As we have already shown in our articles, the doctorate is quite a challenging undertaking. Constant self-motivation and a structured approach are required. And if you’re also planning to have a child, you may find yourself with double or triple the workload. Our ten tips reveal how a doctorate with a child can work.
- Tip #1: Get a realistic picture.
Small children sleep a lot and in between grandma and grandpa come over and take care of them, so you can use the time and work diligently on your dissertation. Experience shows that this usually doesn’t work. Therefore, say goodbye to this illusion right away. Especially for conceptual work or analysis phase you need several hours of concentration, short sleep phases of the children are not enough. Before you can work productively, I have to get into the topic myself. Sleep breaks are sufficient at most to clarify a few organizational things.
- Tip #2: Involve the family.
As several studies show, the main burden of childcare still lies with women. As a rule, they take on the majority of family and educational tasks. Accordingly, the double burden is great for women when they want and have to juggle a doctorate and family.
But the effort can be shared. The partner should provide free space and the rest of the family should also be involved. If you explain the initial situation early on and ask for help, you can plan fixed working hours together, such as every Saturday.
- Tip #3: Accept that things will be slower.
It’s important for your own satisfaction to strike a balance between your own goals and work results. As a mother or father, you quickly have a guilty conscience towards your child, because you should actually be there 100 percent for the little one or the little one. On the other hand, you try to meet your own demands and not to lead your professional career into a dead end. The result is often excessive demands and the resulting dissatisfaction.
It can help if you consciously and self-confidently take smaller steps first and thus stay on the ball. You should not lose sight of yourself and your inner voice. This way you can find a balance between family and professional goals.
- Tip #4: Planning is the be-all and end-all.
All parents face the same questions: How are working hours and attendance requirements regulated? What does my doctoral supervisor or doctoral mother place special emphasis on? Do important meetings take place outside of kindergarten hours? Can a sick child come to the office with me as an exception? How will a request for parental leave be handled? You can clarify these questions early on and create a common understanding for everyone involved. This will make it easier to coordinate support from grandparents, family or daycare centers.
- Tip #5: Enlist support from universities.
It turns out that about half of the parents surveyed are generally satisfied with the compatibility of science and family. This is mainly due to the fact that many research institutions and universities have already set up daycare centers with places reserved specifically for students and employees. These childcare facilities can help to reconcile doctoral studies and family life. However, it is advisable to make an application to the daycare center early on.
- Tip #6: Seek advice.
In addition, equal opportunity officers and student councils (e.g. AStA) at universities offer advice for parents doing their doctorate. They provide tips and assistance for financial, organizational and social issues: Child benefit, parental allowance, parental leave or semesters off, maintenance, planning for the future, child allowances. You will also find a contact person here for personal questions.
- Tip #7: Clearly define requirements.
She/he has a child, you can’t expect much. – Even if this statement doesn’t correspond to reality and even colleagues don’t say it that way, what goes on in your own head is another story. There is no need to apologize for family planning. It helps to inform the doctoral supervisor or the doctoral mother at an early stage and to continuously clarify the concrete requirements for the doctoral thesis. In this way, one’s own dissertation does not become a perfectionist act, but a pragmatic undertaking. Often the demands on oneself are much higher than necessary. Before you get lost, it is better to remain in continuous exchange.
- Tip #8: Establish fixed routines.
Once you have the support of your family, university and partner, you need to find a suitable writing routine. Fixed days and times help to motivate oneself and to coordinate the network of support. In addition to fixed work phases, it also helps to introduce fixed family phases. For example, every fourth Sunday could become a family day. With outings, you get a clear head and at the same time you can thank the family for their support. The fixed structure also helps to balance promotion and family and to increase one’s own well-being.
- Tip #9: It’s doable and not out of the ordinary.
PhD students with children are not a marginalized group or an exceptional case. More than half of all doctoral students over the age of 30 have children. In this respect, doing a doctorate with a child is everyday life for universities and supervisors. You can draw on a wealth of experience and numerous success stories.
- Tip #10: Rest periods are okay.
Planning is important and right, but life cannot be planned through. Sometimes children are sick, you are sick or you are so busy that nothing works. That’s okay. Allow yourself conscious periods of rest. If you enjoy them, you’ll be able to get back into the double workload with motivation. There’s no point in forcing yourself to work with a guilty conscience after a hard day or week. For good results, the mind must also be fresh and willing.