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Part way through a PhD and Pregnant - anyone else out there in the same boat?

(32 Posts)
traymca Thu 04-Jun-09 11:14:35


I'm new to mums net and came on to find people to chat with as I'm almost a year into my full time PhD and am 4 months pregnant and starting to think about what I'm going to do when dc arrives... (November!)

I'm finding the PhD thing a bit isolating at present, most of my colleagues who share an office with me have just finished or only come in part time and it is just so quiet around uni at present. I'm also a mature (36 year old) student with an existing family and so don't really participate in the usual student socialising... it feels odd this time round as when I had DS, nearly 10 years ago, I worked in an office and so could chat to people etc but now all I have is the computer for company during the day!

Anyone out there been in a similar situation with advice?

throckenholt Thu 04-Jun-09 11:37:24

will you take any time off when DC arrives ? do you need to arrange to go part time or take a year out ?

Doing a PhD is a bit of a weird existence at the best of times. What is your subject area ?

<not very helpful - but just wanted to answer you !>

traymca Thu 04-Jun-09 11:56:46

Hi throckenholt,

I'm doing it in Psychology which is great, and hopefully I'll have my first phase complete with the interviews done etc by end of october so that I can take a month or two 'out' and plan my next phase... not really wanting to take much time off due to funding nor go part time for same reason and I really want to be finished by the time I'm 40! lol... DH works shifts so as long as I get his rota in advance I can plan around that and we can share childcare which will be great....

chaya5738 Thu 04-Jun-09 12:11:31

I am in exactly the same position! Reading your post was like reading something I had written.

I am almost 2 years into a PhD with another year to go. I also don't want to suspend my status as I need the money but at the same time don't want to be eating up terms if I am not actually working on my thesis (since there is only a maximum number of terms that you can spend on your PhD at my university).

My baby is due in July. I plan to take 3 months off and not even think about my thesis. Then I am going to see how I go and hopefully ease back into it in September/October. Ideally, I would like to work efficiently when the baby is sleeping and get about 4 hours good work done each day (even if it means working up til midnight). I am probably dreaming though. I am also thinking about putting the baby in the university nursery part-time but I am nervous about that when it is so small.

My big problem is that all the resources I need are in the university library and it is a non-lending library. I am no idea how I am going to access them but will cross that bridge when I come to it.

Like you, I really don't want my PhD to slide once the baby is born. But the professors at my university tell me that people who have children finish their PhDs earlier than other since they are more efficient with their time. Let's hope that is the case.

traymca Thu 04-Jun-09 12:26:36

Hi Chaya5738,

It is so good not to be the only one!

Your idea sounds good about 'working efficiently' as I find that if I have a whole day I tend to spend some time surfing etc whereas if I know I only have a few hours solid I tend to work much more efficiently!! grin . I too have the problem that if I 'suspend' during my leave, all our email and IT access is suspended too and so I won't be able to keep in touch etc and so I need to think that through as it may mean a non-funded extension at the end unless I suspend...

What subject is your PhD in? I kinda wish I was in my second year as at least I would have something more solid behind me!

Fingers crossed about us being more efficient with our time and finishing earlier! [hmmm]

FfloraPoste Thu 04-Jun-09 15:01:42

Oh Chaya.
You cannot do 4 hours work a day with a 3 month old baby without childcare.
Even if you have your brain back by that time, the odds of your baby sleeping well enough that you will be capable of staying awake till midnight are very small, and frankly most babies don't sleep enough to give you 4 hour blocks of working time. You will be doing very well indeed to manage 1 or 2 hours a day.
If you are determined to keep making progress with your PhD I'm sure you will find a way, but you will have to overcome your reluctance to let someone else take responsibility for the baby for a few hours, either your partner or a friend or relative, or paid childcare (nursery if your university nursery will take them from that young).

Tamlin Thu 04-Jun-09 15:25:11

Chaya, I finished writing up and handed in while six months pregnant with DS - they then didn't manage to schedule my viva before his birth, so he was four months old before I had it. I did find it very hard to regear my brain properly - it feels like pea soup for the first six weeks or so, and then the sleep deprivation really hits. I found that I had to revise in very short, concentrated chunks of time - twenty minutes here, twenty minutes there - and I had to be very well-organised. I think you will need some form of childcare by the time you come to write up, as that usually requires more time than reading does...

