Reveiw of “Mama, PhD” Book

I want to thank one of my new PhD colleagues for loaning me this book. I also want to state, for the record, that my BB was right…I needed to be cautious in my reading of this book. Now I know why. This book didn’t really grab me at first. The first writers were really presenting their daily struggles of juggling life and work…not unfamiliar stories, but there seemed to be no reflection upon the ‘how’ and the endpoint…were they happy? I suppose that when I started to question and define my expectations of this book. I found that perhaps it wasn’t wholly what I was looking for.  Here is a book of the embattled lives of mothers (and fathers), not the triumphant stories of hope that really inspire others. I mean, life is full of choices and sacrifices, and only a few of these stories at near the end of the book really address this and affirm women in their choices to either continue in Academia or abandon this pursuit altogether.

Much of the first part of the book read like this: Loving research, needing to meet demands of tenure/tenure track positions, relying on a work or scholarship to fund health insurance and working in male dominated colleges…blah blah blah. It makes me very glad to live in Australia, and be working in the field of education. This book highlights concerns of the American college and academic tradition and how feminism (I read that as equality, choices for both genders) seems to have not been considered in many American Tertiary institutions.

It was the stories near to the end of the book that were what I think I was searching for, the stories of how others have handled this journey, how they have planned and actually lived it, not just to get through to the end but have a quality life throughout.

This has forced me to consider why I didn’t really like the book, and then refocus on what I did like. Here is a list of the ‘positive’ gems I have taken from this book.

* stories about not having time to consider having writers block, and using every available free second to think or write. (Angelica Duran and Tedra Osell both touch on this)
* stories about having many ‘bags carried” (Caroline Grant) (I have a similar story of my own about how I orgainised the various roles I held in addition to part time study and full time work by using a bag and pile system.)
* Stories of competitive mothers juggling everything. I have to say my focus is on a fulfilling journey, not dragging myself through this, if I don’t enjoy the experience then it is time to reconsider the “why” and “how”.
* The idea of learning to say “no” to things that will distract me from my goals. One writer (Jean-Anne Sutherland) developed a mantra that helped her to prioritise her daughter, her own health and her dissertation. Anything that didn’t directly fit required the “no” response. I liked this and have used a similar idea recently when considering which part time work roles I wanted to pursue and trying to balance this with LT’s school.
So, in conclusion, while I found some interesting ideas and projects some of the contributing writers have been involved in, there was still no real guideline of ‘how to’ juggle PhD and family as I had hoped. I think that perhaps my search should move away from traditional books and head back to the internet and PhD blogs to try and find ideas of how it can work. Or perhaps it’s time to have faith in myself, that this is something I really want to work on and that I will find a way to make it work for my family. Perhaps the organising focus of my blog is a focus that is needed out in the real world, not just regaling readers with the frustration but trying to forge a solution.

I have listed below some of the sites and blogs that I am pursuing from the book, more out of a sense of service to ‘the sisterhood’, as there may be something of value to someone out there in the ethers…

* Jennifer Eyre White: http://www.havingthreekids.com
* Jean Kazez: http://www.kazez.blogspot.com
* Megan Pincus Kajitani: www.having-enough.com
* Amy Huddock, Caroline Grant, Elisabeth Rose Gruner, Elrena Evans (and others): http://literarymama.com
* I have to mention Susan Bassow and Dana Campbell, who wrote stories about promoting science through the everyday activities they do with children, I felt a connection with these women.

Do you have a favourite Study/PhD blog? Please share it….I would love to find out more current stories.

Until next time

Fiona

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