Comments

  1. Report this comment

    Marti Pottorff said:

    Thank you for this story. I too am a grad school mom and this story definitely resonates with me. It is very hard to find a balance when you have a “new career” as a mom which takes precedence over everything, including finishing your Phd and yourself! I am about 3 years past my original completion date. Luckily I had finished all my experiments, teaching duties, etc. and just needed to write the papers and dissertation. However, we moved to a different country once a year and the readjustment and finding appropriate childcare was not easy or affordable! I will be able to graduate this year after publishing five papers so my extended time not graduating was not wasted. However, this has only been accomplished by periodic living with the in-laws so that I could focus entirely on my writing. As much as this has been difficult, I am so happy that I have been the main person raising my child who is now 3 and when I move on to my career, he will also be moving on to school and be a lot more independent. I also realize how much harder this would have been had I had him during a first post doc, when there is so much more expected of you and you do not have the leeway of working at home, etc. Motherhood is underestimated, how much it changes you and your mental facilities (due to loss of sleep and hormones changing your focus). People have no idea how hard it is to take care of a baby and a household unless they are in the trenches doing it themselves. I think working women are expected to be perfect at everything, their career, their family duties, etc. I have the utmost respect for women who work and raise children but I have no idea how they juggle everything. I think mothers who are busy with work or school must be able to allocate small tasks and jobs to other people and be ok with asking for help, because we cannot do it all. If you try to do it all, you will run yourself down, be full of stress and angry. I think it is important to take this time period in stride, enjoy your baby and the early years, don’t stress about the writing. You will finish, maybe not in the time period that others expect. If you force yourself to be too productive and you are in baby mode, you will feel guilty for not working and guilty for not being with your baby. I also totally agree with the working at home scenario, it just doesn’t work. I was constantly doing laundry even grocery shopping because it was easier to do alone without the baby but I was not getting any writing done and felt very guilty about it. Other countries which allow up to a year for maternity leave know what they are doing, they understand how challenging it is to raise children. Luckily I had really understand PIs and I am really close to finishing. Good luck to you.

    1. Report this comment

      Susie Crowe said:

      Marti, thanks for commenting and I’m glad my story resonated with a fellow grad school mom! I suspect there are many silent would-be moms who are afraid to start their families while still in grad school because it might be frowned upon, or because of the many financial hurdles, particularly childcare and a lack of paid maternity leave options. This is such a shame, because most PhD students are around the perfect age to become pregnant, and many people who wait until later in life find it to be too late to get pregnant easily. I agree that being able to ask for help is so important; I am very lucky to have a great support system and several people who are willing to give me so much help.

      I am in Canada, so only taking 8 months of leave was a bit of a deviation from how maternity leave is usually done here (most people take a full year). I chose to go back early because I felt ready to get back to my work and I just wanted to get on with things. And to be honest, being a stay at home mom is just such thankless, hard, hard work!! It was fun for a while, and a nice mental break. But I am much less exhausted at the end of a long day of marking or data analysis compared to how I used to feel, when I was on leave, by the time my husband walked through the door!

      Good luck finishing up!

      1. Report this comment

        Marti Pottorff said:

        Hi Susie,

        My university didn’t have a maternity leave. I was lucky that I was at the end of my PhD that it didn’t matter that I was there or not. I actually had to remove myself from the program.. There isn’t that much support for university mom’s in the US, that I am aware of. I guess it depends on the individual universities. There is hardly any support for working mothers, some mothers only get 2-4 weeks maternity leave so there is next to nothing for students. It’s definitely not an easy path… taking care of a baby takes almost every second of your time. I remember expecting a post-doc to help me after he had a baby and when he was at home, he couldn’t do anything else. I remember not understanding why he didn’t have the time. I just tried to apply for a job the other day while my son was watching some cartoons, he kept on bugging me to lay with him and watch cartoons with him! I also find it very hard to switch to my different identities, mother, PhD student, person-I-used-to-be. I think many women wait until their children go to school to start feeling ambitious towards their own career goals. I didn’t actually plan to have this child. But it worked out relatively well.. a time in my career/life where I could not be present but still continue my life goals but also be there for my child. Good luck to you too! Thanks so much for this article.