Saturday, November 27, 2010

Job Interviews and Breastfeeding

For the campus interview for my current job, I had to leave my 7-month old daughter for several days.  I left her, but brought the breast pump.  I know I'm not the first one who has had to worry about how to gracefully bow out from the interview for a quick trip back to the hotel to pump milk.  But I've never heard or read anyone tell their story before.  So I thought I'd put it out there.

Breastfeeding moms need to pump their milk (for me, at least a couple times a day) to ensure the milk supply continues.  My nursing friend called it "pump-and-dump."  In this instance, you're not trying to save up that milk, just keep it from drying up.

But at campus interviews, they think they own you for 48-hours.  It might be very awkward to tell the person doing the schedule that you really need to go back to the hotel before dinner.   If you don't tell them the reason, they might think you're anti-social, or stubborn, or not a team player.  After all, no other candidate asked for such special treatment!  If you do tell them, you might wonder at dinner, "Is it just my imagination, or are they staring at my breasts?"

My milk supply was pretty reliable.  So in my case, I just suffered through it and pumped at 9pm, once  back from dinner.  In retrospect, for someone who must pump earlier, I would let the chair of the search and the person in charge of scheduling know that I needed some time back at the hotel for...what? Medical reasons?  Personal, medically-related reasons?  I wouldn't want to just say "personal reasons"--too vague and too open to interpretation (is she a diva? is she lazy? ....).

In my department, I'm open about such things. But on a job interview, I just don't want to go into details.

Any stories or ideas out there? Have you been interviewed as a lactator?  What would you advise someone to say or do?  How to make it not quite so awkward?

7 comments:

  1. Just seeing this blog now (linked here from Frugal PhD's blog) and sorry I'm coming late to the conversation, but I have a breastfeeding/job search story. I'm pre-tenure, at an R2 institution, with two kids (3 years; 3 weeks). When the first was a couple months old, I was invited to an on-campus interview. I had to think carefully about what to do in this instance, because my first was a preemie (so functionally 2 weeks old at the time of the interview) and we had JUST transitioned from the NICU bottle-feeding only scheme to breastfeeding full time. Things were going well but by no means stable, so it seemed to me that I needed to have the baby at the interview too. How would I do that and try to look professional, though?

    I opted for the very direct route: I spoke with the committee chairperson and explained the situation. We ended up negotiating that my DH would come with me and the baby (paid for by me, of course) and would watch the baby while I was doing interview things. He and the baby would be close by so I could nurse. In fact, once I got there, one of the (male) members of the committee offered his office for them to hang out in, since he had two office spaces because of a dual position he held). I can't imagine that their accommodations on the interview could have worked out any better. And, I got the job.

    Two key things worked in my favor there: 1) it was the on-campus interview and I was one of two finalists; they really wanted me. 2) It was an institution that touted family friendly policies and really sought out women candidates. My department, in fact, is fairly average when it comes to hiring stats in academia: in a 22 member department, I am one of 5 women, and the only one of childbearing age.

    All that said, I recognize how extremely lucky it is that all this worked out. But I do think this is exactly one of those academia/mom balancing things: my baby had just left the NICU and that pushed me to do things I wouldn't ordinarily have done, I think. If the institution hadn't been so accommodating, i would also have known, "this is not the institution for me." So when and where it is appropriate and necessary (for instance, not at the conference interviews for sure, but more probably at an on campus interview where it is clear you're a finalist), I think a direct approach is good.

    I hope some day I'll be able to "pay it forward" and work to improve family leave, etc. for academic women.

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  2. Hi Theology PhD Mom! Thanks so much for your comments! What a story--glad it has a happy ending.
    There is some definite interest out there on this topic. Would you mind if I used your comments in a follow-up blog? I think some people could really benefit from it.

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  3. Please do, especially if you think people would benefit!

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  4. Thank you for this info! I still don't know how I will handle my campus visit with my three month old, but i am so comforted to know I am not alone. The committee members, by the way, are all men...

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  5. I had an interview scheduled 4 weeks following the birth of my son. I had to declare my pregnancy up front, because they tried to book the on site interview on my due date!

    I spoke with the chair about my needs and he let me work out the schedule with his assistant. We booked a private room for me with 1 hour breaks every 4 hours for pumping. I had been pumping after feeds in the weeks leading up to the interview to build up a freezer stash. My baby was bottle fed from this stash while I was away at my interview.

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  6. I had an interview scheduled 4 weeks following the birth of my son. I had to declare my pregnancy up front, because they tried to book the on site interview on my due date!

    I spoke with the chair about my needs and he let me work out the schedule with his assistant. We booked a private room for me with 1 hour breaks every 4 hours for pumping. I had been pumping after feeds in the weeks leading up to the interview to build up a freezer stash. My baby was bottle fed from this stash while I was away at my interview.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Tks very much for your post.

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    ReplyDelete