could get a headstart on reading the material. That helped a lot.
    -Age 30 – had my 3rd child and also went through an unfortunate turn of events that resulted in me becoming a single mom. I stopped grad school at this time.
    -Age 30-34: I was blessed enough to live with friends and eventually other family. This allowed me to continue to be a stay at home mom while my children were very young. During this time I also did a bit of freelance writing from home to make a bit money. Did a bit of homeschooling during this time too.
    -Presently – age 35 – Still living with family, but all children are now school age and doing great. I will be continuing graduate school this fall of 2016 and have met a wonderful man who has been a wonderful blessing to me and my children.

    The best part is that all of the challenges and life experiences I have had up to this point has truly matured me and fueled my passion and insight for the profession that I am pursuing toward becoming a Psy.D Counseling Psychologist.

    A major piece of insight that two older women who I consider mentors, have told me is – the sooner you go to school while you have young children, the easier it will be – After the very sleepless newborn phase. Grad School can be great with toddlers and those in the early school ages as long as you have good support from trusted family members who can occasionally watch the children.

    As they get older it gets harder to keep up with the various family activities that will go on as children develop their individual interests. And keeping up with teens is important so that you can guide them toward making good choices for their future.

    It’s also good to be at a point in your career when you are financially stable enough to be supporting the demands of a growing family.

    That’s why I say go with the flow of the season of life. Try different things and if something is not working you can always come back to it at a different time. It’s never too late to go back to school.

    I wish you the best in all that you do! Most importantly, enjoy the journey. There will always be challenges, but don’t let that ruin the joy that can come with growing stronger and experiencing the good things in life.

  8. LW
    LW says:

    Thank you all for your thoughtful comments… I am the letter writer. It is true SLP is a fairly family-friendly and female-dominated profession, so I agree this will work to my advantage and give me plenty of options, like schools or part-time work.

    What makes my situation more complicated is that my husband is a management consultant. He works and travels constantly. So that alone means I have to do the majority of the child-rearing unless he quits that industry, and who knows if he will want to leave it. And then of course there’s just the desire to be an involved parent.

    I certainly don’t have any answers. I think Penelope is correct that I won’t know exactly how I feel until the time comes. But, this thread has made me feel better about getting pregnant without apology during my first job/CF and figuring it out from there. At least I will have the degree, have options & then can assess how I feel.

    • Tina
      Tina says:


      I have a somewhat similar situation, but with the timing a bit different. I worked in the private sector for a many years, had my 1st kid at 31 and the switched jobs to college instructor, had my 2nd kid at 36 and had a hubby that traveled all the time.

      You have no idea how stressful it is to have a spouse that travels a lot and you have to be home with the kids, especially a baby. In so many ways my job is a dream job for me, fulfilling work, good pay, great benefits, flexible hours, tons of time off and now I’m tenured so job security as well.

      But I still think all the time about quitting. The only thing that keeps me at work is the knowledge that I could not find a job like this. EVER. AGAIN.

      I guess I’m saying that having a spouse that travels a lot makes working doubly difficult. But you’re an INFJ like me and I know that you’ll figure it out.

    • Lauren Bishop
      Lauren Bishop says:

      Rough that your spouse travels a lot. That must be hard. Hopefully he is a management consultant who makes a decent wage so you can stay at home if it feels right. And if you keep working or return to work, hopefully you can afford to hire some help around the house. If I were in your shoes, I would start talking to my spouse about the household costs that having a travel-heavy job will bring when kids are involved. That way he’s prepared to support you and understand all that it entails. Prepping him now may make negotiating to get the help you need easier down the line.

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