You can never ultimately completely separate being a parent, and studying. “We are all full-time mummies (or daddies!)” – and this is what makes it hard. Whether we are unemployed, work from home, or go out to work for 40 hours or more per week… we are all full-time parents. We never have a break from being a parent, as Harriet (from Toby & Roo) points out. There is never a moment that Stanley or Nora are out of my mind. When Stanley first came along, I thought that going into the office would give me the space and freedom to focus purely on the PhD, but I soon realised that it wasn’t quite this simple. You can’t shut off from being a mum. Whether it’s worrying about how Stanley is doing at childcare, feeling guilty for leaving him, or just subconsciously thinking of him – there is never a moment that he is not with me.
What you can do, is be proud. Be proud that you are doing a PhD. Be proud that you are a parent. I feel that I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to do both of these. I hope that by studying, whilst being a parent, I can instil some kind of good message in my children. I like to talk to Stanley about what I do, and get him involved (as much as I possibly can). I want my children to see how proud I am of what I am doing, and how much I enjoy what I do. I try to do little things, like taking him into the office for an hour or two (Stanley has had many trips to the labs!), or set him up with his own little computer (he likes to pretend to do his “work” too!), and I try to make him feel as though he is helping out when I can! Start them young and show them the enjoyment of learning.
There is also a fab book “My Mum Studies – Just Like Me”, that follows a child’s experience of having a mum who studies (written by Dr Bailey Bosch, and stemming from her own PhD research). It is fantastically written, and although it is most likely aimed at school-aged children, I still enjoy reading this with Stanley! Definitely worth a purchase if you are both a parent, and studying.