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How to bring up ttc plans with PhD supervisor?

(40 Posts)
SarahH12 Tue 26-Sep-17 12:32:06

I've been advised to speak to my supervisor prior to starting to ttc to try and sound him out and see what his view on things are. How do I bring it up? When I was in a full time job I always knew that when we started ttc I wouldn't tell anyone until we'd actually conceived and had the 12 week scan. But now I'm doing a PhD it seems most people advise to consult supervisor first. Anybody else been in this situation or have any advice on how to bring it up?

GameOldBirdz Tue 26-Sep-17 12:36:56

Who the actual fuck has advised you to tell your PhD supervisor? I'm completely baffled! Are they on glue?

I'd be completely flawed if one of my PhD students told me that she was TTC. It's absolutely not my business at this stage. I find telling people you're TTC a bit weird anyway. It's basically saying "Just so you know, me and DP are going to start having lots more sex without protection". Why would anyone want/need to know that? confused

Start TTC and if you become pregnant, tell your supervisor as you would an employer (I assume after 12 week scan). Then you can work together to figure out how to manage your research over the coming year or so.

PoisonedIvy Tue 26-Sep-17 12:46:11

I've been advised to speak to my supervisor prior to starting to ttc

Who advised this? It's completely bonkers and not something a male PhD student would be advised to do quite rightly.

to try and sound him out and see what his view on things are

His views on what things exactly? And why would his views matter on anything matter- if you want a child, try and have a child, your supervisors "views" don't come into the equation.

As Game said, if you become pregnant then you can talk to your supervisor about how much time you will take off and how you will manage your research around that. But there's absolutely no need to tell your supervisor now.

Passmethecrisps Tue 26-Sep-17 12:48:28

I am fairly certain my dh didn't consult with his supervisor when we were TTC. I can't imagine how the conversation would go.

You have absolutely no need to be sharing this level of detail about your life with anyone

murmuration Tue 26-Sep-17 13:02:27

WHAT??? That sounds incredibly bizarre.

I definitely wouldn't expect to hear from a PhD student that a baby was on the way until such time as one normally tells for things like mat leave (at my Uni it is something like 16 weeks at this point) or if it became an issue earlier (e.g., pregnant female who needed to avoid teratogens in the lab from the start).

I've had two PhD students let me know partners were due with a baby given a few months notice. No one batted an eye.

Now, I suppose if it is you having the child, you will need to look a little further about what provisions there are for maternity leave for students. But unless you're feeling super comfortable with your supervisor about personal things (which it doesn't sound like you are), I'd start with student support and/or administrators related to whatever your funding situation is. That way when you do let your supervisor know about a pregnancy, you'd be armed with all the information about how this affects your matriculation and funding. (I'm pretty sure if you're funding by a UK Research Council, that they allow for maternity leave). It is extremely unlikely your supervisor will know these details, and better you come informed.

SarahH12 Tue 26-Sep-17 13:09:41

Okay I'm glad it's not just me who thought it was bizarre - which is why I feel so awkward thinking about how to bring it up. I can't remember who advised me. It was either here or on the postgraduate forums.

I've already looked into maternity provisions etc so know what I'd be entitled to etc.

Viviennemary Tue 26-Sep-17 13:16:05

That is totally mad advice IMHO. It's nobody else's business but yours. I couldn't imagine anything more embarrassing absolutely don't.

paxillin Tue 26-Sep-17 13:16:16

The only thing to consider is the timing. If your PhD is in History or Maths, tell you supervisor at 12 weeks like other employees or students. If it is a Science PhD, do you work with harmful radiation or chemicals? You might have to disclose earlier.

Do not tell you supervisor before TTC. I'd be very surprised if a student would tell me this. My view (secretly and selfishly) would be "Noooo- what about the project?". I would say "Congratulations, lets see how we plan the PhD around this".

SarahH12 Tue 26-Sep-17 13:19:44

No harmful radiation or chemicals paxillin smile

Bluerose27 Tue 26-Sep-17 13:23:03

Unless your supervisor is the potential father of the baby you say nothing!!

BrioLover Tue 26-Sep-17 13:25:41

That's nuts - definitely ignore the advice! I do remember my dad had someone do this (he's an academic and has supervised lots of PhDs) and his face was like this: confused

SarahH12 Tue 26-Sep-17 13:29:03

Ahh thanks!

Talk to your prospective supervisor and other students in the lab and judge the level of support you're likely to get.

Here ^^ was the advice I received on MN. I also had that advice irl too and on another forum confused

Valentine2 Tue 26-Sep-17 13:29:13

If you have to to tell this to your advisor, you have a problem and that won't go away whether you are pregnant within PhD or not.
It is not their business. Deal with it like you would in any other job.
In my experience, this is part of being eligible for a PhD award itself: you MUST show you can deal with problems like a grown up forever more and dealing with advisor is one of them.
Good luck with TTC.

VeryPunny Tue 26-Sep-17 13:30:27

What everyone else said - absolutely do NOT mention it to your supervisor! You need to check what your funding body states about maternity leave and whether it is paid/unpaid - it's been a while since I dealt with that issue but studentships were not treated as salaries and you did not get maternity pay or official leave. You'll also need to check that you'll be able to extend your registration - many unis have hard deadlines of 4 years now.

PoisonedIvy Tue 26-Sep-17 13:35:17

FWIW I think the postgraduate forums are largely full of absolute horse-shit. I thought it when I was doing my own PhD and I think it now that I supervise bloody loads of students.

