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Any PhD Students Fancy A Mutual Support Thread?

(188 Posts)
GentlyGentlyOhDear Mon 19-Nov-12 12:25:57

Is anyone else currently doing a PhD? I've just had my first baby and am trying to get back into the swing of things academically. Is there anyone else out there in a similar situation?

I'm currently on mat leave from my PhD until the new year, but I've been doing two days a week since baby was 4 months old as I desperately need to get finished! My registration ends in June next year, then I have 2 years to write-up (part-time), but I'm aiming to get finished within a year and a half.

Really should be working now...

twogirlsandaphd Sun 16-Dec-12 17:31:18

Hi there, can I join too? I started my full-time PhD in September. I'm AHRC funded, and have two girls aged 3 and 5. Enjoying it so far. It's great to see a support thread here. I'm lucky in that I have 2 days childcare from my mother in law and 2 1/2 days with a childminder- wouldn't be able to do it otherwise as the little one is only in nursery now for a couple of hours a day.

I'm wondering if anyone could give me a bit of advice- we have always wanted three kids but the opportunity for the PhD came up before that happened. Now I'm trying to decide if I should go for it and take 6 months off in the middle or if that would be crazy. I'm 37 in a couple of months, don't want to risk waiting until the end, and don't want a 6 year gap between the youngest and the baby...

Provided we kept the childcare arrangements- think it would be crazy?

dotty2 Sun 16-Dec-12 21:22:31

Hi twogirlsandaphd - gosh, that's very like me. Mine girls were 3 and 5 when I started, 7 and 5 now - and I always thought I wanted a third and always half envisaged maternity leave in the middle of mine...It wasn't to be for various reasons, and I'm happy with where we are now. But there's a part of me that wishes we'd gone for it. Hmm - those random musings are no help to you at all, but I'm sure it's possible - lots of people on here combining PhD and babies, and you get paid maternity leave (still, I think), so it should be no harder than a job and a baby. That's the theory, anyway. Good luck with the research in the meantime.

bisopharm Sun 16-Dec-12 21:51:13

Hi all! Can i join in too? I started my doctorate in september and its part- time. I work full time and my children are 3 and 2. So far so good, but i am completely shattered at the end of each day. I have always had routines for the children and they go to bed by 7pm and stay in their rooms until they fall asleep!

I have tried to study and do bit and pieces of my proposed research for 1hr everyday after i put them in bed ( so i get at least 5hrs of work done each week). And for child care, i have a live-in au pair. I am also lucky that my employers allow flexible working and i can work from home 2 days a week. so that cuts down my commuting time and save me money, time and stress.

Just reading how some of you have combined pregnancy and younger children with PhD studies has really giving me hope wink

twogirlsandaphd Sun 16-Dec-12 22:05:48

Thanks for the reply, dotty2- I haven't really spoken about the 3rd child desire with anyone except my mum and my husband because no one is in a similar situation. My friends with 3 are all SAHM's so they just don't know what to say. Part of me thinks it would be easier to go back to work with 3 (although we will be absolutely broke from the cost of childcare) as I won't be stuck at home with them day in and day out. I'm such a better mum when I've had work/think time.

Hi bisopharm, welcome, glad to see all these ambitious women on this thread! You're lucky that your dc's go to bed and stay in bed- I never really get anything done at night because my youngest is a terrible sleeper.

Good luck smile

dotty2 Mon 17-Dec-12 09:38:28

Ambitious? Umm - I don't know about that, more easily bored. I like a challenge, and I thought that doing a PhD would be the ultimate antidote to that feeling I got when I'd had kids that my brain was full of trivia and domestic hassle and I never got time to think about anything serious or give my brain a proper workout. To tell the absolute truth, I think I've missed an opportunity here, and haven't thought as deeply or worked as hard as I should have done, because I haven't managed to shut out the rest of the stuff crowding in. As well as family commitments, I do freelance consultancy and quite a hefty chunk of voluntary work. I wish I'd learned to say no a little more.

Hi bisopharm - hope the work pattern keeps working for you. I have so much respect for anyone who manages to do it part-time with a full time job.

Over the last year, my two have really shifted their sleeping pattern and go to bed about 8, often not asleep until nearer 9. This means the evenings are almost useless for work as I'm too tired to think seriously by the time they're out of the way and we've cooked and tidied etc.

AnnIonicIsoTronic Mon 17-Dec-12 09:41:19

<marks place>

(shoot me if I post before 3.00 ... Need to work!!)

dotty2 Mon 17-Dec-12 10:09:12

Me too - shouldn't be here either!

