mum with small kids and doing a PHD


Has anyone done or doing a PhD and if so I would love to hear from them about what level of class attendance and how much is independent study.
I would love to do a PhD but don't know if I should wait until kids in school to do it. I have a three year old and if we can get our finances sorted hopefully a second child. I would be able to organise part time childcare for them and my plan would be to work mornings and evenings when kids sleeping.
I would love any advice


I started my PhD as a part-time career orientated person, but 2 years in I met my hubby! I guess life changes happen throughout and your studies will often find a way to fit in. We married and very soon I had a newborn to contend with! I was lucky to be able to stop working to stay at home with my baby and fit in studies around naptimes and evenings (my hubby was very supportive). Unexpectedly we then found that twins were on the way and arrived when my eldest was 13 months. I took a short intermission period to cover the chaos and sleep deprivation, about 4 months I was not studying. Now they are 1 year and eldest is 2 years. I am studying still in the evenings and for one afternoon a week they go to a childminder. I have finished writing up now and awaiting feedback from my supervisors, so hopig to submit soon. I would add that most of my lab work was complete prior to the fisrt baby arrival so I only had to go back to the lab for a week while hubby took leave for baby duties. Most of my PhD is independent study and I am self-funded too. I would check out the childcare costs when considering taking on a PhD and also perhaps a part-time option so that you can be more flexible for your children. I would also suggest that your partner should be fully supportive as it can be lonely in the evenings for them while you study and they will need to be hands-on with a newborn to allow you the time to work!



You will find most universities are very much experienced in having students and researchers with young children. Many will have creche or nursery facilities at discounted prices for their staff and students. However, you should think about applying well in advance for places in these facilities as they tend to be rather popular for obvious reasons.


During my PhD I was expected to attend a postgraduate seminar every two weeks and present my work here once a year.  I hardly ever went to these but did present my work every year. I was expected to meet my sups twice a term: I mostly did this.

I was the carer for our kids (twins) while my partner worked and 2 years of my PhD was while they were pre-school and 3 while at school. It was sooooooo much easier once they were at school. I have to admit I found it near impossible to get anything done while they were still ay home. If your kids are like mine they will stop sleeping during the day by about age 3-4. That only really leaves you with getting up real early (did this a lot) working in the evenings (did this a bit but was always tempted to hang out with my partner instead) or getting carers and I wanted to be the one that raised them. However, there was a plus side when they were pre-schoolers. I used to have to spend a lot of time just fucking around bored and watching them before they started school: mostly at skateparks. And having my study gear there did make this time go quicker as it gave me something interesting to do.

Let us all know what you decide,


Hi, I started my PhD when my daughter was 3. I am in the third year now. It was not easy juggling with the small child and studies but I am at least happy that I am not behind. Being in the Humanities I do not have to go Uni daily, which makes my life easier...taking care of child and studying as well - much better than job in fact. I get time to be with my child more....


Hello! I had a baby in year 2 of my PhD. Since then I didn't attend a single seminar, and meeting with my supervisor have been about twice in a semester, whereas we used to meet every fortnight. I presented papers at several conferences before, but only once afterwards - that means in two years. It is doable, but it is very difficult if you don't have any help from family, etc.
I am close to submission now (or at least I hope so!), and I was lucky to be able to do all research before maternity leave. It also depends on the child. Everyone is different. Mine never sleeps, so all my plans for working in the evenings were pretty much disappointed, as my husband is often away on business.


I've a 12, 10 and 5yr old, and am in my first year. The only way I've managed this is by landing a fully funded AHRC award. The killer is the intermittant deadlines: I had to submit 5000 words on Jan 7th, which wrote off my Christmas, and pretty much for my entire family. The mistake I made recently, with regard to a deadline, was assuming that I'd be as productive during half term as I was over the christmas period. Big mistake: at christmas, my OH was at home for a fortnight, so we shared childcare during the day, and I wrote at night. This time, at half term, he was at work, so I had all 3 children during the day, and was too shattered to write in the evenings. It will be worth it, and my kids are so proud. Plan, plan, plan.


I got into so much strife during my PhD because I forgot about primary school half term breaks in which I found it impossible to get any work done.


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I have to say, though I am biased, that having children whilst doing a Phd makes the experience less of an ego trip. I love the phders in my department moaning and stressing about the most meaningless tiny details about them and their Phds. Having a child really opens your eyes up to the reality of phd study - both in terms of how lucky we are and also the relative (in)significance of it all.

I'm not advocating everyone gets pregnant by the way!!! (Though I am here if anyone needs any help!! Hope my wife doesn't see this!!)


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I suppose it depends on your subject area how much you have to be in (eg lab) or how active your department is in terms of activities and expectations of teaching, it can vary quite a lot I think. I'm in social sciences so it's very self-directed which is good, I could pretty much be at home 90% of the time if I wanted but then sometimes it's easier to get peace and quiet at the uni but it's miles away so I have to trade the commute against the benefits of less interruptions at home!

I've got two kids - 3 & 5, so one at school and daddy or grandma look after 3 yr old in the week. I'm funded so try to treat it as work. If I do go in the shclep get to my uni means that somedays I miss out on seeing them in the morning, or only just get back for bedtime :( I'm finding it's taking over my life and i do something most evenings, especially as I also have some freelancing work to do on the side.

I found it harder the with DD2 in terms of sleep deprviation / general exhaustion. A bigger gap would mean that your eldest would be at school though. would you be thinking of part time or full time? Babies grow up fast, and I'm glad I was part time workign for most the 3 years for my two but that's just my opinion now justifying the decisions I made years ago. If I got the opportunity for a funded full time Phd 3 or 4 yrs ago I'm sure I'd have jumped at it then as I did when it came up for me last year!

Keep meaning to get up early but need to retrain my body clock - what time do you get up BB?

ETA - there is a good thread on mumsnet up to a few pages now. have a google for it! Some nice helpful people on there I find ;-)


Hi to everyone

I want to thank everyone for taking the time to reply to my post, its being so helpful.

I would have to take on a funded Ph D as they will only give funding if its full-time. I had worked out I could make available around 37 hours per week but I am really thinking about all your comments.

You are all great and any other comments please email me, they are all so helpful to me.

Thanks all


You can certainly apply for funding even if you are p/t. Now rules may be different because it's the university that effectively give the funding to the student. When I applied to the AHRC four years ago, they made clear that they preferred f/t students.
You can take maternity leave, but check the rules with your uni to make sure that they will not calculate this period as f/t working period as they are doing here. Until last year there was no effective deadline for the completion of a PhD in our department - and there were f/t students who were still researching for their PhD after 8 years! Now you have to complete within 60 months (f/t) at the latest, no extension will be granted after this time has elapsed.