My wife and I have just been notified that we may get children for adoption in the coming month (apparently, it comes at a much shorter notice than having a biological child...). The law allows me to take about 6 months of parental leave, which I will probably need very much. At the present semester I do not teach obligatory courses, and my teaching duties are mostly to advise students in various levels:

  • I teach a new elective course for undergraduates, designed by me, where the grade is based on an individual project. There are 30 students.
  • I advise some 10 teams in their final-year projects; 30 undergraduate students overall.
  • I advise 3 master and 2 Ph.D. students.

Advising takes a lot of time for regular meetings and for reviewing the students' work. I spend about 50% of my time on advising (the other 50% I spend on preparing lessons for my course and writing papers). Most projects are research-oriented, and closely related to my field of research, so it is impossible to give them to another faculty member from a different field. Finding an external advisor from outside the university is also next to impossible. On the other hand, keeping the students "on hold" for 6 months is not fair for them.

During my parental leave, I can technically meet with students in Zoom and read their emails, but I will probably have very little time or mental energy for advising them at the same level they are used to. Also, I heard that the law forbids me to do any work while on parental leave. But this can probably be solved in some way.

What do other advisors do with their students when they are on parental leave?

  • 2
    @Buffy right. But the main issue is practical, not legal. Apr 1, 2022 at 11:12
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    What would happen if you were seriously sick and for that reason unable to work? Because you will be unable to work.
    – henning
    Apr 1, 2022 at 11:32
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    Does your university/department have any policies/guidelines about this? E.g., the sabbatical leave policy at my US university explicitly says I am expected to continue advising PhD students, but not do other committee work. While your situation is not the same, presumably it is has come up before at your university.
    – Kimball
    Apr 1, 2022 at 13:01
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    I don't know the Israeli academic calendar, so when is this non-obligatory course over? Although it seems odd to me to list teaching under "advising." Apr 1, 2022 at 15:08
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    Also how old are the children you are adopting? People below seem to be assuming they are quite young. Apr 1, 2022 at 15:09

4 Answers 4


First of all, in my experience, most people are quite understanding when it comes to parents taking parental leave, and many are also very supportive when you ask them for help.

My personal approach was to start preparations as soon as I knew that I would have to take care of a new-born child soon, giving me about eight months time. Basically, I think it is necessary to make use of your entire network to make this work out properly because let's assume that you will not be able to focus on anything job-related in the first months. So you will need a lot of support, and my recommendation is to accept any offer you get.

For students working on their Master's thesis (and similar projects), which usually takes something like six months, I simply did not accept any new students that I could not supervise. I do supervise quite a few students regularly, so I explained the situation to my superiors and thus made it their job to make sure that future students will find the support they need elsewhere. I understand that this will not work for you due to the rather short notice. But I assume there will be some procedure in case a student supervisor drops out for any reason, so you might have to rely on that. Again, you might find the students to be quite understanding and you maybe can work something out together.

PhD students are a different matter. My approach was to find very individual solutions. Some more advanced students were standing on their own feet anyway and had no big problem to fiddle around on their own for a while. These are the easy cases. For others, who were in need of more support, I tried to find it together with them. Some were involved in a research project with other collaborators. I found it useful to ask them to support the students. They might not be experts for the exact same thing, but they know the overall project, they know which ends should meet eventually, and they are great researchers with an open and active mind. Other students might have a special need for very practical, hands-on support in the lab, like for example a Master's student could provide. In such cases, I tried to find somebody from the faculty who would be willing to officially supervise such student work. PhD students might also be able to support each other. You could arrange that your students take part in group seminars of neighboring groups. Again, my experience was that all people involved knew that there was no real alternative, so everybody acted accordingly.

Honestly, teaching should be you smallest problem. Others should be able to take over your responsibilities.

I know it is not easy to let all this go for a while, especially if you feel committed to contribute to the success of the individuals involved, but if you have the chance to dedicate these months to your family, it is absolutely worth it.