MsTitanium Mon 17-Dec-12 11:13:49

What I find hard is switching back on into PhD mode after 3 days at home with the kids! Now what was I doing last Thursday afternoon...????!!!!
Having a baby mid-PhD was ok. I got 6 months full grant (more generous than some companys' mat pay) and a 6 month (paid) extension. Just wish I'd done some work during that 6 months to take full advantage of the extra time, rather than just eat cake! Announcing i was pregnant didnt exactly go down well with my supervisors though! But better than doing it in a new job I think?

twogirlsandaphd Mon 17-Dec-12 12:58:19

dotty- I agree, I don't know if I'm ambitious, really the same as you. Easily bored (and distracted- thus I'm on here while I eat my lunch!). Always been this way. The PhD has actually been the first time in a long time that I've been doing something that I can get 'lost' in, at least for a few hours at a stretch. Totally agree though, I haven't been able to completely shut everything else out- I try to do the 'Pomodoro' thing where you work solidly for a set amount of time and write down anything that pops up in your head to distract you. The list ends up being really silly like 'buy new tea towels' etc.

MsTitanium, did you have the baby before or after data collection/fieldwork? One of my supervisors is going off on mat leave in a few months, so I would hope she wouldn't be too shocked! Nothing beats the last pregnancy- got my last job the same week that I found out I was expecting DD2. Had to hide under baggy tops and scarves for ages and I started showing really early.

Back to work, writing about Bourdieu and Foucault today... confused

dotty2 Mon 17-Dec-12 13:28:56

I haven't done any proper work yet, but I have done lots of admin, including my tax return, which will give me a free day later in the week that I'd set aside for it. Now off to make the afternoon productive. I sometimes do the kitchen timer/Pomodoro thing, but not thought of a running notebook for ideas that pop up to distract you - it's a good idea.

MsTitanium Mon 17-Dec-12 13:54:59

I had my baby 6 months into my PhD so was very much in the early stages of lab work! Could've got to grips with the existing literature when I was off, but I didn't!

AnnIonicIsoTronic Mon 17-Dec-12 20:12:13

Hi there guys.

Phd - check
Children - check
Baby - check
Imposter syndrome - check
Can't distinguish between laziness and sheer bloody exhaustion - check

dotty2 Tue 18-Dec-12 09:12:29

Can't stay off MN when should really be making the most of precious time - check.

(That's me, not you.)

AlphaBeta2012 Tue 18-Dec-12 13:22:52

Hi - I am just looking into starting my PhD, whilst I have a toddler and am pregnant.
Can anyone anwser the following question for me - if I receive funding how many hours can I get paid work for if a- part time studying and b- full time studying?
thank you!

twogirlsandaphd Tue 18-Dec-12 14:54:59

Hi AlphaBeta2012. To answer your question- well, I think there are 'official' rules and then there are what actually happens in practice. According to the AHRC I think you are limited to 6 hours paid work per week on a full-time studentship but I know of quite a few people who are working more than that. I do about 3 hours a week helping to coordinate seminars but to be honest I feel like I would rather not be doing that. Some weeks are crazy with the kids, like last week, with all the nativity plays etc. and I didn't get much of my own work done after I did all of the kids stuff, research training classes (which we have here) and my 3 hours paid work. Obviously if you have to work then that's another story.

Ok back to this essay. The library is eerily quiet now that all the undergrads have finished. Will be back later I'm sure, I enjoy procrastinating.

AlphaBeta2012 Tue 18-Dec-12 15:02:53

Thanks, - yes I do have to work. but my DH is able to help with childcare so I could dedicate 5 days a week splitting across both, 2 days work, 3 days dedicated to study. PhD is sociology based and very much concerned with my current line of work. Looking at starting in Septemeber when Baby will be 4mths - can't decide if I am mad or not!

