‘Mummy Is just Doing a PhD!’

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At George’s Cafe, church and cafe at the same place

This year for the first time in my life I felt that Mother’s Day was my day too. Here in the UK it is celebrated on 26 March. As a young mum, I want to share my experience of combining the greatest projects in my life: being a mother and doing a PhD.

While not with my family, I am studying in the library. Here in the picture, I am in the newly discovered cafe in the centre of London,  George’s Cafe. It is on the premises of an Anglican Church that holds regular Sunday services and runs the primary school.

The revolution screaming out loud at nights

Like millions of women around the world, I try hard to combine motherhood with professional development. Something that men will, unfortunately, probably never be able to comprehend. Since I have become a mum I tend to agree with the cliche that being a mother is the hardest and the most important job in the world. It is not to say that fathers do nothing. They can actually give lots of support and take part of the responsibilities, yet the biggest burden lays on women.

This hard and beautiful experience of becoming a mum has changed literally everything – from my night regime to the approach toward time flow and its management. It brings a revolutionary experience to every little dimension of the life. Yet, it is still worth it!

What are the biggest struggles of having children and trying to be professionally active? Number one is childcare. Having some relatives here in the UK would be very helpful, yet this is not the case of many migrant parents, including myself. It happened on a few occasions that I had to give up on attending an interesting class or workshop because it was out of work hours of our childminder. Migrant parents need to rely on their parents.

But let’s just focus here on a few positives sides of being a PhD student mum.

Mission possible: doing a PhD and being a mother

Children listen to us carefully. I have discovered recently that my child is the most patient and devoted listener to whatever he hears from me. I can practise (with him) reading out loud my draft texts, presentations. His mimic and vocal reactions say more than words. Well, he cannot speak yet, anyway.

A “stranger” with the child. I took my son to the fieldwork with me. Surprisingly enough, he helped to build trust and rapport with the community that I visited. I can imagine that people who saw us often perceived me as an “ordinary” person, “one of them”.

Also, it happened to me to attend a conference with my son. My husband was pushing

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After visiting the Museum of Religion in Hrodna summer 2016

him in a buggy outside the room where I presented my research. Possible? – possible!

We as parents re-evaluate our approach towards time. Motherhood has tremendously changed my approached to “busyness”. Prior to giving a birth, I considered myself rather a busy person, always on the go and with a long list of things to do every day. Now I rediscovered the real meaning of the word “busy”. Actually, I stopped using it at all. In fact, only me and my diary need to know how much things I have to deal with in the short period of time.

This is to say that motherhood can actually make you more efficient in many ways as you value time more consciously. Yet, this is not a panacea to all organisational and time management issues!

The best possible boost of energy. I learn lots from my son – from appreciating discovery of small things to having a will to do things regardless of my mood. It is just enough to look at the smiling face of my toddler and all these struggles start making sense.

There are more of us – parent students. What I am missing a lot is the sense that I am a member of the wider community of parent students at my university. In such a community we could discuss the ups and downs regarding parenthood and doing PhD at the same time, and give each other some support.

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