IMG_1371By Sarah Hudson
Ph.D. candidate, Department of Biology, University of New Brunswick

“Have kids while you’re in grad school…I did it, it was great!” The advice came from a well-respected, friendly professor in my department. I was 23, single, and in the second year of a master’s degree in science.

In many ways, the advice was good. There are jolly reasons to have your kids while still in grad school. It can be tricky to envision jumping into parenthood at the beginning of a degree, when you likely have commitments to taking classes, teaching, delving into your own research, and possibly doing fieldwork. However, in many graduate programs you can at some point be flexible with your work schedule, and parenting-friendly arrangements can be made. I have fellow-grad student friends who found time to get their theses written between their kids’ naps, after they had gone to bed at night or with the help of a sitter to entertain their kids while they wrote from home. Others travelled as a family doing fieldwork in remote locations. These friends managed to juggle the responsibility of graduate school and parenting, in order to get both jobs done.

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binderBy Chantal Richard
Department of French, University of New Brunswick

It appears I’ve reached new heights in multi-tasking. There are laws that prohibit talking on your cell phone while driving, but as far as I know there’s no law against talking into a micro-recorder. So here I am today, driving to Halifax for a conference and I’ve got five hours ahead of me so I figured I’d dictate this blog. Multi-tasking is, of course, something we’ve all learned to do, especially those of us who have kids.

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428666_322502631130066_1033469884_nBy Alison Toron
PhD, English, University of New Brunswick
Co-owner and co-operator of Nashwaak Noodles, Currieburg, New Brunswick

Among my closest friends, I am affectionately known as Dr. Noodle. This nickname represents the complicated tension that exists between my academic credentials and my employment situation: I successfully defended my PhD in Canadian literature in 2011, and I am currently self-employed as the co-owner and operator of a small business making and distributing fresh pasta. (I am also a new mom and a combatant with the MCAT, but more on that later.) My absence from academia is equal parts personal choice and the product of a dismal job market that offers so few full-time permanent academic positions that it’s almost laughable. My personal narrative of earning an advanced degree and then making a living that has little to do with said degree has led me to consider what it means to “use” one’s PhD, and more broadly, what this discourse reveals about our attitudes toward the general value of a graduate education.

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My friends over at Hook & Eye posted today about dreaming communities of care in the academy. What a wonderful thought. I love it. And I have to say that I have experienced the generosity that they speak of here more often than I have not in my academic life. I try to pay it forward as much as I can, but I am also someone who is imperfectly generous and who can have difficulty setting boundaries on such things at times. I imagine most of us struggle with this.

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IMG_4576This is a sketch I doodled of myself during a recent academic event. I drew a lot when I was a kid. I never do it anymore (you might see why after looking at this). But this represents how I felt while listening to someone smart talk while at the same time I was thinking about whether or not my kid was asleep. Yes, I have entered into that strange zone that so many professional mamas before me have experienced and expressed, of trying to divide yourself in half and on being amazing at two very hard things. One friend described clipping her newborn’s fingernails as being harder than writing a dissertation and a first book combined. Another claimed that she was constantly searching for words postpartum that just would not come to mind, to the point that she referred to a paddle as a canoe-stick. I really (REALLY) hate the term “mommy-brain,” so I will forever describe what I’m experiencing instead as canoe-stick brain. It seems to make more sense anyway.

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