[Parentsgroup-list] Grad school - this is my maternity leave!

Victoria Campbell victoria.campbell at us.army.mil
Sun Jul 31 21:12:48 EDT 2005

Hello, all!

  I've enjoyed reading the discussion, keep it coming!  Here's a different
perspective on maternity leave and academia.  I'm an active duty Army
officer (as is my husband, a student at MIT).  We have a 6-month old, born
between semesters last year.  A lot of people thought we were crazy to have
a baby in grad school, but from our perspective it certainly beats the
prospect of one or both of us being deployed during or immediately after our
baby's birth.  (I was non-deployable while pregnant, but I know of military
moms who have answered the call right after their 30-45 day "convalescent"
leave ended).  I admit to being pretty scared about a full course load with
a baby, but with the help of my mom who was here all spring, we all managed
quite well.  We were very blessed to have her help, and my husband and I
have enjoyed knowing that at least both of us will be here for our
daughter's first years.
  Many people at Harvard asked why I did not take the semester off - in
fact, they seemed to expect it.  As a military officer, here on military
funding, that was hardly an option.  Nor did I get the convalescent (ie
maternity) leave I would have had were I in a normal military job.  Despite
coordinating my spring schedule early in the fall, one of the departments
told me in late January that I could not enroll in certain classes if I were
going to miss class.  Thus, I started class at the beginning of the
semester, only 10 days after my daughter was born - and it is a good thing
she was a few weeks early!  I probably could have finagled missing the first
week of the semester, but not much more.  In order to graduate on time, I
needed those classes.  It was frustrating to me that I had been very clear
up front in September about my situation and my plans, and that a department
head had agreed to them and later reversed that decision.  To that
department's credit, after much persistence on my part, they eventually came
up with an even better solution than the initial plan.  However, it was a
great struggle - one largely based on perceptions of what they thought I
"should" have been doing.  Getting A's in those courses and passing the exam
they require for graduation from my program in May was most satisfying after
the doubts they had expressed in January!
  So, other than personal victories, why am I posting?  I am posting because
Harvard, oddly enough, is making me appreciate the Army!  One thing I think
the Army does well is making sure that mothers and families understand their
obligations to the Army, and the support the Army has for them.  I knew that
if I were in a normal military job, I would probably be home for 45 days
maximum, but that the on-post child care facility would care for my baby at
6 weeks old.  As part of a dual-military family, I would have priority to
get a space in that center for my daughter.  I knew I had 4 months to
achieve the weight standard for my height, and 6 months to pass the Physical
Fitness Test, both of which I had been exempt from while pregnant. My
husband and I knew we needed a plan in case both of us got deployed or were
in the field at the same time.  In starting a family, we knew what to expect
from the Army, and what the Army expected from us.  Granted, being a student
is hardly the same situation - but last fall I found myself wishing I could
find more information about what Harvard had to offer and what Harvard
expected of me.  Such information can be hard to find, and is often
incomplete.  It would be nice if there were some policies for students in
writing (although that can provide limitations as well as options, as least
one knows what to expect).  Right now, I think the best repository of that
type of information is this group - we are a valuable resource to each
other, and to those who are just joining us.  Keep up the good work!

Happy summer, everyone!
Tori Campbell

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