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Family life as a doctoral student


hupr
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This has probably been covered here before, but I didn't come across the topic, so I thought I'd post a new one. I was wondering if any of you had any input on married and family life as a doctoral student.

I'm hoping to move to the US to go back to school next year after over a decade abroad. I'm in my early thirties and am recently married. My wife and I would like to start a family, but I'm a bit concerned about the financial constraints. But the financial questions are only the most immediate concerns I have. I also worry about time constraints that can be fine when you're in your 20s but much more difficult to handle when you have important familial responsibilities as well.

Does anyone here have any advice about how to balance time and finances as a father/mother, husband/wife and graduate student?

Edited by humanprovince
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I think a lot of it depends on your adviser/department.

My wife and I have been married for a bit over 4 years, I'm in the 2nd year of my PhD, and she just started hers. I'm not going to say it isn't challenging, but we try really hard to make time to spend together. My boss is fine with me wanting to be home for dinner and spend the evening at home, and he knows I get my work done when I come in. An early schedule helps me a lot, I try to get into the lab around 7-8am (or earlier if I can), and then work til 5 or 6. Lots of time to get work done through the day, and enough time to spend with my family at home- we can usually manage to grab lunch or coffee together throughout the day.

Finances were a bit of a stretch when we were both living on my fellowship, it's a bit easier now that we're both on stipends. I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be having kids yet, though- either timewise or financially- not with both of us in grad school.

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I cannot speak to having children while in graduate school, but I am married and went back to school full-time. I suggest having frank conversations about what life will be like in graduate school, the little money you can hope for, etc. Will your wife work while you are in school? My husband works full-time, which has made the cut in my income a little less dramatic. Also, I try to take a day or two off from graduate school work--usually weekends, because it works with my schedule. I also cook a nice dinner a couple days a week. It separates me from school for a bit, and allows a little more time to spend with my hubs.

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Well, the plan is for my wife to work, but I'm still waiting on offers, so we're not even sure where we'll be next year. (All of that contingent, of course, on my getting accepted somewhere.) She'll have a green card, but English isn't her native language, so work may be a little difficult at first. She's an Arabic-language journalist, though, so I think that there's a fair amount of demand these days for Middle Eastern expertise and linguistic abilities. In any case, I'm hoping that she'll do ok on the job front.

I worry, tough, about staring a family. We won't have the family network we have here in the Middle East or the state-run safety net that's offered in Europe. Specifically, I wonder about the price of day care, since there's no way I can support three people on a fellowship. Is there such a thing as university daycares? What do most grad students with babies or pre-school age kids do?

Also, I'd be curious to hear about friction that comes when your spouse or partner isn't in the same academic world that you are. I've heard of marital problems that stem from the "you're always in your books" gripe that seems inevitable since graduate work may not look like actual work from the outside.

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I'm completing my second master's degree (and waiting to hear back about doctoral program applications). I also have a six-year-old and a four-year-old. I've only known grad school as a mother---because I haven't had the experience without children, it's a bit difficult to imagine otherwise. Financially, I would never be able to pull it off if my husband didn't work three jobs like he does. He's entirely supportive, but we both often feel a bit burnt out. We aren't near family, however we have found a wonderful community of friends that have become more supportive of us than any of our families would be if they were nearby. Daycare is a major issue--during my first master's degree, I absolutely could not get a spot for our daughter anywhere--not full time or part-time. We were on a waiting list for two years--and when she finally turned 3, we had options. Because of the childcare issue, I had to pursue my first program part-time and missed out on a lot of opportunities. Your location and the program you are in can make all the difference. The director of my first program was in no way supportive of student parents--however, my current program is incredibly wonderful and understanding.

While that was frustrating, I did notice a difference between myself and my colleagues in school. The academic pressure did not affect me as intensely--when it came down to the end of the day, I was responsible for keeping two little people alive....the deadlines, the politics, etc. were just not as important.

Regarding university daycares--many of them are used as research labs for the university. When they are, they are careful to encourage a student body that is diverse (financially and culturally)--not all graduate students can automatically enroll their children. They often use an application process to determine which children will be invited to attend the university daycare program.

That being said, there are numerous "families" in graduate school--and they all find a way to make it work. =)

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I have a family (a wife and two young boys, 4 and 3) and I plan on trying to do what Eigen does. Get in to the library as early as possible in order to put in a full 8-10 hours during the week but still be home at a reasonable hour to spend some quality time with the family. It sounds good in practice, but I just hope that I'll be able to make it work in reality,

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All I can say is that it's tough. I have one child, but the hours dedicated to attending classes, TAing, grading, studying, and writing papers left little time for my family. I feel like I've missed out on a lot. However, my husband has been more than supportive and really stepped up to the plate with things at home. For that I am truly grateful. Since you don't have kids already, perhaps you should wait and see how things go within the first year or two. A collicky baby and coursework don't go well together, nor does a sick toddler and preparing for comps. I'm not saying to choose one over the other, but gauge the stress level in that first year or two to get a feel for that added element in your life.

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I am a single mother of two little boys (almost 2 and almost 6.) My situation is not really comparable to anybody else in this thread thus far since I'm the only breadwinner and parental figure in my kids lives. Frankly, I don't know how I'm doing this although I can say that thus far grad school as a single parent has been easier than my undergrad. I am broke all the time though but I'm accustomed to living well below the poverty level so I make due with my fellowship which by comparison is pretty good. My daycare bill is enormous. I spend more than 60% of my stipend annually on daycare so that's an issue. Look into programs and on campus facilities when you start thinking about starting a family. My school offers nothing but I didn't do the background research that in retrospect should have been done.

What are ya gonna do? My kids don't want for necessities and get an occasional a few extravagances and I can afford fancy coffee a couple times a week so I'm happy...

Time management is key. I expect to spend evenings and weekends with the kids for the most part and pool $ for babysitters when I cannot avoid a weekend or evening study session. Sometimes I work on a couple hours of sleep or less. When all is said and done I'll have two healthy kiddos and a substantially-more-marketable me. You will learn how to make things work and if you have a supportive partner you will be just fine!

I agree with XOwlfan, I do not seem to suffer the same degree of stress as the students without kids in my dept. My officemate and his wife have 3 little ones. He does not seem as stressed either. After the insane stress of my BS I am shocked by how different my knee jerk responses feel under pressure now. So bottom line, if you want to do both family and academia, you'll likely make it work. I've known plenty of people who have juggled everything very successfully.

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I've got a lot of respect for single parents who can manage school. That's really impressive. The daycare thing seems like a big drain, so I've started doing some research on the question, and some schools seem to have deals with local daycares in which students and faculty get a discounted rate. That sounds like a decent perk to me. I think some of the bigger schools may have daycares of their own, but that's just a hunch...

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Our university has a daycare, but don't be too reliant on them- or start planning really early. It took my boss 2 semesters of waiting to get his son into the daycare- both he and his wife are TT- and they were having to drive half an hour to an hour morning and evening to the nearest daycare with an opening. Much easier now that they got him in the university daycare, but something to keep in mind.

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