Juggling PhD and family


Is there anyone who has this problem- how to juggle doing a PhD and looking after a family at the same time? I have two kids (pre-teen) and a husband who travels a great deal. It's all good- I wouldn't change anything in my life, but if anyone has suggestions on how to organise the daily nitty gritty of the PhD work around family I would love to hear them.


Hi, I too juggle PhD and family, I have 3 children, two teens and a five year old and it can be very hard going. I found the only way that I could cope with it all was to try and allocate time when I could work - easier now the little one is at school than before. I drop her off, come back, get a coffee, sit down and try to work until school run time, then work again after she's gone to bed. School holidays are a total nightmare though, and my housework etc tends to suffer somewhat, but I figure that there's plenty of time for all that after the PhD is done. I'm sorry that I can't offer anything really constructive, I tend to go by the seat of my pants and hope that I do enough to get through all this!


Hi, probably not the best time for me to reply as I am completely worn out, I also have 3 children, I cooked a roast dinner this evening for 5, the kitchen is a mess, there is lego all over the sitting room floor, and I cant be bothered to move.  My husband works 6 days a week, doesnt take much time off, so anything to do with the house and children is my responsibility. I do all my work when the children are at school, holiday times are a write off, almost - but I do put the younger ones in an activity club 2 days a week so I can keep ticking over until the hols are over.  Cant do anything in the evening as husband doesnt like me working in his time. So I just make sure when I do my PhD work I really focus and make it count, ignore the housework and everything else.  I feel slightly worried when I hear of other people putting in 8/10 hrs everyday, but upon questioning the people I work with this includes meeting friends for lunch, time on facebook, surfing the web, checking emails etc. I also try to do other menial tasks associated with the PhD, collecting library books, searching for more resources etc outside my daytime work hours so it feels like I am doing some real work and making small progress.  I just think its important for people like us not to procrastinate, not to let time slip so nothing has been achieved for a few weeks - its tough. But weekends and after 4pm week days is family time, which bottom line is more important than my PhD.  Can you do everything? Can I bring my children up to be secure, happy, well rounded beings and get my doctorate, look after the house etc and keep husband happy?  Will I still have my sanity at the end? Phew!!  Sure I can!!X?!! (Actually I do know of quite a few divorces amongst PhDers)  :p


Well I only have one child born during my PhD. I submitted in April and she starts school in Sep. I agree that there has to be very little procrastination or dawdling - your work time just has to be fairly intense. I've had childcare (nursery then childminder which was better) 2 then 3 days/week - I prefer some long days rather than 5 short days. I cook double meals and freeze. My husband works long hours and also travels a lot but when he was here he took our daughter out on saturdays while I worked. I did evenings sometimes but not usually - too tired, evenings too short, and you need time with your partner as well as your kids. I went sort of part-time so that although I officially finished in 3.5 years it was actually 5.5 years. When deadlines were intense, I carried work with me in the changing bag and have been known to work while she slept in the car outside a softplay etc. Not sure what the equivalent for you would be but you probably taxi your kids around a lot to stuff.

For me, I found I needed really regular ring-fenced core work time every week. School days are actaully quite short in that regard. Could get a cleaner (if you don't already)? I couldn't afford that but we do have our ironing done - every little bit helps!


I take my hat off to anyone who does a PhD whilst having a family. I cant imagine how tough that must be. My mother has been doing a two year masters whilst having a very demanding full time job and two small children to look after and I thought that was tough....

I think you are right about full time PhDers though. A lot of PhDers will claim they put in up to 12 hours a day but probably at least half of that is wasted through day dreaming, procrastinating and general adminstration tasks. I found when I was doing my PhD that I spend a lot of time on emails, checking facebook, talking to people in the office, on this forum complaining about my sup... So I think if you cut out a lot of the time wasting activities and are well organised/disciplined there is no reason why a PhD cant be achieved in normal reasonable working hours provided of course you know what you are doing


I agree with all of the above, and just add this extra bit of advice:

Buy your kids an Xbox! :p


Thank you thank you thank you! Your responses have helped a lot. I get the main point about doing intense bursts of work while keeping time aside for family. And it helps to know that other people face this too. I already have the X box at home. It is great as long as it lasts, but the inevitable fights over which games to play drive me nuts. Holidays are definitely the worst. And I have to say that at least my kids can find something to do when they are bored- if I explain to them that I really need time to work. The husband, on the other hand...