The PHDMOM
 
Last month was such a challenge! There have been many times in my academic career when I have felt like giving up and last month was one of them. I will not bore you all with the details, but long story short, a "program" I have been working on all year in conjunction with my home institution---fell apart! This happened for a myriad of reasons, but ultimately I feel it had to do with the having such a young child and living 3,000 miles away from my home institution. Towards the very end of the program, the "commitment" got to be too cumbersome, and that combined with finishing the dissertation, looking for a job (that is another post), and preparing to move, left me with no time or very little time to do anything well.  When I look back at the entire situation, perhaps I should have put the project on hold with the birth of my child, perhaps I was a bit too ambitious in thinking that I could "do it all." PERHAPS. At the end of the day I learned yet another  invaluable lesson in "passion and dedication."  Ultimately I know that despite setbacks and limitations, I can achieve my goals, so long as I keep the passion for them alive and I remain dedicated to success-even if it takes me longer than anticipated, my dreams will be realized.  Lesson learned, fuel for the fire...#keepitmoving.
 
 
Recently, a fellow academic shared her fears on having a child while pursing her goals in academia. I thought her questions was very pertinent to a lot of women out there, so I decided to share it with you all. 
 
 
Here are a couple of websites for the daddy caregivers and student parents out there!

Daddy Dialectic
and Dudes on Diapers

Thanks Fern! You are now officially an honorary PHDMOM! (I'll send you a shirt!)



 
 
So I think that I've just about finished my prologue and my first chapter! Yay! Jump for joy everyone! "Party Like its 1999!" "Celebrate Good Times, Come On!" yea yea yea yea yea...that's what you would think, but alas a bit of melancholy has set in, and I am not very excited about it at all. In fact I am quite doubtful about the whole thing...I mean what if my argument is nothing more than a bunch of crap? What if only makes sense to me? What if I am totally on the wrong track? I've submitted it to my advisers and I am waiting to hear back from them-but the waiting is killing me. Seriously its like my mind is now paralyzed....I can't think past this fear to move on to the next chapters-even though I know I need to. In addition I am giving an informal presentation on my first chapter in two weeks!!!! Again what if its all a bunch of crap? In the words of my favorite graduate colleague "Ay De Mi!" (I think that's what he says, in any case the expression and way he says it makes me feel like that is appropriate). If it weren't for my loving and wonderful husband (and my dad)  listening to my argument over and over and over, reassuring me that I am making logical sense and progress...and helping me formulate my ideas in a coherent way, I'd be stark mad by now!

In other and more exciting news, my little one (now six months) is crawling around! He is so delightful to watch and play with! He really takes my mind away from the harsh cold world of writing a dissertation in isolation. :( I seriously find joy in his little smiles and babbles. My 12 year old presented me with a pleasant surprise as well. Last week he was awarded student of the month! While he is truly no saint, he is definitely improving in his behavior and growing into a wonderful young man! I love my little guys :)  I am where I am because of all of them, hubby included!  :)

Because of them and you my lambs, I'm moving this phdmom project along and will be incorporating as a nonprofit soon! It is my goal to provide a mentorship for undergrads, graduates, postdocs, and faculty that would encourage more support and dialogue for phdparents. Cross your fingers that this is a smooth process! I know its a lot to do while I am writing the dissertation, taking care of the little ones, all while trying to maintain my sanity-but it's for a great purpose! I want to help people like me from loosing their minds lol!

Until Next Time :)
 
 
Hey guys! I just came across this site. I haven't fully checked it out yet, but a fellow graduate student (thanks Fern) is using it and I figure it can't hurt. Check it out phisheD.org!

I know I haven't been blogging as often as I should, but I am busy finishing my first chapter (oh it needed so much work), preparing to welcome a scholar who's work has greatly influenced my own to Smith College for what I'm sure will be a fantastic talk, and preparing a list of proposed classes I hope to teach in the future. OH did I mention I've also been busy hanging out with my wonderful family too?
 
 
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

-Author Unknown

 
 
Today I co-hosted, along with Colleen Hiner and Damon Meyer, a panel on "Parenting in the Academy." It was a huge success in terms of the turnout and the content. It was a very informative session that dealt with conflict between demands of academia and family life. Graduate students, Faculty members and both the Dean and Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies all engaged in constructive dialogue about the challenges they faced either as student parents themselves, faculty members with work and family commitments or administrative support with institutional limitations. I can say I thoroughly enjoyed myself-so much so that I think I may advocated that some sort of discussion like this takes place at least once a year.

Our session first began with our panel members, Dr. Wolf Heyer, Dr. Chelle Yetman, Dr. Deborah Salon, Aarti Subramaniam PhD, and Dr. Julie Sze, sharing their stories of parenting while trying to "climb the ivory tower." All of the stories were inspiring, yet practical. Aarti noted that while finding the balance between home and work was a quest that most parents juggled, as a parent in academia it was almost like "traversing two different worlds." A balance (of some sorts) was possible, but flexibility was key to striking that balance. All panelist agreed that if you had a flexible (perhaps another word for supportive) university and/or department, the stress of trying to combine work and home life into a coherent reality would not disappear, but it would be a lot more manageable. Issues of gender inequality were addressed as all panelist seemingly agreed that women had it "harder than the boys" when it came to parenting while trying to pursue career goals.

