Mama PhD

#Mama PhD

This is the little corner of my site where I talk about PhD/Academic parenting… Soldarity to all those in this boat.

Academic motherhood has defined the last several years of my life. In fact, this was not a static process, as I started the PhD with a one-year old daughter, and then fell pregnant and had twins at the end of the first year. This punctuated the time between going through ethical clearance and beginning fieldwork. As these were both new and emerging identities at the time of research, there was an inherent vulnerability that I felt about my knowledge of both. As Guyotte wrote about her similar experience, ‘I was multiple subjects in multiple time zones- coexisting in them simultaneously- as I navigated the spaces of becoming-mother, becoming-Ph.D’ (2018, p. 42).

As a feminist-activist scholar I have always considered reflexivity to be the utmost importance in the development of my qualitative research. As part of this journey I have found that one path of my writing and creative endeavours has ended up being about my reflections of being a ‘mama PhD’. So this page is dedicated to sharing my experiences in the aim to reach out in solidarity to others who are thinking ‘Is this possible?’ ‘Does anyone make it out with babies and a full-time PhD programme?’ I can offer my story and say yes! It has been a challenge, but I found it had lots of benefits- I find the flexibility of research work a real plus-point for my family/work balance in comparison to other jobs I have done.

I have blogged on things that I found helped me with PhD parenting- click here to read my top 10 practical tips.

Whilst I was working at the University of Southampton they had a great women’s academic network (WISET+) and they/we curated an art exhibition of women academics’ art. I painted a piece which focused on having my ‘hands full’ with my children, as well as books at night when I was working on my research. At the time I was studying in the evenings and weekends to work around them. The wings represented the vast personal growth phase I was going through- both growing as a mother and as an academic- learning both simultaneously (and feeling wobbly about both new roles!)

More info: Exhibition celebrates women’s role in research and teaching

In summer of 2021 myself and 22 other women academics with caring responsibilities from across the UK, responded to a call to create a quilt panel that reflects our experience of working as an academic during the COVID-19 lockdowns from March 2020 to the Spring of 2021. We collaborated through a series of online workshops, finding strength and solidarity in the sharing of their stories through stitch and conversation. Ever since meeting Frigga Haug in a workshop on ‘memory work’ in 2018 I had always wanted to be part of a project like it. This project was a great experience of feminist praxis- support and solidarity. Access the quilt and narrative recordings here.

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