I also recommend getting your baby on a good schedule once the first two months or so are over. I found that scheduling his naps in specific chunks of time - first nap, two hours after waking, second nap, three hours after waking, four hours later bed! - worked well.

chaya5738 Thu 04-Jun-09 16:01:57

Thanks for the optimism, Fflora

I am aware that things are going to be tough that is why I plan to start back in September/October and just see how things go. Ease into it, like I said. The four hour plan is the ideal once I have eased back into it. It may be unrealistic but I think it is a good goal and it is better to have that as an aim rather than start off with a defeatest attitude from the start. Otherwise I might as well give up.

I have friends who have managed this. One who even managed to work from 6pm-midnight every day. It seems too much for me but she seemed to manage and has just handed in her thesis.

And I definitely have no problem putting the baby in nursery but not til it is 6 months. So it isn't a general "reluctance" as such. I don't recall saying I was reluctant to having a friend or partner looking after the baby. I will have some childcare in any event in the form of a husband and a mother!

But thanks for the support.

chaya5738 Thu 04-Jun-09 16:03:43

Thanks for the tips, Tamlin. That is really helpful. Glad to hear from someone who successful completed the PhD with a new baby.

arolf Thu 04-Jun-09 16:36:02

I'm not in the same situation as you, but remeber several friends who were (or still are) - have you checked with your funding body what their maternity leave/pay regulations are? IIRC, the MRC (who funded me) did provide some support - but it's a while since I read the handbook, and it didn't apply to me then.

Remember that your uni will be keen to keep the completion rates high, so they have an incentive to be as flexible as possible with you - maybe mention that without support it will take you longer than 4 years to complete, and see what happens :-)

you could possibly also try the NUS for info, although they aren't hugely useful for postgrads, they may know more!

good luck with both PhD and baby!

throckenholt Thu 04-Jun-09 18:15:59

this might be useful

and here mentions having leave (not your field but may be similar).

If I were you I would consider taking a formal break (you can do some reading then if you want to keep in touch - but you don't do any work) for at least a few months. If you have a 10 year old you have probably forgotten just how knackering a newborn can be, together with recovering from pregnancy and birth.

I am not sure if you get any maternity pay - but you may well do.

traymca Thu 04-Jun-09 20:50:27

Thanks arolf and throckenholt... I have a slight complication with my funding... it would seem that the school haven't set it up as a formal scholarship with our grad office and so I haven#t been given proper terms and conditions, if it was ESRC funded I would get upto 6 months (whoo hoo!) and the uni's own scholorship mirrors this. Mine is through a private charitable trust and the lovely lady in our grad office has been trying to sort this for me but it seems the charitable trust won't pay anymore than the basic they've pledged.. sad

I have an extra complication in that my director of studies doesn't know yet, my other supervisor does and she was lovely and supportive and like a surrogate mum to me but I'm a little scared of my DoS who is also the head of the department (silly I know at my age!), still I have to tell her next week so that the lovely grad office lady can talk direct to the school and the department to find out what they have done and perhaps sort something out... I'm really hoping the uni might cover my break otherwise I can't see me having one at all as I can't afford it! shock...

Still, I'm not letting this stress me yet and am just trying to stay sane in a lonely world! grin

peppapighastakenovermylife Sat 04-Jul-09 21:59:39

Just saw this as I randomly trawl through the pregnancy threads.

I am just finishing my phd after 4 years and I have had two babies during this period. Yes it can be incredibly hard but is actually easier in many ways as you can be so flexible in your hours.

It really depends on your baby and the stage you are at with your research and writing. When DD was small I did do quite a bit of work but I find it easy to work in small blocks of time. I also used to do reading whilst I breastfed. When mine got to about 3 months old and had a more definite bed time around 6.30 ish I actually used to put them in bed and then do several hours work. When DD was cluster feeding I used to keep her downstairs and feed whilst I worked. DS was harder though as he was more demanding during the day - but again once he was about 3 months old I would do several hours work in the evening.

