Can you talk about your experience working on a PhD with a newborn?

Asked by Anonymous - 2 months ago


1 Answer

Safia Aidid - 2 months ago

Sure! I had all of my research and outlining completed before my pregnancy, so fortunately it was strictly writing (and reading as needed) during my pregnancy and my son's first year. I had a difficult pregnancy so I wrote as much as I could when I felt well enough to, but my productivity completely tanked. I had three chapters in very rough shape by the time I had my son, and though newborns are inherently challenging, I found it much easier to work postpartum because my mental clarity returned and I was no longer battling fatigue or nausea. I was also extremely lucky to end up with a very good sleeper, so I was soon sleeping at night as well. Having a baby forces you to be laser focused and efficient, since you have no choice but to take advantage of the spurts of time you're fortunate to get. I used to believe that I needed 8 hours of uninterrupted silent time to work, but having a baby taught me how to work in smaller chunks of time as well as drop any lofty notions of perfection because I had one year left in my PhD and no choice but to get it done.

But newborns don't stay newborns forever, and it quickly became a race against time - soon he was taking less naps during the day, and sticking him under a mobile toy to occupy himself while I quickly got some words out wasn't working. By the time my son started crawling, I wasn't able to get anything done and we decided to put him in daycare. With 8am to 5pm available, it felt a lot like PhD life before baby. No matter how you do it - a partner who can take care of baby while you work uninterrupted, friends or family who can babysit, or daycare - childcare is absolutely essential beyond the first six months or so. This is true not just for PhD students, but working women with young children in general. It's a question of labour. Being home with an active toddler while trying to work - I am writing this now as he naps - has been a huge reminder of that!

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