PhDs and Parenting: How to Juggle Two Very Different Demands

Once upon a time, during my undergraduate degree, I used to get up at 5am to go for an hour long run before heading into university. It was a great way to kick off my day and mentally prepare for whatever lay ahead. That was before my daughter was born.

Now, I sometimes get up at 5am and spend an hour crying before I even get around to putting the kettle on.

An image showing some University of Glasgow stationary, along with some children's drawings.
Eilidh decided to update some official UofG stationary.

In case you didn’t recognise that as an obvious joke I’ll explicitly state that it was – I wouldn’t change my family for anything. Most of you would agree it can be difficult to juggle the demands of a research project – imagine how it feels when you also have parenting to do! Things like my morning running routine had to go bye-bye long ago –  but I promise it’s not all doom & gloom.

In this post I’ll give you some insight into what it’s like to raise a child and a thesis at the same time, as well as some tips on where to get help if you’re already juggling these very different demands. 

When I walk through my front door after a long day of doing the science I’m usually knocked off my feet by a tiny lady who catapults herself through the air in my direction. Her name is Eilidh (like ceilidh without the c), she is two years old and she always has a list of things we need to get started on immediately. We’re kept busy until she goes to bed at 7pm – and that’s when I start cooking dinner.

As my wife and I are both out of the house full time, we have a lot to do in the hours after Eilidh goes to sleep: cooking, cleaning, catching-up, eating, washing up, working out and (if we have time) relaxing. Don’t even get me started on mornings. Yes, I’m aware that my trousers are on inside-out and I have toothpaste on my forehead. If you ever have kids, you’ll feel bad about being so judgemental: life with kids is busy.

If you’re in a similar situation and are worried about how to get the balance right, DON’T PANIC. As always, there are plenty of resources available to help you.

Sort Out Childcare

Children, it turns out, require 24/7 supervision – I had to move back to my home town just to make sure someone is around on the days when Eilidh’s not in nursery. I now have a 40-minute commute to work but my family is on hand to help out with childcare. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a family who live within driving distance of Glasgow – but did you know that the University has its very own nursery?

While it’s not guaranteed that there will be a place available for your child, it should be your first port of call if you’re concerned about childcare. Spaces are in high demand, so I would advise to get your application in as early as possible! You can find some general information on their website along with an FAQ page, which will hopefully answer any questions you might have.

Ask for Financial Help

The cost of placing a child in nursery is a worry for many parents. Luckily, subsidies are available from UofG on a case by case basis and, if you’re funded externally, you may also be entitled to support from your funding body.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), for example, can provide extra support towards childcare if this is required outside of normal working hours. For example, if you are attending an overnight workshop that will incur extra childcare costs, you can claim those back from the EPSRC! To find out whether your own funding body offers something similar you can check their website for more information.

Build a Support Network

Although there are no official groups or associations aimed specifically at PGR parents within the UofG, there are often events held which cater to families and researchers with children. Eilidh and I recently went along to a Christmas party, for example. Events like these are a great way to meet other parents within the University – so keep an eye on your email!

If you’re an international student, you can register with the International Family Network – it’s a great way to access support, take part in activities and meet other international students and their families.

If you’re keen on the idea of a parenting network for PGRs then let us know in the comments or via Twitter (@UofG_PGRblog) and we can explore setting one up together.

Be Selfish with your Time

Parenting can be stressful. Sometimes, when all you want to do is switch off, you’ll have to work twice as hard at home as you did during office hours. I’ll let you in on a secret though: it’s ok to take some time for yourself. In fact, it’s essential – I love spending time with my daughter but the day I have to go running with her latched onto my leg is the day that I’d probably give up running altogether. Running is “me time” – I need it to unwind and de-stress. Try to find something that works in the same way for you!

Keep an eye out for some other posts on the topic of stress and let us know in the comments if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see covered. In the meantime, check out the links at the bottom of this post for some further information. Remember: we’re here to help and if you want to start a conversation about parenting then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

It’s important to remember that, no matter how stressed you get, parenting is a privilege and it can be the most fun you’ll ever have.

eilidhonbeach_2Eilidh watching her kite at the beach.

Information for Student Carers & Parents

Student Carers’ Policy: http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/senateoffice/policies/studentsupport/studentcarerspolicy/

Info on Maternity, paternity & adoption leave: http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/senateoffice/policies/studentsupport/maternitypolicy/

Information About the UofG Nursery Service:

http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/nursery/

Interested in Starting a Parenting Club or Society?

https://www.glasgowstudent.net/clubs/start-a-club/

Not Sure Who Funds your Research?

This list from Research Councils UK (RCUK) might be a useful starting point: http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/research/areas/

An image of a chid and her father sticking out their tongues.
Eilidh and I trying to find out who has the longest tongue.

 

Post Author: Stuart Henry Wilson

Stuart Henry Wilson (@StuartHWilson) studied physics as an undergraduate and is now a member of the Imaging Concepts Group at UofG. He experiences life through Autism Spectrum Disorder and spends most of his time wondering how he actually managed to get this far. When he's not in the lab or office, he's usually pretending to be a doggy with his 2 year old daughter. If you enjoyed this content, you should have a look at some other things he’s written.

3 thoughts on “PhDs and Parenting: How to Juggle Two Very Different Demands

    Yulia Anopa

    (17th January 2017 - 3:53 pm)

    Hi Stuart,

    Thank you for this post.
    I’m a (permanently tired) mum of an 14 months old toddler daughter, a member of university staff, and a part-time PhD student in my 3rd year. I intended to write a post / gauge any interest in starting a PGR “parenting society/club”. But turned out that you’d already written this post.
    So, yes, I am potentially interested in a parenting society for PGR’s / early career researchers… Provided we all can find time to actually meet-up for any events 🙂

    Stuart Henry Wilson

    (18th January 2017 - 8:39 pm)

    Hi Yulia,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post – thanks for commenting.

    My friend has literally just gone through the process of setting up a society for something else. I’ll have a chat with her about any pitfalls to watch out for and we can take it from there.

    She’s in London on training until Monday so I’ll drop you an email early next week.

      Yulia Anopa

      (19th January 2017 - 9:30 am)

      Hey Stuart,
      That would be fab! I guess I wouldn’t mind to be a co-organiser… If somebody has to be 🙂
      I also might have two potentially interested toddler mums: one is a PhD student, the other is an early career researcher.

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