I’ve seen a lot of “kids-in-grad-school” advice that’s geared towards male PhD students with stay-at-home wives. I’m a female MD PhD student married to a male MD PhD student, and neither of us is going to quit our career. We are both willing to put in the time needed to raise a family.

I’m interested in hearing from the following perspectives:

(a) women who had kids while they were in graduate school

(b) men or women who had kids while they were in graduate school and did NOT have a stay-at-home partner.

For those folks, how did you make it work? if you could go back and time and give yourself advice about the experience, what advice would you give?

I have lots of duties as a student. I have to do teaching assistantships, publish papers, work on my thesis, seminars, conferences etc. Despite all of these, my stipend is not sufficient hence I am thinking to find a job as most of other Ph.D. students are doing the same.
My questions are:
1) How to manage to graduate on time and working at the same time? Is it even possible? Because my seniors who are working have been taking more time to graduate.

2) Is it financially better (in terms of salary) to have more work experience or become a ph.D. holder?

3) Would a part-time job be a better choice or a full time one (for students like me)?

I am applying for a fellowship that would allow me to start an independent research group–something between post-doc and faculty levels. Part of this application requires that I explain my choice of host university. My question is whether I should include family reasons alongside professional ones in my justification statement.

The university I’m hoping to work at is strong in my general field, though the academic fit could be a bit better (e.g. more faculty with complementary interests, more labs with relevant equipment/resources I could use). The main reason I’m choosing this university is because of family reasons: my partner has a good job at this university already, and since we have a small child together, I can’t reasonably move elsewhere without totally disrupting my entire family.

After hitting the standard points (the strengths of the university and department, relevant faculty interests, professional development opportunities), should I also mention my family situation?

On the one hand, I’m worried that some reviewers might find it inappropriate for me to include personal asides.

On the other hand, I think including this aside is a good place for explaining why I have a bit of a gap in my CV (I took family leave and am looking to return to academics), and why I’m choosing a place that the reviewers may think isn’t ideal. My CV mentions that I took family leave, but of course this small line item could easily be missed. I’d normally use my cover letter to explain my situation, but in this case cover letters get stripped before the application reaches the reviewers.

If it’s relevant, this is in the UK, in the natural sciences.


I’ll try to make my situation as clear as possible.

I have just started a part-time PhD. I did a part-time master’s degree over two years previously to that. In the first year of my master’s I worked three days a week and in the second year of my master’s I worked five days a week. I found working five days a week and doing a part-time master’s degree to be completely doable because of how my units were spread out. I’m married but I have no kids and my wife is also an academic, which helps a lot. Basically in the evenings and weekends I do little else but academic stuff. I have the time for it.

When I wrote my PhD application I said I would work part-time during the degree, however, I haven’t managed to get this in place and am still working full-time for financial reasons. I spoke to my PhD supervisor today who seemed quite concerned that I was working full-time and said I “shouldn’t mention it to the doctoral school” and strongly encouraged me to go part-time by this time next year.

My supervisor’s saying I “shouldn’t mention” my full-time work to the doctoral school has really concerned me. If they find out [though I don’t know how they would] would I be struck off the PhD? On the one hand I am, at this stage, totally confident that I can do a part-time PhD and work full time. On the other, I’m quite an honest person and don’t like the fact that I may be ‘keeping something’ from the doctoral school. I will take my supervisor’s advice and not say anything [though she did advise me to mention it to the head of department at some point], but what’s the worst that could happen since I am confident of my situation? Is my concern paranoia or is it justified?

EDIT: I’m in the UK and in the arts. I also get on very well with my dept staff, if that helps at all, and am at the same institution for PhD as I was for master’s.

Fifth year math grad student as of this Fall. ABD, currently on target for six years in total.

I have very strong feelings about the way courses should be taught, graded, and organized. I have thought extensively about this issue and experiment with my teaching every chance that I get.

I teach my own course, and spend lots of time on teaching it the right way (according to me). This includes designing my own course plans from scratch, planning engaging lectures, writing my own problem sets, projects, and homework assignments. I also tend to give too much individual attention to students, like holding extra office hours when students have schedule conflicts.

My teaching philosophy is fundamentally at odds with the majority of the lecturers in the department. It makes me feel like a pariah, and privately makes me feel incensed when I see others teaching in a way that I consider unethical. Though I’m not vocal about my disagreements, I have been consistently passed over for teaching awards, despite constant effort, innovation, and shining student evaluations. I wish I didn’t care about this.

I know I’m being paid the same as other apathetic TAs who give every lecture off the cuff, assign whichever book problems are easiest to grade, and contribute as little to the education of their students as their contracts will allow. I’m not being paid to be a lecturer, but I’m giving at least a lecturer’s effort to this job.