You become very focused and learn to prioritise and become very organised. It helps if you love your subject and are not just going through the motions. To be honest I am far more organised now and efficient than before I had them.

Dont get me wrong - I was exhausted. Both children fed every 2 hours throughout the day and night. The sleep deprivation was unreal. But, I kind of found that at the end of the day with them I was tired in one way but my brain was not - and I enjoyed that time.

Looking back now - I am on my final discussion - I cant believe I have managed it but I have and I am not superwoman. I worked out the other day, bar a few weeks, I have been pregnant or breastfeeding for my entire PHD. I am so putting that as a disclaimer in my introduction!

monkeyfeathers Sat 04-Jul-09 22:46:38

I'm trying to write up my PhD and I'm 34 weeks pregnant. I also have a full-time academic post at another uni (which is actually a good part of the reason that it's taken me so long to write up, although the pregnancy has in no way helped). That means I get proper maternity leave from my employer and I get a year of unpaid 'leave' from the ESRC. My supervisor actually had to fight with the university's ESRC person to get me a year of unpaid leave (she'd initially said I was entitled to no maternity leave, paid or unpaid, which is obviously illegal).

You should be entitled to a year of maternity leave, even if it's unpaid. You can probably claim income support/ child tax credits during that time if you're not entitled to any maternity pay. You might also be entitled to maternity allowance rather than SMP?

It might also be a good idea to take the whole year 'officially' even if you're going to work on your thesis during that time. It might prevent you running out of funding before the thesis is done. And if you do finish before the funding does, then you can hold off submitting for a bit and concentrate on publishing parts of it while still getting paid.

traymca Sun 05-Jul-09 14:14:08

Thanks peppapig and monkey feathers... I've worked out that I will have finished all my initial interviews and hopefully have them transcribed by the time peanut arrives and then can take some time out to think through the analysis whilst 'off'... I may have a problem with my funding but I hadn't thought about the other potential income from benefits, I will look into that nearer the time if the funding fails... hmm

It is really encouraging that you guys have all managed so well and I really hope that I can too - will have to rely more on dh to help which hopefully he will now that he has agreed to grow up a bit! grin

My one problem at the moment is my supervisor wants a lit review from me and part of me can't see the point at the moment and the other part wants to rest and clear up the house! arghhhh....

peppapighastakenovermylife Sun 05-Jul-09 18:18:16

I think a lot depends on how much you want to do this phd. If its really important to you, you want to continue in academia otherwise etc then you will find a way. If its not or you dont enjoy your topic then I can imagine it would be difficult to keep up. I am of course talking about normal circumstances - of course things could happen which would stop you but generally if you want it, there will be a way one way or the other.

Psychology is of course the best subject to do it in wink

Meita Mon 06-Jul-09 13:06:19

Hey there,
I'm doing a PhD too and just discovered im pregnant :-) So now I have nine months to get as much as possible done! I'm hoping to leave just some final chapters for afterwards. Now if that isn't a great incentive ;-)

I honestly believe there is no ideal time to have a baby. During a PhD has its own specific problems, but also its own specific advantages. But that's just me theorizing. Good luck to all of you!

phdlife Mon 06-Jul-09 13:09:10

congratulations traymca, meita and others

you might like to join us for some support. [shameless]

JumpingJellyfish Mon 06-Jul-09 13:50:49

There's another PhD support thread here on MN

Many ladies on that thread have been or are going through similar "issues".

I so far have had 2 children during my PhD and am pregnant with our third (yep, mad!). BUT I started off part-time as I was working full-time for a university, so I was able to take maternity pay with my job and fit the PhD around everything fairly easily. However we moved when I was expecting no.2 and I had to give up my job, luckily I managed to do some consultancy work and got maternity allowance with our second child. When she was 4 months old a friend started to mind her and her older brother 3 mornings a week so I could resume the PhD, and I would try to do 2-3 hrs each night. We continued like this until I got another univerisity contract job which forced me to do all my PhD work in the evenings. I have now very nearly finished and am handing in in Sept- after 6.5yrs of study!!