Dean Jeff Gibeling and Associate Dean Lenora Timm spoke briefly on both the institutional support and limitations at the University of California Davis. They showed interest in hearing about the specific issues that particularly affect student parents, and how the University could develop policies to address the student/family balance. Both Dean Gibeling and Associate Dean Timm are speaking later this week on effort the University is making to improve academic and financial support for expecting graduate students. Their support for the event seemed to resonate well with both the students and faculty present and clearly demonstrated their commitment to opening up dialogue between student parents and the administration.

When the floor was opened up to graduate students, various students shared their experience as student parents, and common theme amongst them was how to deal with feelings of isolation and guilt. Many students expressed that they often felt like outsiders in an academic setting and didn't quite know how to cope with it. I could tell by the look on many of their faces that they really appreciated not just the panel and stories they heard from faculty members experiences, but also that they appreciated being around other student parents who understood their struggles.

I walked away from the panel feeling as though "yes it is possible for me to succeed graduate school with my family and with my sanity!" While they didn't always paint a rosy picture of, say the tenure track process for parents in academia, the panelist did give sound advice for student parents and those of us who hope to be faculty parents. A few pointers were:
  1. Be selfish with your time
  2. Do not worry about being the "perfect parent" or the "perfect researcher" all the time. It's o.k. to be a good parent or a good researcher. 
  3. Time is the most limited resource we all have, use it wisely, and spend it with your family when you can.
  4. There is no "best" time to have children. Have them when you want/and or can have them.
  5. When you are work (school), be at work. When you are home, be at home.
  6. Do not be afraid to take or seek help. This can be for your classes and for your home life. 
  7. If your institution does not have a centralized information point for all parenting related needs, go and find that information for yourself.
 
 
I came across a great article on issues student parents face, and how one university addresses them! Check it out!
F
or student-parents, it’s hardly child’s play

Also be on the lookout (later this week) for a podcast posting on how the University of California, Davis meets the needs of student parents and what student parents want from the University of California, Davis

 
 
These last two semesters I have been "working" from home more than I have gone into the office. While I do admit having the ability to work from home is a luxury that many people do not have, it does have it's set backs. The major setback is coming up with A PLAN FOR PRODUCTIVITY. Through my trials and tribulations I've come up with a blueprint of sorts, and I'm happy to share it with you all. :)

As I've mentioned before in my blogs the first step to completion of the dissertation is setting a schedule. In my opinion, and it is just that, having a flexible schedule works the best for student parents, especially if you have children who are not ready for school and/or do not attend daycare. For those parents that have a flexible schedule and who follow the lead of their childs schedule, you will find that you tend to work in short spurts of time-usually when the children are sleep or managing to play alone. You may also find that your work more at night, when everyone is sleeping, than during the day! This may seem ok or even ideal, but if you are home with the family during the day as well, you may find your energy drained during the day. This can create a cycle of non-productivity and frustration. For those who have school aged children, a set daily schedule may be of more benefit. You will be able to work for longer periods of time without distraction.  Personally, I've found that working from home with a newborn can be difficult-VERY DIFFICULT, but it is doable. I find that for the most part, I work sporadically during the day and more at night when dinner is done and the little one is sleep.

If you are going to work from home, I think it is important to have a designated "office" space where you can work and "close" the door from time to time. When thinking about having a work space at home keep in mind it is just a "space" and can be anywhere-a spare room, the dining room table, the living room sofa or even your bedroom, but it needs to be YOUR space. It needs a space where you can think, write and get the job done. I use the guest room as my office space and it functions the same as an office away from home would-If I am in the office at home I am only available for emergencies, or feeding the baby. Now I will admit that this rule is sometimes broken from time to time, but the separate office space in the house does afford me the ability to "work" at home (with the door closed) and still be there with the kids when I need to be

Once your are done working for the day-leave your work in the "office" and enjoy your time with your family. I cannot stress this point enough. The one pitfall of working from home is that your "work" is always with you, and sometimes you can spend much more time than you anticipated working, after all a half hour here and there really do add up. This can cut into the time you spend with your family and actually make working from home less productivity.

In the end you have to find what works best for your family and your writing/working schedule. Again I cannot stress the importance of being flexible. As I've learned-what works once may not work twice, and things change daily when dealing with graduate school and raising a family.

Recap:
  1. Create a realistic schedule that works for you and your family
  2. Find a work/office space at home that allows for personal space and time if needed
Good Luck
Thephdmom :)
 
 
I know it's been a while-but alas duty called and I had to answer! My entire family has been sick for the past two weeks! There is some crazy stomach virus going around and it seems to have the entire town (Northampton) by the ears. The Gods must favor me because I have yet to catch it, and I've been quite productive while taking care of the family :)

More in few :)
Thephdmom
 
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