Most importantly, I know that putting this much time, effort, and emotional energy into teaching is taking away from my research. Sometimes I feel terribly guilty after a big exam or project because I realize I haven’t even looked at my research in a couple of weeks. My advisor hasn’t said anything negative about my progress, but I know I could be doing better.

Every time I try to pull back and adopt a more traditional model, I get depressed and frustrated, because my students aren’t learning anything, I’m as bored as they are, and I wonder what the point of my existence even is if I’m just going to give up and be another trash teacher who goes through the motions all day. Especially when I have the ability to be the change I wish to see in academia. (Which maybe isn’t my place, but then again, everybody passes the buck, that’s why we have this problem.)

How do I get myself to step back and refocus my efforts onto research?

I’ve been considering a career in academia ever since I was an undergrad. I’m turning 30 this year. I think I should either get to it (PhD and beyond) or give it up once and for all.

The key source of anxiety for me is the hyper-productive nature of contemporary academia (cultural anthropology in my case). Everything I learned over the years from books, blogs, mentors, and peers leads me to believe that academia is a place where only the most efficient knowledge workers can hope to thrive.

My issue: while I love anthropology, I am a SLOW knowledge worker. I read slowly, I take reading notes slowly, and I write unusually slowly. Then there is memory; everything I want to commit to long-term memory takes a conscious effort and planning (which again, is rather time consuming).

As a HS/university student I often got on simply by throwing in as many hours as it took. However, during the MA (and especially BA/MA dissertation writing) my slow pace became a severe hindrance. I finished the BA with a 3.7 GPA (4.0 within major) from a decent R1 university. However, I was leading an increasingly unhealthy life, definitely not sustainable in the long term.

My understanding is that serious PhD candidates and junior faculty in my field are estimated to work 65h/week, and are expected to be high performers in terms of their output/teaching/service. This leads me to believe that at this level I can’t expect to succeed by throwing in some extra hours. I’d run out of hours to “throw” fairly quickly.

When I feel optimistic I think that perhaps I can relearn how I work – how I read, take notes, memorize and most importantly, how I write. I can learn to work faster/smarter/better. I assure myself, PhD programs are also about figuring THAT part out. They are also about learning how to cope with the workload.

At my lowest, I recollect late paper submissions, or the debilitating anxiety associated with being months behind schedule on dissertation work. Then I think: someone who wants to do this for a living should have breezed through BA/MA. If I haven’t figured out how to handle it better back then, perhaps it’s delusional to think that it will all magically come together now.

A part of me is afraid of investing many years only to discover that I can’t handle this type of work. To learn at 35 or 40 that I can’t do this job well. Please tell me what you think. For those who might have dealt with a similar problem, how did you overcome your SLOWNESS and become more effective?

TL;DR —- I want to be a professor. Love the field. Had good GPA/feedback on past work. But I’m a hopelessly SLOW reader/writer. Is there hope?

EDIT: Regarding the question “How should I deal with discouragement as a graduate student?” This recommended thread is similar, but does not focus on the main issue important to me: the question of efficiency.

This question made me think about my situation.

After different academic jobs, I took a tenure-track position that I can typically do in 10 hours/week. With the extra time I do hobbies or am with my family. It is not that the job is easy, it is more that the job exactly matches my skills, and that my weaknesses do not affect my performance. My colleagues, as most faculty, work at least 40hrs/week (many work more as explained here). I am doing great and received many awards, so I am not worried at all about promotion. I also like the job.

Should I inform my bosses how long it takes me to finish the job (10hrs/week)? Please read the question I mentioned before answering. In that question, many people were very critical about finding ways of doing the job faster while not informing the boss.

More information (could add more if needed): I teach 3 classes per semester (about 7.5 hours total). For some reason it is very easy for me to just use the textbook, so I do not need to prepare my lectures (still receive good student evaluations). I have nearly 2.5 office hours per week, but virtually no student shows up, so I do research during that time. 2 hours/week have been enough to publish enough (research expectations are very low) and I am lucky enough that I have never had “writer’s block” or anything like that. So far I have no service expectations. Compared to my colleagues I am publishing more, and in good journals (for a teaching institution). In the summer, I spend some time automatizing what I can. For example, I use software to automatically generate exams and the answers. I have graders, so I am equaling the “few” grading that I actually have to do to 10/hrs per week during the summer. At the end, it feels like working 10hrs/week year long (or a little more during regular semesters if you wish). Definitely far less than 40hrs/week.

I know that my service expectations will increase later, but it feels they would never reach 40hrs/week.