Like others have said the bonus of most PhDs is their flexibility, but I have had to rely heavily of self-motivation as I've been self-funded since leaving my first job and I only see my supervisors very occassionally. So childcare costs while I wasn't earning were tricky- I had hoped to work more in the eves/when baby sleeps etc., but found it very hard in the early months as was exhausted and our secondborn has health issues I couldn't have anticipated. Still, there are ways and means.

Good luck!

traymca Mon 06-Jul-09 15:43:45

wow JJ-Fish, that is pretty amazing keeping going with two children during the PhD... ! I think I'm pretty lucky in the sense that my son is 10 this month and is enjoying cycling to school on his own now 2-3 days a week and we are experimenting with independence which means that once peanut arrives I'll not have to worry about a toddler too but can fit in bits around the babys naps whilst my son is at school etc. I love my topic but the delay in my ethics means that I am just starting my interviews and will be spending tons of time on these during the school holiday! arghhhh angry when I would have preferred to be analysing which I can do around activities with my DS... oh well... managed to get a basic piece of writing in today but it was a chore - really exhausted at the moment and my DH is panicking about swine flu and keeps urging me to work from home rather than in uni where we have tons of international students around at the mo - not too bad an idea but I GET EASILY DISTRACTED at home with no dedicated office!!!

good luck to everyone else! grin

growingup Mon 06-Jul-09 15:49:59

Message withdrawn

growingup Mon 06-Jul-09 15:52:13

Message withdrawn

JumpingJellyfish Mon 06-Jul-09 15:52:43

traymca- I agree with you on being distracted when working from home, even if the DCs are at the minders! But like you my office at work is pretty quiet, and a PhD is such a solitary exercise it can get quite tough. I have to admit this past year to distracting myself on the internet a little too much when "working"! I now no longer have internet at home so try to focus on working in eves once the tidying up is all done without distractions, but it is a pretty lonely existence and can't wait to have a bit of a life again! (hmm, with 3 DCs under 5?!)

Hope you have a supportive supervisor and I'm sure so long as you can still muster plenty of enthusiasm for your subject you'll be fine!

I too am annoyed at having to work on the PhD this summer (again) and losing out on holiday time with the DCs...but for me I swear this is the last time!!

JumpingJellyfish Mon 06-Jul-09 16:01:32

<<waves to growingup>> really sorry to hear your funding has dried up Hope you find a way around it somehow. I found it tough making up the fees for part-time study after I left employment (who'd paid my fees as part of staff development), and ended up taking on extra work- consultancy that I could do from home in the eves- to pay for the fees, but in doing so lost precious time on the PhD.

Hat off to you juggling finishing your second degree with a newborn, and for keeping up with your studies with such limited childcare. I think you are right- it is quite possible you can get a good couple of hours or more work done daily with a newborn- I've been known to at least read papers while b'feeding etc., but it is hard to predict how much work you can get done. Both my DCs were pretty unsettled babies, for various reasons which couldn't have been predicted, and my plans of getting much PhD work done in the early months had to be shelved. Luckily being part-time allowed me to have greater flexibility than full-time PhD students sometimes get.

Doctorskidaddle Mon 06-Jul-09 16:01:56

Hi traymca,

Well you are almost me! I am 35 and finished a PhD in psychology about 6 months ago (am now a post-doc) and had both my DC during that time (now 3 and 18 months). I was lucky in that I got 6 months maternity pay for both DC but I found it to be a really positive experience and I actually think it is a great time to have a baby as you are so flexible with your time.

I personally didn't manage to do much work when they were sleeping, perhaps more because it was so hard to switch between mothering and academic research - it still takes me a while to switch now after I have had a day with the DC and then I am back in work. But as growingup says, there's no reason why you can;t do this is you are very motivated and your baby sleeps well.

Presumably you are at least entitled to SMP and 6 months off? I would reccommend taking this if you can afford it, getting any work you can done during this time, and then getting childcare after that so that you have a number of hours that you can completely dedicate to your PhD and get it finished on time.

Good luck!

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