  • Separating the different types of students is a key aspect. The undergrads work on projects on a scale of a few months but there are at a level where it is quite likely that other faculty members can take over. A PhD is usually a 3 to 5 year project. They should be much more independent but it is also a lot harder to find a replacement supervisor. They will still be around after the 6 months.
    – quarague
    Apr 2, 2022 at 16:57
  • Indeed, so far my colleagues have been very supportive. Apr 4, 2022 at 2:06

First off, congratulations.

Second, to answer your question, we transferred most of them to our colleagues. Adapting to live with children is a really big change. If you have the opportunity to have some time especially dedicated to that, then use it. Don't waste that opportunity on work.

Don't overestimate how much you can do in that period. It is not just the time you spent with the children, but it is also others things like many parents of young children will be seriously sleep deprived for the first year or so depending on how well the children sleep. Some babies cry a lot (that is pretty much their only means of communication), and don't underestimate how incredibly exhausting that is for the parents. I am not trying to scare you (really I am not).

  • 1
    How can you transfer a research student to a colleague, if the field of research is substantially different? Apr 1, 2022 at 11:13
  • that depends on how substantially different, how specialized the students are, how willing your colleagues are. Apr 1, 2022 at 11:24
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    Think of it this way: Over the entire time that you will work in your department there will be times when you have the capacity to fill in for others, and there will be times when others need to fill in for you. That is what colleagues are for. Apr 1, 2022 at 11:32
  • Suppose they agree to formally be registered as the students' advisors for the coming months. Still, they will not have the time to study all the relevant material in order to provide good guidance. So the students will still be on their own. Apr 2, 2022 at 21:08
  • You are human, you cannot solve all problems. Be open about it, in my experience students do understand that their teachers are human and sometimes have to prioritize other things than work. Whatever you are going to do will be imperfect, but live is imperfect. Apr 3, 2022 at 20:26

The question here is: who will be with your child while you do this work?

Will your partner also be on leave? Will you be hiring a childcare provider while on leave?

If your child is under the age of 5, it's important to understand that working casually while you also look after your child is a fantasy. Young children do not just sit and play while you pursue emails or zoom, they very much demand constant attention. I'm not exaggerating at all when I say expecting time to even go to the bathroom alone is a stretch. Understand this first, then decide if carving out dedicated work time, including ensuring someone else is taking responsibility for your child for those hours, is worth it during a time when you are on leave.


Firstly, congratulations on your upcoming adoption. I wish you and your wife joy with your new child.

I'm not aware of any laws that would make it illegal for you to help your students while you are on leave, but I would encourage you to take your leave seriously and ensure that it is not interrupted by unreasonable work expectations. Leave for raising a child is important to you and your family and you are entitled to have that leave respected.

As to the mechanics of accommodating your students during this time, typically you and the department would make arrangements for some other academic to substitute your role with those students while you are away. The department will probably ask you to arrange this prior to taking leave (if possible) but they should also be able to assist you if you have trouble finding other academics that can take on those duties. Dealing with reallocation of tasks due to staff leave is a standard managerial responsibility of a university department, so it is certainly not incumbent on you to do supplementary work during your leave period to assist your students. You are right that it is unfair to students to keep them "on hold" for six months. It is the responsibility of the department to take whatever measures it can to avoid this. Ideally your students will be fully cared for while you are away, but even if they aren't, that is a managerial problem that is incumbent on your department to solve --- it is not your job to work through your leave to fix managerial shortcomings of your department.

One other thing worth mentioning: You will find that some new parents go a bit stir-crazy spending their days at home raising a new child, and completely ceasing their professional work. Consequently, sometimes people on maternity/peternity leave want to do some sporadic academic/professional work to break up the routine and give their brain some exercise. That is perfectly healthy and I would encourage you to do that if you feel like it. The point here is that you should not feel obligated to do your academic work while on leave.

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