Becoming Dr Mum – Combining PhD and motherhood

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When I found out I was pregnant (in February 2012), during the 3rd year of my PhD I thought it would definitely be hard to combine being a mum and finishing my thesis. As a researcher, it seemed logical to look for articles and resources produced by others who lived the same kind of situation to make me feel less isolated.

I found a really interesting website, which presented the report of a study called: “Becoming Dr Mum: Combining Higher Degree Research with Early Motherhood”.

By reading about the study, which was carried out in 2009 at The Australian National University, I felt there were other women who had been through the same and that I would certainly make it too, and come out of the whole experience as a stronger person!

Having been through it, now already with my PhD diploma and my adorable (most of the time) almost 3 year old daughters, I know it’s hard, and I know it’s possible too. And actually, if I’m, honest I think having my daughters helped me have guiltless breaks from my PhD which is very healthy, and I wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise. And, at the same time, having the thesis always on the back of my mind made me sometimes put things in perspective, which is also really important because being a mother for the first time is a overwhelming experience, and it changes your brain, well at least the way my brain worked. And sometimes I’d find myself stressing about the weight of my tiny babies or worrying and ‘doing research’ about the colour of their ‘poo’.

Most of these ‘motherhood concerns’ are at the same very valid and very silly, especially if you’re lucky enough to have strong and healthy babies like I was; but it’s hard to get your brain to stop and in absence of other issues, those are the ones that seem to take the front row!

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Tools for Writing

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Here are 4 interesting online resources that can help in the sometimes difficult task of academic writing.

1. The Academic Phrase Bank from The University of Manchester

The academic phrase bank really helped me as I was writing my PhD thesis, even if you end up not using any of the sentences they suggest, just by reading them it can help you get unstuck when you’re looking for phrases to compare, contrast, be critical etc. .  that helped me at different moments

2. University of Richmond Writing Center

It’s called ‘Writer’s Web’ and has quite a bit to explore. It can definitely be useful and has information from ‘Getting started’, to ‘First drafts’, ‘Focusing ideas’, ‘Clarity and Style’, and much more.

3. The Cache (Tracy Duckart’s Instructional Website at Humboldt State University)

I think some of the Prewriting exercises and the Elements of Style are particularly interesting and useful. Some parts of the website do not seem to be working but then there’s things like ‘Avoiding Oatmeal Verbs’ (Referring to the verbs to be, to give, to have, to say, to use) which suggests verbs to use instead. And ‘My Best Advice about Thesis Statements: Tattoo on the inside of your eyelids the following definition: “[A thesis] is a debatable point, one about which reasonable persons can disagree. It is not merely a fact [. . .]. Nor is it a statement of belief [or faith] [. . .]. Neither facts nor beliefs can be substantiated by reasons, so they cannot serve as a thesis for an argument” (Hacker 574).’

4. ASK – Assignment Survival Kit from Staffordshire University

This one is maybe not that useful if you’re writing your PhD thesis as it seems to be aimed at undergrads doing their first assignments but I still thought it was interesting to look at their suggested steps when writing an essay.

You provide a start date a due date and select from a list of types of assignment and this software ‘will help you to plan your time and the steps you might need to follow to survive and produce your first piece of assessed work’.

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I’m sure there are many others, and I will add to this list.

Please feel free to share other writing tools available online!