I find an over-representation of people having a really shit time in their PhD. They tend to attribute this to poor supervision but I do sometimes wonder if there's more going on. Anyway, the consequence is that the PhD forums can be very negative with lots of quite extreme stories of poor treatment and people having a bad time. I find Academics Corner a much more balance and realistic place. I think that's because it's full of people meandering around MN rather than specifically come on to vent about academic stuff.

I suspect the MNers who gave you that advice weren't academics.

SarahH12 Tue 26-Sep-17 13:35:20

very the RC states "the period of support may be extended to cover the period of absence" under their info re maternity leave. I'm not sure I like that word "may"! Does that mean they may not?

I've also just found this bit:

 After a research grant has started, the duration may be extended at no additional cost by an overall total of up
to 12 months, subject to prior written approval.
 Extensions will be allowed where they are necessary to enable work to be completed following delays due to:
o maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental or paid sick leave;

So they should extend it even if it's a 4 year PhD?

PoisonedIvy Tue 26-Sep-17 13:39:40

Sarah Is that specifically for PhD funding though, or a standard grant award? The rules might be slightly different.

Here's what my university says specifically about PhD studentships:
Scholarships are intended to be held on a continuous basis, without a break. Sometimes, however, a student may need to interrupt their programme of study. This may arise for reasons such as maternity or illness, or due to personal or family reasons. A period of suspension may be requested during which the student is not entitled to receive a maintenance grant or tuition fees. Requests for suspension will not be approved for the purpose of employment, temporary lectureships, exchange visits, voluntary service overseas or expeditions/sport

The university will extend your registration by a year even on a four year PhD. Though we have very hard four year deadlines, people are always requesting extensions because of illness. One guy took seven years hmm

SarahH12 Tue 26-Sep-17 13:40:44

I do wonder how the extensions work tbh. The RC stipulates a student is entitled to go part time post baby. But say for example I took off 6 months after the first year, then went part time, 80% for the final three years, that would require an extension of more than 12 months though... very confused

SarahH12 Tue 26-Sep-17 13:42:42

Sorry, cross post.

Funding is through EPSRC. The link on the EPSRC has a bit of info but then takes me to the "RCUK briefing on maternity, paternity, shared parental leave and adoption leave pay" booklet

paxillin Tue 26-Sep-17 13:44:14

The grant and the PhD registration are two different things. You should be able to suspend your registration for periods of absence, check the information on your university's website. Studentships often don't pay maternity, so might lie dormant and you get SMP.*

*This might be outdated, last pregnant PhD student was yonks ago.

murmuration Tue 26-Sep-17 13:46:12

Sarah, curious of the context, I searched your previous thread. I think you nailed it with your comment:

What I do find interesting is that nobody encourages people to give up on a PhD if they find out they're pregnant but if you're contemplating it and deliberately planning it it is seen as a big no no.

In your other thread, you were asking if would be hard to have a baby and do a PhD at the same time. The unequivocal answer to that is, Yes, it is. (Personally, I disagree with many answers there about it being better to wait - careers tend to 'start' at the PhD, and people won't really pay attention to a period of leave before the degree, but when your academic publishing record has a giant gap due to mat leave... well, I'm still trying to dig my way back out of that. Anyway, you said you were going back to industry anyway, so that's likely not even relevant.)

But here you're asking about planning to have a baby and how to go about it. I suspect the 'judge level of support' thing was meant to be more a chat around the topic and try to figure out if you're going to find yourself in a supportive environment or not, before you decide to TTC, not given you've decided, to let someone know! You could still do that, it might help figure out who to approach first -- e.g., what faculty member has had a long string of pregnant, successful PhD students (there was one at my PhD institute - everyone knew it would work out fine in his lab) and perhaps get vague pointers. But I wouldn't do it in the context of a decision made, or even looking fact-finding. More general interest, if you can manage it.

paxillin Tue 26-Sep-17 13:46:25

But say for example I took off 6 months after the first year, then went part time, 80% for the final three years, that would require an extension of more than 12 months though... very confused

Quite possible the extra funding would be lost in that case.

murmuration Tue 26-Sep-17 13:50:30

Regarding the EPSRC rules, I'd actually go to them and find out. My reading of it is that they'll keep paying you from the award for mat leave, but if the Uni has committed all of it's award to other students already, they would have to make it up themselves, or show evidence to the EPSRC that they are incapable of coming up with the funds and then the EPSRC would fund it. But I imagine a Uni convincing the EPSRC that is has literally no other money to cover a fraction of a stipend year would be pretty hard. So the Uni is either going to have to hope it hasn't committed its full EPSRC award, or find the money elsewhere. They might have provisions for that - I've heard of central mat leave funds in places meant to cover things like this, so that the awards aren't used up.

murmuration Tue 26-Sep-17 13:52:33

Yeah, and regarding the extension/part time interaction, best to get it from the funders mouth. But I think part-time doesn't count as extension - 80% for three years would only be effectively 2.4 years. Otherwise they wouldn't be able to have 50% PhDs at all!

SarahH12 Tue 26-Sep-17 13:52:47

paxillin but it wouldn't really be extra funding would it? I mean I'd still be paid the same amount but over a longer period of time, if that makes sense. The EPSRC do stipulate there is 6 months paid maternity and then up to 6 months unpaid. But if one can only extend by 12 months, that doesn't then leave room for part time, unless I'm understanding it wrong.

murmuration thank you for your comments. Do I assume you took maternity leave after PhD then?

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