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I have been teaching for a few years at my university, and have mostly gotten into the rhythm of teaching and doing research.

This semester, I am teaching two courses. What is different this semester is that I am faced with the happy but unfamiliar circumstance that my wife is due to give birth during the semester.

Question: How should I plan my course schedule around the birth of our baby?

Here are some of the issues that I have considered:

  • The unpredictability of the birth date. We are expecting that our baby will be delivered naturally. While we were given an expected due date by the doctors, we don't really know when the contractions will start, when we will go to the hospital, how long the labor will be before the baby is born, etc.

  • The day of week effect. I am teaching on Mondays and Tuesdays.

    • If my wife goes into labor on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, I will probably be needed to help my wife give birth or recover, so I plan to cancel class.
    • If my wife goes into labor on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, we will probably be in a good enough situation that I can teach on Monday or Tuesday. But should I cancel class regardless?
  • What to communicate to students. If my wife suddenly goes into labor, I may have to suddenly cancel class. This could happen shortly before the class starts, or even possibly in the middle of the class. Should I communicate any information about my wife's pregnancy and the baby's expected due date to my students beforehand?

I would appreciate wise advice about how to plan my course schedule in a way that balances my family's needs and the students' needs.

Response to comments

Question: Can you arrange paternity leave/cover?

Answer: I'm asking Human Resources about the paternity leave policy. Both of these courses are course which I developed, so none of my colleagues in the department can teach them well without investing a significant amount of time. So I don't think I can find a colleague in my department to cover the course.

  • Can you arrange paternity leave/ cover? – astronat Jan 13 at 8:49
  • @astronat See my edited question – I Like to Code Jan 13 at 8:55
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    Your colleagues don't have to teach the course; they only have to handle a couple of days. If, throughout the critical time, you've prepared a couple of days ahead, it will not be hard for someone to cover for you. (Preparing a lesson for someone else to teach is harder than preparing for oneself, but not that much harder.) – Bob Brown Jan 13 at 15:45
  • One possibility is to record a lecture or two, particularly if you can find somewhat independent topics. – mkennedy Jan 13 at 20:04
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Yes, I would say that at the beginning of the course. In my case that was received positively, and when the day came they were very flexible in handling any schedule changes (much more so than students normally are).

I would also discuss this early on with your collegues. In my case they were very willing to help out (people are much less irreplacable as we like to think we are...)

This is definately something to discuss with HR, as there may be all kinds of policies and programs that you never heard of and could really help you balance your new family life with your work (as a colleage told me: however you will measure it, your life will change significantly (We both teach statistics), and he was right)

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    +1 for getting your colleagues involved, especially. Also, look at the concept of "Pay it Forward" which can easily apply in this and similar situations. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pay_it_forward – Buffy Jan 13 at 14:33

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