More and more of my philosophy friends are having kids or contemplating having them. Those in the contemplating state of mind often ask me how I managed to get any work done after having a kid. I used to tell them that having a kid actually made me use my time more wisely. After having a kid, two hours would seem like gold and I would work my butt off during those precious hours and get more done than I normally would in a day's time. A couple of my colleagues listened, had kids, worked their butts off and did indeed thrive philosophically. Hard to tell whether they would have done even better without the kid(s). But they told me afterward that I was right.
I am not so sure anymore. I only have one child, but I am a single mom, so my situation probably matches that of a two-parent family with two careers and two kids. If you are in that situation and you are still trying to joggle a career, kids, household chores, bill paying, and so on, then you probably hardly ever have any time off from chores.
Here is what a day may look like with a 7-year old. Get up at 6:30, take shower, get dressed, get your own bag ready, make breakfast. Wake up kid at 7:45, make sure she gets dressed, brushes her teeth and combs her hear. Eat breakfast together, get her bag ready. Leave house at 8:30. Arrive at school at 8:50, drop her off, make sure she gets inside the school before you leave. Drive to university. Arrive 9:15. Enter class room, find slide show on computer. Start teaching at 9:30. Finish at 10:45. Meet with students for an hour. Go to lunch with a colleague if time permits. Answer emails for an hour. Go to next class. Meet with students again. Read one quarter of the paper you promised to referee. Pick up kid from school. Drive to soccer practice. Watch kid practice soccer for an hour. Arrive at home at 6. Make dinner. Eat dinner. Help kid do homework and practice drums and spelling test. Help kid get in her PJs and brush her teeth. Read her a story and put her to bed. Take a deep breath. It's now 9 pm. Two hours left to work before bedtime.
Don't ask me if I regret having a kid. Of course I don't regret having a kid. Saying that would feel like saying I wish I didn't have my daughter. The thought of not having her is disgusting. It doesn't work like that. You can't ask someone after they have kids whether they regret having kids. But the decision to have kids as a philosopher who intends to have a serious career should not be taken lightly.
After having kids, you may be more effective during the few hours you have in between kid-stuff, administrative service and teaching. But the truth is that you really do have less time, much less, and if you are insanely obsessed with your career, you are not going to sacrifice your work. Nor are you going to do a bad job as a parent. So what ends up suffering big time is "fun-time." I only watch movies when I am traveling to Europe or Australia. Great movies on those flights, by the way! I occasionally have a drink or two with students after my Monday class before I pick up my daughter. But otherwise I don't go out, except at select conferences. Speaking of conferences, I often have to bring my daughter. She is a good sport but bringing her does limit the possibilities of socializing. Of course, I also go to department parties, kid-parent dinners and kid birthday parties. But that's about it.
What do I get in return? I get the satisfaction of seeing my kid, someone who shares 50 percent of my genes, grow up and excel, partially due to my love, nurturing and teaching. I see this wonderful creature do what I was never capable of doing: Playing the drums like a professional drummer, speaking four languages in addition to her two native languages, drawing ambiguous figures a la the duck-rabbit figure by hand. But even better, I get her unconditional love and trust. She is my biggest fan. She asks about my work and is genuinely interested in my answer. She is proud of my achievements. She (not yet being a teenager) begs me to come on her field trips. She proudly announces to the other students that WE speak another language (Danish). If I had a bad day, my day doesn't end that way. I think nothing beats the love of a child.
After several years of thinking about this, I think my answer to the kid question is going to be this. Yes, you can have a successful career and raise a child at the same time (even on your own). But don't believe for a second that you can continue your old lifestyle. I was so naive before I had my daughter. I envisaged my little newborn relaxing quietly in her baby lounger, which was sitting on my large wooden desk to the left of my computer. I saw myself writing important papers and books while the little one was cooing gently and reaching out for the toys above her. Every three hours I would stop writing and feed her. That's about as far as I thought. Out came a colicky baby, who didn't sleep through the night until she was almost two and who didn't want anything but breast milk until she was almost two.
So if you really want to know, then my answer is this. Yes, if you have a kid, something is going to suffer. Maybe your publication rate and your career are going to be fine but then you are not going to have any time for anything else. If that's what you want, go ahead and have a kid or two and a career. But think carefully before you take this big step. It cannot be undone.