A young woman came into my office last week to pick up a paper and I took the opportunity to grill her about her future plans. She said she was applying to graduate school for next year. My first instinct was to call her parents and make her stop, but that wasn't quite the professional thing to do. I limited my advice to write an "adequate" dissertation not a great dissertation, get done really, really quickly, and be up for the life of a vagabond. I wanted to say, "and do it all before you have kids", but I didn't. She didn't really look like she wanted to hear those sorts of things.
Libby and Tedra are both very pessimistic about taking anything but a traditional path in academia. They both say that you can't take time off. Adjunct work never turns into a tenure track position. (Well, I've heard of a few stories, but those stories may be urban legends.)
I've got a killer sore throat and have decided it best to let you all respond. There's been much written about the need for women (and parents) to have on and off ramps in the careers. Is this possible in academia? Is it possible in other careers?
Let me just note that the last time I volunteered at my kid's school, I talked to a pile of very smart women who were struggling unsuccessfully to get some sort of job that challenged them and enabled them to be home in time to do homework with their kids. Some were trying out entrepreneurial schemes. Others were being exploited by the school system as classroom aides ($12,000 per year; 8:30-3:10; no breaks). A whole lot of wasted talent.