Having baby during PhD?

Hello everybody,

I would like to open a discusion about the idea having baby during PhD.

I am slowly finishing first year of PhD but we have US system with rotations. So I am actually starting my project now. I am 26 years old and I have always wanted a kids but science came into my life quite unexpectedly and now I realize that it will not be easy. While my partner is very supportive (and is willing to go to maternity leave, we could also live in an apartments at campus etc.) I found out that in academia world this is a bit “forbidden” topic. Kind of “there can be nothing more important in your life that your project” and how dare you etc. And I do understand it… in my case there would be nobody else who could continue in my work (in case I wouldn’t be able to work), I am aware of responsibility and I am grateful for the possibilty doing my PhD! But I dont want to dedicate next few years doing PhD and then to have problems to concieve. Many people told me that it is still possible to start your family when you are like 32 or 35 years old but this is simply not what I want (from many reasons). I actualy met one professor who has her first child at the age of 40(!) and this is for me absolutely insane.
So I just probably wanted to ask what are your thoughts about this and idealy I would like to find somebody who have an experience of having baby during PhD. Since I am just starting, I dont know what I am really going into (obviously, I have also no experience of having kids) but I believe that there is a way how to do it and I want to find it.

Bit of my background:
1.I am experimentalist, specifically I do molecular biology so I wouldnt be able to use certain instruments or chemicals which would be quite limiting.
2. Money would not be such a big deal. Meaning that I get nice salary and I manage to save most of it… not that I am from rich family or something like this. I just wanted to say that I dont live like a student but I am considered full-time employee.
3. As I mentioned, my partner is willing to stay home and even to move to campus so I could go to the lab as much as possible.
4. I am not planning to have baby now but more to the end of my PhD.

Have a nice day :slight_smile:

@Tereza full disclosure about my background before anything: I don’t have children, I recently dropped out from a Management Ph.D. program and I will apply for more programs at the end of this year. This means, that what I am going to say here is more from what I heard from others’ remarks, they come from a different field than yours (no risk of chemicals exposure), and there is this possibility I have little real Ph.D. experience to share. But here it goes:

When I was in the Management program aforementioned, as a way to show it is possible to have a life during a Ph.D. program the program coordinator mentioned more than once that she got pregnant when she was a student right after her comprehensive exam. From the little I know about Ph.D. programs, at least in the US, this seems doable because you would not have the pressure to read 20 papers per week for classes and no essays or papers to write on a small semester deadline. And I am assuming that while working on your thesis you would be able to manage your schedule to balance between your child and your reading responsibilities. Is taking a leave of absence an option for you? I know this might be seen as heresy in some programs with toxic cultures but maybe that might be an option after your comprehensive exam so you can adapt to the routine and then get back to the program.

Talking with a student from one of the programs I am applying to at the end of the year, she had two children when she started the program. Even though assuming the different levels of responsibilities due to different ages, she was very adamant saying she made sure of having 7 hours of sleep every day, being with them in the morning before sending them to school, and at night to put them to sleep. She was able to do that because her partner was incredibly supportive in taking charge of everything else.

What I want to tell you is that, even though not having myself that experience, I believe it is very possible to have a kid during the Ph.D. I believe it is a matter of timing and having a supportive network. Of course that having a supportive faculty helps a lot but I don’t know about how is your faculty about that. I would suggest taking with the senior students in your program and asking about how is their workload after the comprehensive exam and if they believe it is possible to get pregnant during the program. :blush: