Speaking to other parents really helped me out, knowing that I wasn’t the only one that was going through this is reassuring! Being surrounded by PhD students that don’t have the same commitments can be tough, as you can’t help but compare yourself sometimes, but this really does you no favours. You simply cannot compare your situation to anyone else, but speaking to other parents can certainly be useful! If you don’t know of any PhD parents near you, I would seriously consider joining this closed group on Facebook: PhD and Early Career Researcher Parents (of which I am an avid stalker!)
Childcare is another important factor to get right, which isn’t always easy – particularly due to finances. My little boy is of pre-school age (and I had him four months into the start of my PhD), so I can only talk of my experiences of needing childcare! It’s really important to find someone that you completely trust – leaving them is hard enough as it is, without the added stress of worrying about who you are leaving them with. If you’re lucky to have family / friends around that can help out, they can be a real lifesaver, even if you only call on them to help get you through the final stages, or when times get really tough.
I have never been one of those people that can work in the night when the little one is sleeping, or spend the weekend working whilst I see him and his Daddy having fun. At night, I’m too tired to work, and at the weekends, I don’t want to miss out on family fun – I don’t want to miss out on seeing the most important years of his life. I never work well when the little man is around me either, if he knows I am around – he simply won’t leave me alone, and at the same time I get too distracted by all of the cute things that he does! So, doing the PhD and being a parent at the same time simply doesn’t work for me. I have to keep these two separate, for all our sakes!
But, support isn’t just about childcare. Ask your supervisor for support, it’s what they are there for! I feel incredibly lucky to have such a supportive supervisor, particularly when it has come to the needs of my little man. There have been times when he has joined us for meetings, or we’ve had supervision via Skype rather than in person. There are so many little things that have been accommodated along the way to make life that little bit easier.