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PHD with a baby - possible??

(10 Posts)
galaxy81 Sun 30-Mar-14 12:20:18

Hi everyone. Trying for a baby at the moment. I'm early-30's. I'm just finishing my masters degree and I'd like to put in a proposal for PHD study. My working life has so far been very haphazard because I relocated to be with my partner and I couldn't find a job in my sector here. So I studied a Masters part-time to keep myself sane. I love study and would like to continue, especially since I can't seem to find a job anywhere no matter how hard I try. Partner supportive in whatever I do and knows how important it is for me to be intellectually stimulated...probably more important than money/nice things/holidays. But when/if I get pregnant will things be turned upside down? Could I possibly make it work? I'm very energetic and motivated but at the same time I have no idea what its like to have a baby. Should I wait for a yea/2 years/3 years? I'd be afraid I will lose my inspiration and inclination and maybe there would never be a good time. Any advice much appreciated. Particularly interested to hear from mums who have combined looking after baby with study. Thanks!

chutneypig Mon 31-Mar-14 19:34:50

I'd say its possible but hard. I knew a couple who both started their PhDs when their child was 6 weeks old, including a move to a different country. They both got their PhDs but there were times they found it hard and very tiring. I much admired their dedication. I think possibly it was easier as they were science students so lab based, so their day was differentiated as if they had a job, although obviously had to pay for childcare.

Childcare is something I'd think about very carefully. I think it would be crucial to get this right to give yourself headspace. I did my PhD many years pre children and it does take over your life and is hard going in itself. But very rewarding. Now I struggle to concentrate at home when my two are awake, often got up at 4/5 am when I had to write anything as I could be sure of peace. I rarely have to do that in my current job but it would be exhausting for a long period. But that may just be me!

One other consideration, which I'm guessing may not apply, is for lab based research, you're often limited in what chemicals you can handle when pregnant and that can slow things down a lot.

The main thing to getting through a PhD is determination which it very much sounds like you have!

PiratePanda Mon 31-Mar-14 19:57:16

First of all, don't fo a PhD because you can't find a job and think it will enhance your job prospects - it won't. It'll narriw them, and the academic job market is ridiculously competitive at the m

PiratePanda Mon 31-Mar-14 20:01:22

At the moment - we're talking odds of 800 to 1 currently for junior research fellowships.

In addition a PhD is suposed to be at minimum a fulltime job in terms of hours. Even if you work in the evenings you will need childcare at least part time; can you afford that?

galaxy81 Mon 31-Mar-14 20:56:29

Thanks for the replies. Yes you're right about my employment chances - I don't necessarily see it as enhancing my job prospects in the foreseeable future. My job prospects here in this country are grim, as I am already over-educated according to most employers and my work experience is all in international aid, which is useless here. I sent out 82 job applications in the second half of last year and got no interviews!

However, I value intellectual learning above all else, and I worry that since I will be a stay-at-home mom not 100% out of choice but because I can't find a job, my brain cells might die off completely. I guess I'd thought I could do a PHD part time and that my childcare needs would be minimum (i.e. I'd do most of the work myself at home).

Maybe that is totally unrealistic, I don't know. If I had to hire childcare there is no way we could afford it. I'm just looking for some way not to drop out of society altogether. I'm very academic and I devour books. This is my second Masters course and I'm looking at getting a 1.1.

It probably sounds like I'll make a terrible mother, concerned about my brain cells when all I should think about is the baby, but I'm naive enough at this stage to hope I can look after both :-)

chutneypig Mon 31-Mar-14 21:04:15

I'd look hard then at how you could block out time to carry out the PhD, where you don't have half an ear out for the baby. I'm a scientist so lab based research is pretty much full time but I do know people who studied part time for a computer based science PhD with a full time job in another field completely.

What would be crucial is family buy in and a supportive supervisor. I'd like to think the students I mentioned in my first post had a supportive supervisor smile as my children are only a few months older than their DC.

Fattyfattyyumyum Mon 31-Mar-14 21:18:05

I did a PhD while holding down a full time job and caring for 3 children (step kids, they were with us 3-4 days/week).

I didn't find it that hard. If you're of an academic mindset (which it sounds like you are) then it's just an extension of the thinking you already do. In my experience, the people who found it an all consuming slog are those to whom high level reading & writing does not come naturally.

Fattyfattyyumyum Mon 31-Mar-14 21:21:43

Although I would add that your job application record raises alarm bells with me. An efficient & articulate writing ability is essential if you want to complete a PhD with minimum frustrations... are you sure you understand why your applications were unsuccessful?

GentlyGentlyOhDear Tue 01-Apr-14 14:06:13

I had a baby about half way through my PhD and I switched to part-time after maternity leave. I have found it ok actually. I'm actually more efficient now as I know I only have two days a week to get stuff done, whereas I used to get very bored of the same old every day. I was lucky having two days of family childcare though - I think you would struggle to get much done if you were relying on nap times and evenings.

lessonsintightropes Tue 01-Apr-14 23:56:43

My sister and a close friend have both done this, so yes it's possible, but very, very hard work and means giving up any semblance of life and you'll need a good support system around you. I'm heartened by other posters above who've managed it though, hope it works out for you.

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