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  1. #1
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    Default How hard is a PhD?

    I just enrolled for a PhD, starting Jan 3rd.. But I'm worried I won't be able to keep up, I just got my honours marks back, I got first class, a+ but I'm still worried I will struggle. How hard are they really??

    On another note, I currently have no children, but I feel like enrolling for a PhD means no kids until after I've completed a post doc (like 6 years away)... How do you fit it all in?

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Default How hard is a PhD?

    It really depends on an awful lot of things.
    What your PhD is in: if you have experiments which can fail then it gets harder, if they're time critical it gets harder.
    If you have a good & supportive supervisor vs a not so good and supportive supervisor.
    Your character.
    Your support networks outside of uni as well as in the uni system.
    If you're on a scholarship / have to work to support yourself.
    And those are the ones my sleep deprived brain can think of at the moment.

    Your question is not one that can be answered simply and possibly not one that can be answered at all really.

    The journey for each person is different so comparing theirs with yours probably won't work.

  3. #3
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    Hi SammyP. I just started my PhD on Monday, I am in exactly the same boat as you. We were supposed to get pregnant while I was doing honours but it was too stressful for me so we put it off. I got first class honours too (GPA of 7), and I worked my butt off for it so I know how hard it was for you to get the same. My supervisors have promised me that a PhD is not as hard as you have more time to do everything, but I am not convinced - besides my own work and assisting with others' work, I will be taking up extra uni work (demonstrating, marking, tutorials) to get experience so I am more employable, and for extra cash. So I think it's going to be hard, but worth it it then end (I hope!).

    I am stalking bubhub still as I really want to have a baby but I really want this as well. I can't take any kind of mat leave/intermission until 12 months into my PhD so in 6-12 months we will reasses and see how everything is going - stress levels, experimental work etc. I am almost 28 so I feel like if I wait until I finish, do a post-doc etc I am getting too old (for me, not a reflection on others), but getting pregnant right before/when I finish is not great for job prospects either.

    If I get pregnant and have a baby during it all - then the baby is older when I want to get a job - but that then raises the question of when to have another (which we would like) plus the stress of trying to finish and having a baby too. I think I would have to consider going part time - however I don't think anyone in my team would be impressed with me going part-time as a lot of our work is combined (however, I have to think of my own personal life, not what others want for me but it's definitely harder with that pressure).

    Sigh. I have no idea what to do. It's that question with no answer - how do you do it all?
    Last edited by sunnyd; 17-11-2012 at 20:54.

  4. #4
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    I agree with Zimbor. Do you have a scholarship to support you? That will make a huge difference in whether having a baby is a feasible option. Do you have good support networks? Can someone look after your baby when you need to study? If not, can you afford childcare?

    I was awarded my PhD only a couple of months ago. I put off getting pregnant while doing it because people I know who combined a PhD with babies found it VERY hard - and I'm in the arts/humanities, not the sciences. Instead I got pregnant soon after I submitted. Then, at 5 months pregnant, I got my results and found out I had major changes to do. So I ended up doing a lot of PhD work while uncomfortably pregnant and then with a very small baby. I love my daughter to bits but I'm very glad I didn't have her earlier in the PhD.

    I think it can depend on what sort of pregnancy you go through and the temperament and health of the baby you have. I imagine some people out there have great pregnancies and dreamy little babies who sleep lots and let them get heaps of work done. One friend of mine had a very ill baby, though, and divided her time between studies and going to the hospital. Having a sick child is stressful enough without adding a very stressful PhD into the mix. She ended up taking twice as long as expected to finish her PhD, and for a while it was touch-and-go whether she would finish at all.

    My baby was, fortunately, quite healthy. But she won't sleep. So much of my 'free' time is spent trying to get her to sleep rather than doing work. Before she was born I had visions of being able to type while she slept on my lap (I have a few academic friends who completed their PhDs in this way). However, my little girl wants to type too, or have a screaming hissy fit if I don't let her bash the keyboard. And forget reading texts while looking after her. She loves trying to tear pages out of my books whenever they're in reach. So no academic work gets done in her presence.

    My advice would be to weigh up how soon you need to graduate vs. how soon you need to get pregnant. If there's no time pressure on getting your PhD then go for it. You can always go part-time to complete your studies if needed. If there is time pressure for getting pregnant (if you're in your late 30s like me) then putting off getting pregnant might not be feasible. If you need to graduate within three or four years and you have time to get pregnant after the PhD it might be a good idea to wait, though.