Must say, very reassured with this thread though and glad I found it, gives me hope!

dotty2 Tue 18-Dec-12 20:58:36

Hello AlphaBeta - yes, it can certainly be done. Like twogirlsandaphd, I have AHRC funding so I only really know about their rules. I would say that 3 days a week isn't really enough for a full time PhD. I did 3.75 for my first year and now have 2 full days and 3 of varying length (DH is supposed to do the school runs one day, leaving me with two school-length days but it doesn't always work out like that). That's fine, or would be if I wasn't trying to squeeze some freelance work in as well. Like twogirls says, it's scarily easy to get to the end of a week and realise you've done very little actual work, once you factor in school plays, sick children and all the rest of it. But go for it - it's a once in a lifetime opportunity.

twogirlsandaphd Tue 18-Dec-12 23:00:06

AlphaBeta- yes, yes, yes... you should do it! I worried so much about starting mine with the 2 girls, but really, if you have childcare then you can treat it like a job. It's not as easy as a job, because some days you will sit and stare at the screen and your brain will not engage (although I was like that in my last job too, ha ha) but as long as you have a couple of long days and flexible time the rest of the week to dedicate to it then you'll be fine. I'd agree with dotty that 3 days isn't enough for full time, but when I've had a mad week with only 1 or 2 long days I tend to try to get a couple of hours of work in after the kids are asleep and I feel like I've 'made up' a bit of it. There are lots of parents doing social science PhD's here- one mum even has 4 year old triplets! So yes you can do it, and no you aren't mad. smile

redwellybluewelly Tue 18-Dec-12 23:21:52

I'm a PhD student almost two years in with a toddler and pg again. Haven't told supervisory team yet and bricking it!

I've until the end of May to do data collection when I'll be 38weeks and baby due mid June. Feel incredibly isolated at university even though I am FT and work 9-5 every day no messing about.

AlphaBeta2012 Wed 19-Dec-12 08:53:19

Thank you - I am looking to apply for funding so need to decide amount of part time and think I am going to go for 60-70 % of full time (hope that makes sense!).
thank you for the support and encouragement. I have been working on my proposal and mentor was really pleased with it so far when we met yesterday, so fingers crossed for getting over the hurdles! I have to a) get work to agree, b) have my proposal approved and c) get approved for funding! Does feel like a mighty big wall but I am going at it with a sledge hammer!

dotty2 Wed 19-Dec-12 14:58:36

redwellybluewelly - surely if you have a toddler already, it won't come as a huge surprise to them that you might want another? They might be more supportive than you think. (Hope so.) It's a shame you feel so isolated - is it because you miss out on drinks after work and weekend stuff? I'm in a big department but haven't really made any proper PhD friends because I'm never there for the social stuff and when I am in the department or library I need to get my head down and maximise my time. But I hope you stay well and the data collection goes well too.

AlphaBeta - that sounds good if you have that much flexibility re. % of time. There was no flexibility for me, but if I could have done, say, 75% of FT, with 75% of the funding, that would have been perfect.

redwellybluewelly Wed 19-Dec-12 15:22:21

dotty - yes, I feel isolated as I don't fit with the PhD gang at all in age or interests. I am included in the research group a lot (they are my age and my career level outside of academia was on a level with a senior research associate) but even then most of the research group don't have children and I can't make many social events. I am also unable to join in some of the research projects, not because I don't know how to do the work but because I don't have the letters 'PhD' after my name.

I am sure it won't be a big shock - at least I hope not. I also do freelance consultancy but have wrapped that up for a year to concentrate on PhD, I need to keep a hand in in industry though otherwise job at the end will be more difficult

twogirlsandaphd Wed 19-Dec-12 15:37:23

redwellybluewelly are you in the sciences?
Don't stress too much about the big reveal. You never really know how people will react. In my last job I really stressed out about it- I got the job at the same time as finding out I was pg with DD2, and it was an awkward role anyway as I had to manage someone who didn't get the job but who ended up doing my maternity cover. I was shaking when I told my boss. And all she did was say, 'Oh, very good, congratulations' and that was that.

Isolation is the norm in my department. I actually had to speak to the head of the school today about security issues because I'm going to be in an office alone for 3 months of the year come January when everyone buggers off to do fieldwork. Very tiny team. I kind of enjoy the peace though, makes a change from the chaos of home...

AlphaBeta2012 Wed 19-Dec-12 15:57:09

Thank you, I am applying for ESRC funding, which, as I interpret the documentation allows me to define my time commitment as long as it above 50%. I believe i can commit around 70% of the FTE hours so going to go forwards with this.
Really excited but very nervous - big decision for me to make but has been a lifetime ambition. I think reading this thread and other comments discipline will be the key success factor for me!

twogirlsandaphd Thu 20-Dec-12 22:28:25

AlphaBeta- Best of luck with the application. You won't regret it. Some days will be harder than others, but imagine what a role model you'll be to your kids. : ) As a parent you will be naturally disciplined- I've heard various people's supervisors say that parents make the best students because they are more organised and prioritise things better than others.

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