Baby and PhD: How not to do it

A few days ago, @PhDforum reached out over Twitter to ask for advice regarding having a baby during your PhD.  There was a lot of advice – you can read the whole discussion here.  There is all the usual and expected stuff: take time off, don’t worry about your PhD.

It made me think.  Surely I cannot be the only person who was doing thesis-related reading while on the maternity ward?

I had the Neon Toddler just before the start of the second year of my PhD, and I officially took two months off.  In reality, I was working on my thesis as late as the day before I had her and as early as the day after I had her – I took the day of having her off, but as she was born smack in the middle of the day, I couldn’t really do anything else.

I found it much easier to get work done when she was little – sleeping a lot, not moving independently, not talking back.  I find it much more difficult now that I have what essentially amounts to a miniature hurricane.  I’m unfortunate in the sense that Mr. Neon and I live a pretty long way away from anyone who might be able and willing to provide babysitting (about 17,000kms, for those playing at home), but then fortunate enough to have the support to get her into nursery for a few days each week.

So, I wanted to say something on this issue, but I felt that it couldn’t just be ‘Don’t rest! Do heaps of work! It won’t get easier!’ because that’s both just plain argumentative and also not positive for people who aren’t like me.

I knew that I was never going to take time off.  In fact, I even told my supervisor initially that I wasn’t going to take any time off.  As it happens, I am going to submit four days after my initial 3-year registration is up anyway.

There is nothing wrong with taking the time you need off.  But don’t feel guilty if you don’t want to take time off.

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