    All of that said, having a baby certainly puts the PhD into perspective. Before my daughter was born the PhD consumed every waking moment of my life. After she was born I realised it was just a qualification and wasn't the most important thing I'd ever do.

    Good luck, whatever your decision is! And congratulations on beginning your PhD adventure! Please let me introduce you to some online coping mechanisms that many of my PhD candidate friends and I love:
    PhD comics: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php
    PhD stress: http://phdstress.tumblr.com/

  5. #5
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    Default How hard is a PhD?

    ZimboR is 100% right every experience is an individual one, and how 'hard' your experience depends on your individual set of circumstances!! I know that's not overly helpful, but it really is the truth. I describe my PhD experience as both the best and worst time of my life...unquestionably harder than anything else I have done in my life, but also spectacularly rewarding.
    I fell pregnant 2 years into my PhD (very planned...it was supposed to be 6 months in but took a lot longer than anticipated...something to keep in mind) and I found the knowledge of an impending baby arrival very motivating-I finished a draft of my entire thesis before he arrived. In saying that I had collected all my data before getting UTD so was just independently writing by that point (a good place to be!).
    In terms of job opportunities, I haven't found having my bub to be a negative factor at all and already tentatively have some work lined up...I couldn't bear the thought of waiting til after post doc to have babies!! Haha!!
    Good luck OP-both experiences are incredible ones and in my personal experience, yes it is possible to have both concurrently, as long as you are prepared for some hard yards! =)

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  7. #6
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    Default How hard is a PhD?

    Thanks for the advice.

    I'm in science, particularly biochemistry and molecular biology.. I have an APA scholarship

    I'm only 22, so obviously I'm not pushed for time to have kids, I was just wondering how others fitted it all in - career and family

  8. #7
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    Default How hard is a PhD?

    The bonus of APAs is the maternity leave...I assume they still have it? It is 12 weeks paid, which is nice.

    Yes you can indeed make career and family happen in my opinion...it's not an easy road, but I personally am grateful to have both. It keeps my brain happy, but I also adore my baby boy and love being a mum.

    Good luck with your PhD and potentially motherhood =)

  9. #8
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    Default Re: How hard is a PhD?

    I have a one year old baby, i wish to apply for a phd study as i always wished, but always lack in the motivation, some of the PPs are pretty motivational though. I've been pushing it back and back and even now not sure when to start. I've read a lot about successful phd mums but i think i am not strong enough as them. Sorry no advise since i am not a phd yet , but as you are young and not a parent yet you can give it a good start and plan family as you go. Best Luck~

    Sent from my Transformer Prime TF201 using BubHub

  10. #9
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    Default How hard is a PhD?

    I had my DD about one-two years into my PhD. I too was on an APA. I went straight back after mat leave, I found it all fine when she was a baby. When she was about 1 I took some leave and dropped to part time, but ended up withdrawing when she was nearly 2 or so. I might go back to it when she's in school. Once the day sleeps dropped off I just found it too hard. But I'm bit of a slacker!

  11. #10
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    Im 2 months away from submitting and have a 3.5 year old son. I fell pregnant during my honours year, had a year off at home with Bub, and started my PhD (cognitive psychology) when he was 10 months old, full-time. I have an APA.

    It's absolutely the hardest thing I have ever done and will ever do, without question. Not saying I regret it; but it was beyond challenging. I've turned down a post-doc because I've decided I want to get into practice rather than be in academia forever. Academia is cutthroat for women: if you have 1-2 years off to have a baby, it is extremely difficult to get back into the field; publications mean everything and you have to have them every year. I have many female friends in the science doing their PhDs/Postdocs and they have decided to never have children so they can be committed to their careers. It might be different in humanities, but in sciences, it's all the same. Baby = career death.

    Not trying to scare you: I just honestly don't know many fields of employment that are as tough to juggle parenting and success as academia. I really hope it start to change soon, it;s total bull**** for women.

    If I was going to pick when to have a baby, I would have one during my PhD rather than after, as getting a science Post-doc all comes down to riding off the publications from your PhD. If you take 1-2 years off between PhD and post-doc [and have no publications coming out] you are in real trouble.
    Last edited by Lilahh; 20-11-2012 at 12:25.


 

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