Bitch PhD posted discussion a few days back about moms with three kids doing a PhD.
Here’s my advice. 🙂 DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO. Bitch essentially says, and I summmarize poorly here, that it might be best for the woman thinking of going into a PhD program with an 8, 4, and 1 year old to wait until her kids are damn near grown.
I am of the mind that if you want to get a PhD, do it. I won’t lie: the shit is HARD. And my life is especially crazy: I’m trying to dissertate, teaching what I will call full time (5-5 load), AND putting my husband through his undergrad work. I don’t do much else. I have quit, at the smart prompting of my advisors, all the community service I did for the first 4 years of my PhD work (that included being a Girl Scout leader and doing board of directors work for a local preschool). I quit all the free lance writing I so love(d) to do (mostly maintaining and designing web stuff for local small businesses). I’ve nearly quit all my hobbies, including things like writing poetry (which I sorely miss) and knitting. My family eats a lot of processed food because I don’t have time or money to make decent dinners; my kids eat school lunch (that we get at reduced price).
But I *love* what I’m doing. Teaching is tough work but I can’t imagine me doing anything else, and I mean that. It is worth it to me–all the sacrifices that I’m making right now.
And I take special issue with the way Bitch finishes her post, where she says that those of us who work through the advanced degree with many kids–and multiple draws on our attention–are not taken seriously by our professors or peers. I might be fortunate, but this has not been my experience; I am not treated as though this degree is simply something I’m doing for the sake of doing (indeed–if this were the case, I wouldn’t put myself and my family through the stress!). Instead, I feel quite the opposite. Again, I’m fortunate that 2 of my main advisors were women with children during at least a portion of their graduate work. This doesn’t make them expect less from me, but they understand the specific kind of support that I need: deadlines, external structure, and mandatory scheduled time away from teaching and home to write. And they know that I’m here *because I want to be*, because I want to be able to use my work here to carve out a teaching/research space for myself in the field. Not because I want to hang a diploma on my wall (shit, I don’t even KNOW where my first two diplomas ARE).
The other reason I take issue with Bitch’s warning about how moms are treated within academia is that if we moms continue to ACT AS THOUGH we are marginalized, if we expect such treatment, I daresay we will get it. If you expect to be not taken seriously, you run the risk of falling into that predetermined role by acting like someone who doesn’t deserve to be.
I know this sounds a bit new-age-ish, kind of like “create your reality by pretending it exists already.” But for me it has been true, because there have been moments in my work here where I didn’t respect my own work because I had produced it at 4 in the morning on 3 hours of sleep–only once the devil baby went to sleep. It wasn’t until I started to RESPECT my work that I was able to give it primacy among my priorities so that I wasn’t working at 4 in the morning any more, I was scheduling myself to write during the day when the devil was with a saint, my sitter.
Clearly, a lot of what Bitch says is spot on: you’re much better positioned to do PhD work when you have a solid support system in place. I’ve said this countless times before: an on-your-side partner who supports your decision is essential. Make sure your partner knows exactly what s/he’s getting into. Friends and family who will allow themselves to be simultaneously ignored and drawn upon for help are also necessary.
Most importantly, though, is this: if you want to get a PhD, and you can get into a program with people you want to study with, and you’re getting something in the way of funding (TA, fellowship even better!), I say go for it. It’s not easy, but nothing worth doing ever is, right?
And take up running. It helps with stress, lets you eat a bunch of junk while you’re writing, and you get a break from writing and the kids every-so-often.