How does one juggle breast feeding and landing a law teaching job? Advice needed!

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I’m writing for advice on an issue peculiar to female law profs and I was hoping that I could post a question on Feminist Law Profs seeking advice.

Specifically, I am on the legal teaching market this year and I have an infant son at home who is still breastfeeding exclusively. He’s coming to DC [for the FRC] with me this week and my Mom’s driving over from [Metropolis] to watch him while I interview. The problem could arise in theory if I am invited back to campus by any school: what to do about breastfeeding or pumping at a callback? All options seem horrendous to me (bringing husband and baby to callback at my expense or separating myself from my son and nonetheless requesting that time to pump be built into my tight interview schedule); they all seem to undercut my credibility in my mind. I’m really hoping that someone who reads your blog may have dealt with this issue before and I’m curious as to the perspective of feminist law profs who haven’t dealt with this themselves.

–Candidate X

NB from Ann: Candidate X is known to me (and I think she is terrific, FWIW!) so if anyone would rather respond by e-mail, send it to me and I’ll forward your advice along to her.

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0 Responses to How does one juggle breast feeding and landing a law teaching job? Advice needed!

  1. I once flew in for a day long interview (for a legal writing job, I teach legal writing) with a job talk and lunch, soon after I had given birth to my oldest son, and while I was still breastfeeding very frequently. In that context, I asked for time and private space to use my breast pump. I made the request to my contact at the school, and he handled it without any difficulty. It was simple–a faculty member’s office was made available to me for half an hour before lunch.

    I don’t understand why requesting that time and space would undercut your credibility. It shouldn’t. If it does, that would be a very bad sign about the workplace, don’t you think? I’d advise a simple, non-defensive request for accommodation, if the time you will be there exceeds the time during which you can reasonably go without pumping.

    By the way, I didn’t get that job, darn it, but I don’t think that had anything to do with my request for accommodation for my need to pump.

  2. tmcgaugh says:

    Breastfeeding — like eating and breathing — aren’t things you can always schedule around satisfactorily. But just like you wouldn’t schedule interviews so that you don’t go without a meal longer than is needed, you shouldn’t feel the need to schedule interviews so that you go without breastfeeding longer than is needed.

    Many law faculties will be very understanding about your need to fit breastfeeding into your schedule. Some won’t. It’s a good way to find out if this is a faculty that’s likely to be supportive generally of the things you need to do to take care of yourself and your family. Then you can decide whether you’re willing to serve on that kind of a faculty.

  3. mdudziak says:

    Many years ago I attended the FRC with my daughter who was breastfeeding (she is now 17) — but I did so as a member of an appts. committee at the Univ. of Iowa. I had to excuse myself from a couple of interviews, and I was probably more sleep deprived than my colleagues, but it was managable. It is obviously more difficult for candidates, especially for someone with many interviews and few breaks.

    When you’re invited back, the first thing to keep in mind is that the school is very interested in you. Usually they are interested not only in taking a more serious look at you as a candidate, but also in selling their school to you. So they will want you to have a nice visit, and they might go out of their way to help you work this out.

    I think it’s also the case, though, that some folks might be uncomfortable talking with you about something having to do with breasts. And even if a school has an easily embarrassed or perhaps even sexist appointments chair — beyond that person may be a faculty that’s actually a good fit for you, or that you’d at least like to be in a position to make choices about.

    Because of these considerations, I would bring it up after you get an invitation, but I would think about whom to raise the issue with. If you’re not comfortable discussing it with the appointments chair, perhaps there’s another appointments committee member who you’ve learned has small children and might be especially understanding. If it was me, I would probably reach out to a friendly female member of the committee.

    As to whether to bring the baby & husband (or a babysitter) or a pump….I suspect candidates will differ on what will work best for them. If it was me, I would have found it distracting to have my daughter and (1st) husband around when I was trying to focus on an exhausting day-long interview, job talk, and dinner. And having a hotel room to yourself at night might be a way to catch up on some needed sleep. But I think others would react differently. Do whatever will make YOU the most comfortable, and will enable you to focus the most during the day. Your little one will be just fine either way.

  4. olivialawrence says:

    I’m not in law, but I do a lot of interviews, all the time, so I had this problem for a while when my kids were babes. Here’s what I’d do, depending on how efficient a pumper you are. I’d pump a little more in the weeks beforehand so you have a supply for while you’re at the interviews and don’t have to worry about it. Then I’d use a hand pump and do the old pump and dump. That is, don’t try to keep the milk. Just quickly pump enough so you don’t get too full. The one thing I WOULDN”T do is nothing, because then you will leak. It is very hard to maintain dignity and confidence with leaking breasts. Trust me on this.

  5. From my wife:

    With baby number one, I was very careful not to say where I was going when I went to pump during work (I’m a practicing attorney). I either just excused myself (and nobody ever questioned me) or said that I was going to deal with something “medical.” Now, I just say that I’m going to pump. My clients are union guys–probably a pretty tough audience compared to academics–and I’ve never received anything but support. In general, I find that if you mention breasts or breastfeeding in any fashion people throw up their hands and want no further part of the conversation… makes things quite easy!

    That said, if you want to be more subtle, I would suggest that you do a full pump before you leave for interviews in the morning and when you return at night. During the day while you are interviewing just keep a handpump (they are very small and actually work pretty well) to relieve yourself as necessary. If you don’t have room in your bag to store the milk, just dump it. I know it is heartbreaking to lose that milk but hopefully you have a bit of a freezer stash you can tap into if need be. Feel free to email me if you have questions. I’m not a law professor, but I’ve been pumping on the job for a year and half now, so I have some ideas!

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