I originally named my blog Mama PhD, not because I claim to be a specialist in all things parenting, but because of the hybrid nature of my life as academic and mama. In the past few years I have both struggled with and taken advantage of my situation as a parent and PhD student. It has not been easy, and yet it has been much easier than if I were working a 9-5 year-round job.
Some struggles I have had:
1. Postpartum anxiety. When Antonia was born, I was only able to take 2 weeks off from coursework because I was on a language fellowship to learn Italian (FLAS). Because she was born in January, I had an entire semester (till the end of April) when I had to juggle 3 classes and a newborn. That said, it really wasn't *that* difficult. New babies sleep a lot, and I only had to rush in and out to class for a few hours at a time. We set it up so that we had a family member here every week I needed to go to class, I wrote papers in the middle of the night when I was up anyway, and did my reading while she nursed. I felt like I managed it pretty well, except for the fact that I was a tense ball of anxiety through the whole first 4 months of her life. I would cry at the drop of a hat and it caused me an enormous amount of anxiety to leave her with anyone (family members, friends, or babysitters). Looking back I realize I suffered from Postpartum anxiety disorder, which caused me to try to time baby #2 a bit better. I wanted to have finished writing before he was born.
2. Job market. Last fall I tested out the academic job market by applying to 5 jobs. I managed to make it to the final round of interviews at Dartmouth College, where I was invited for a three-day campus visit. I can't say I didn't get the job because I was so visibly pregnant, but the person they did hire was a young, unencumbered male, which doesn't help my conspiracy theory. As a mother, I struggle with feeling discriminated against, not taken seriously as an academic, while simultaneously feeling sometimes that, yes, motherhood HAS affected my potential publication-worthiness. I am once again on the job market and am struggling to not get lost in the vortex of the "I'm never going to get a job" syndrome that most fresh PhDs feel, which is a feeling only exacerbated by being a mother of young children. UPDATE: I got a tenure-track job at Texas Tech University where I have been since July 2015! We love it here!
3. Never feeling finished. After that first difficult semester with Antonia, I *only* had to finish my comps, take one class a semester, and teach. Oh, and write my dissertation. I sometimes envy Guillaume's job that he can leave in the office. For me, the wonderful feeling of checking something off my to-do list was (and will forever be) ephemeral. Something written, edits to make. Class prepared, now grading to do. Comp written, now next one to plan. Prospectus defense complete, now dissertation to write. One chapter written, back to the library to plan the next one.
1. Flexibility. Let's be honest here. When people say it's hard to have children in academia, what are they comparing it to? Not having children in academia, not having children period? Which is a silly comparison. It's like saying that it's a lot of work to feed your children so the alternative would be to not feed your children. If you have children, academia is a great place to be-- if you compare it to having a full-time year round job (like my hubby). And this is where being discriminated against for being a mother on the job market gets to me the most. Why is it hard to be a parent and academic (as opposed to a working parent period?) Most tenure track positions ask for you to teach 2 or three classes a semester, take part in the departmental community and committees, and publish. Which means you do not have to be in your office the entire day, or even the entire week. Most of the time you can pick up your kids at school, and worst case scenario you go to a few conferences a year. What I'm saying is, you still have 3-4 months free in the summer and weeks at a time during the school year. You can work at your own pace, and do not need to
I have had a great routine this past year as a student and mother because I was lucky to have daycare 3 days a week and the Mellon Fellowship which meant I didn't have to teach or take courses. At conferences I have had discussions with fellow PhD student/parents who say their routine went something like this: Work all day when children were at school/daycare. Come home, be a mom until bedtime, go to bed from 9-12 am, then get up and work all night till 4 am. Sleep another couple of hours and then do it all over again. I don't understand this. My routine has been manageable and went something like this: Up early to be a mom for a few hours. Get daughter to daycare. Come home and work for a few hours, take a break, eat lunch and watch an episode of Chopped or something else mindless. Work for a few more hours, go pick up my daughter, come home and make dinner. I have never felt the need to stay up all night writing, or that I had to give up my basic quality of life to get my degree. Which I'm thankful for.
Anyway, I am now at the beginning of my career in academia with two kids in tow in Lubbock, Texas. So far so good. Now for some pictures:
|Graduation: one week before Emeric was born!|
|after the world's longest graduation ceremony and hooding!|
|I love this picture. Little did she know how her life would change from only child to big sister in a few short days!|
|Champagne after graduation. It's allowed.|
|Phipps visit to get the baby moving.|
|I look happier than I felt. But the birth went according to plan.|
|My gorgeous baby boy.|
|3 weeks post-partum. Defense!|