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Should i do a PhD? Or is it a mad idea at this stage in my life?

(13 Posts)
goldpony Sat 12-Jul-08 20:48:59

Hello. Any advice from those that have done their phd, or doing one gratefully received - partic those who do/did with a family.

A possibility for funded PhD has come up. I would be in a great position to do it if not at this stage of life. I've been working for 10 years or so, directly in field that phd would likely be. BUT I have a toddler and currently work part time. We're thinking about TTC again soon. This would mean no maternity leave and probably pressure to get back to studying quite quickly after second baby born (assuming we don't have any fertility difficulties of course). The phd would involve a period of time in a malaria affected area... would you risk it with 2 young chidren....???

I switch from 'yes definitely' to 'no way'.

dopeydo Sat 12-Jul-08 22:03:35

Hello. I haven't done a phd but I did do most of my Masters whilst pregnant and before DS was 1 (although it ended up taking 3 years to complete). I can see what a great opportunity this is for you and would hate to stifle that. For me though with hindsight I wouldn't study at that time again for a no. of reasons. Energy levels/tiredness, time away from DS I found I was resenting the masters and didn't enjoy it as much as my undergrad, too many things to juggle I was also working part time, no time with DP & friends. Finally I didn't do as well on my Masters as I would have if I'd waited or got things going earlier. I hope that isn't too negative and I know that the a phd is a different situation to a taught masters, just wanted to be honest.

The health side thats for you to decide and balance risks, we could all say no to anything although am I right in thinking malaria is pretty contageous? Difficult one good luck follow gut instinct...I don't envy you even with what I've said I'd still be tempted... smile

stitch Sat 12-Jul-08 22:07:52

i did a pgce with one child and it was the hardest thing i have ever done. much much harder than my masters.
my mother did a phd with three young children. she actually recieved the award when pregnant with dc3, and had to wait till she was born till she could start. she left her aged 11 weeks to move to a new country. df came two weeks later with the three of us, big sis was five.
df stayed at home for a year and a half caring for us. they say it was a very very hard time for them, but tbh, i think it was the happiest time of their life. one long extended honeymoon lasting three and a half years.
from their experience, i would say, go for it.

Acinonyx Sun 13-Jul-08 08:45:05

I had my daughter at the end of my 2nd yr PhD. I was funded, and took 2 years out after she was born and now I'm in my last year (I only planned to take one year!). You can take unpaid maternity leave i.e. intermit. Could you afford to do that?

If you are going to do this funded full time, then usually you are not allowed to work as well and in any case, that might be too much. I certainly couldn't manage that as well. When you are funded, you are under much greater time pressure to complete on time.

IIWY I would just time the field work carefully. How long would you be away? I would love to do field work but I don't as it would not be short enough if I did. Maybe later. I've worked in malaria affected areas - the risk depends which area exactly. Very few of us ever got malaria but it happens (dopeydo - it's not contagious) - unlke dysentery which is another story shock

It is tough and not the ideal way to do it, but once you start having kids there is just no ideal time. I have 3 days/week childcare and work Saturdays and some evenings. It's the weekends and evenings I resent. My feeling is that you would do OK until no. 2 arrives then I'm not sure. You would need to plan for that very carefully.

goldpony Sun 13-Jul-08 09:56:08

Thanks so much for all your advice. stitch - it's nice to know that your parents were able to take it on board so positively.

Acinonyx, I think I'd need to be away for at least 9 months. I would make sure the family stayed in the capital city and I went to sites alone. DH is checking with work to see if they'd let him in principle take a period of unpaid leave - this will be a really imp factor.

Interesting point about timing being more strict when you're funded. I guess that makes sense, I will need to talk to the uni about it too as I would def want to take 3 months off for potential new baby (this would be soooo hard though, I had a year off with DD - but we couldn't afford more than a few months, at best).

I want to listen to my gut instinct dopeydo but this is also the problem. This is waht I've always wanted in many ways - and not an opportunity that will come up often/again. But, I do want to put my family first. And, I am very aware of the stresses involved in doing a phd... acinonyx, your point about doing ok until no2 is kind of how I'm feeling, but i'm too old now to put off TTC for too long, and wouldn't want to compromise that area of my life, IYKWIM.

Anyway, it's a very competitive process so may well not be a decision I actually have to make in the end. Thanks though, all of you, it's helped to write things down and hear your opinions.

goldpony Sun 13-Jul-08 09:59:46

ps: well done to all of you, I'm very impressed. Good luck with your final year Acinonyx.

Acinonyx Sun 13-Jul-08 10:13:04

Well that would be an exciting option if the whole family could go with you. Could you say which city or is that TMI?

I did ttc no 2 last year but we cnnot have another (long story). I figured I would cross that bridge when I came to it - I also was up at the age limit. But at worst, I was prepared to lose the PhD for the sake of another baby.

Funded opportunities are thin on the ground - I'm very aware that it's this or bust - there won't be another chance.

stitch - I dropped out of a pgce long time ago - but have since done MPhil and PhD. Amother friend has 2 PhDs - but dropped out of a pgce! So well done you!

stitch Sun 13-Jul-08 13:22:13

smile thank you.
when mom got her award, she was in early stages of pregnancy. everyone suggested she should have a termination. only df and her df (my dgf) supported her. but they were the important ones iyswim.
it is possible, but you need a strong relationship and the willingness to work as a team. and of course the willingness to work incredibly hard.
good luck goldpony. your kids will be proud of you.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Sun 13-Jul-08 13:38:43

I'm doing a full time funded PhD with 3 children (age 9, 6 and 3- the 9 year old is severely autistic).

It's easier than working tbh. I would struggle to even do a part time job with my disabled son.

goldpony Wed 16-Jul-08 20:10:30

I didn't get the funding so no decisions to make after all. I'm quite gutted now, but that's life. Perhaps I'll try again in a few years time...

chitchat07 Wed 16-Jul-08 20:45:27

So sorry you didn't get the funding. Is there any other way? Through another university perhaps?

A self funded PhD can be quite expensive, but then the university can't ask you to do all the extra work that they can ask you to do if they fund you. I know a PhD student who actually earns more doing tutoring than any funding would have been, and he does about the same sort of hours of tutoring that a funded student would have had to have done (and he got a bit more freedom to choose the subjects).

In case it comes up again though, the fact that you are willing to do this and you already have a child I think shows that it is something that you should do. The biggest change in a person's life is having that first child, subsequent children, while creating extra demands, are nothing like that shock of a first child!

Acinonyx Wed 16-Jul-08 21:58:25

Funded students don't have to do tutoring though - it's optional. And I find it very hard to believe he could make the same as a grant with few enough hours to get any work done! That just doesn't add up.

Also, tutoring is just yet more time that has to be covered by childcare. That was my main problem with it.

goldpony - sorry to hear about that. It is tough getting funding (definitley the most competitive thing I've ever done in my long and complicated life). I hope you find some way to do this in future if you really want to.

slalomsuki Wed 23-Jul-08 15:23:27

Another Phd with three children 7, 5 and 2 here. If you are on a ESRC or equivalent grant funding they have to honour maternity leave and extend the research time as a consequence. A friend of mine has just done this with her first.

Its hard, I started mine when dd was 1 month old and worked when she slept.

I would say go for it, the experience of working and living abroad for your kids would be an education in itself

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