One of the greatest gifts that social media and the internet has given me is solidarity across physical borders– in particular, this journey of academia-graduate school and motherhood.
I am always inspired by the women I meet who don the two hats mentioned above. And I know that when the going gets tough (as it will in certain stages of academia and phases of motherhood), it helps to learn from the wisdom of those who have successfully navigated through the storms.
Through an upcoming series of posts titled Mums in Academia, I hope to share and celebrate the wonderful women I’ve had the good fortune of meeting. If I’ve not yet met you and you don’t mind sharing, I would love to hear from you! Please contact me via a comment below or in the Contact page.
To start off, I will share my humble story to kick off this series.
Who I am
Hello, I’m Eve and I am about to start a Phd programme at the time of writing. I have a three year old and we often travel and live between Japan and Singapore due to family, work and in part, my research.
My research is in Japanese art history, specifically, Japanese painting otherwise known as Nihonga. I was an educator in a museum and higher institution of learning prior to starting the Phd full-time. Instead of going the usual route of undergraduate and straight onto graduate studies, I had a long break after my undergraduate studies and started a Master’s degree part-time whilst working. I enjoy research, writing and teaching a lot, and would like to mentor both undergraduate and post-graduate students– hence a Phd would be the icing on the cake. 😉
I became a mother during the second year of my Master’s degree and took several semesters of leave of absences not just for childcare/ maternity but also due to work. As I nearly maxed out my candidature, I took a chance. I quit my full-time job to focus on writing the dissertation and started teaching, while taking care of my child. During the last few months before submission, my mother fell irreversibly ill and I juggled care-giving duties on top of graduate school and motherhood. I really didn’t think I could pull it off but my dissertation came back with no revisions needed and all those nights where I was dead exhausted and feeling so low, was all worth it in the end.
Challenges I face being a mum in academia for me, is 1)the loneliness and 2)sometimes feeling that I cannot get ahead. I think that 1) and 2) goes hand in hand. I often admire other grad students who seem to have all the freedom to travel or pull crazy research/ writing stints without sleep. I am not able to do this as my daughter is pretty young still and my family circumstances make it hard to travel and attend conferences without pulling off some crazy planning. As a result, I sometimes feel as though it is hard for me to get ahead in my research or career.
Some tips for getting through graduate school… I think that physical and mental health is crucial to pull it all off. I’m still working on this though. But exercise, eating and resting well keeps you going strong both for your research/ career and for your family. On the homefront, I think it helps if you can delegate or get extra help, be it with household chores or babysitting. If your spouse works workaholic hours like mine, it helps to build a strong network of people who will support you -paid (like babysitters or weekly cleaning services) or unpaid (friends you can rely on for real emergency baby-sitting) to help you get through it all.
Another thing I think really helps (and yes, another thing that I am still working on) is streamlining and being organised. I think that the demands of graduate school and a family with young kid(s), you just need to be very organised, knowing where things are and what schedules are happening and with whom. The last thing you want to do when writing a dissertation months before submission is to find your notes under the mess or locate your children’s items for schools in the same said mess or spending time cleaning because the mess has exploded.