Posted in Academia

My baby prepared me for a PhD

The seemingly daunting combination of an intense PhD programme and taking care of a baby doesn’t terrify blogger Nadya Karimasari. Instead, having a baby has unintentionally prepared her for her PhD research.

Before the NWO scholarship interview, I practiced several mock-interviews with my husband. One of his main question was how to balance the PhD programme with motherhood. To our surprise, during the “real” interview that question didn’t appear. This simple gesture was quite a telling moment evidently showing that the interviewers did not perceive motherhood as a major hindrance in pursuing a PhD.

Perhaps it has to do with the Netherlands being the best country for children’s well-being, according to UNICEF. Combining a PhD trajectory with motherhood might be more common than I’d thought. My former lecturer at ISS Den Haag, Ben White, who became a dear friend and mentor, mentioned a colleague who was always highly productive and consistently publishing books during her pregnancy and maternity leave.

I similarly feel that having a baby, instead of restricting me, has prepared me for my PhD. Firstly, my time management skills have improved a lot. I have become a morning person, thanks to my son who always wakes up at 6 a.m. or earlier. My husband and I share the responsibility of caring, yet still the time I can allocate exclusively to research is limited. I cannot afford to wallow in endless whirlwind of self-doubt that paralyzes my writing flow. I better be strict and quickly brain-dump (a.k.a. write) my thoughts on paper. Forget about perfection, it could always be revised later.

Secondly, baby-caring is such a humbling experience. My son is always a step ahead. For example, when I finally got the gist of making puree, he was no longer interested. He had by now decided that he preferred to feed himself with finger foods. He made me aware that I need to be constantly open-minded, flexible, and adaptive. Like research, not everything can be planned ahead. I always have to be prepared to improvise.

Thirdly, a PhD could be a stressful experience, but my son has been uncompromisingly reminding me to have regular cuddle time to lower our cortisol levels. It is essential for my endurance, puts things into perspective, it’s restorative and fun. Thank you son, for being a generally happy baby and allowing your mom to make the best of herself.


on-going tensions between ready-made values and uncharted territory

2 thoughts on “My baby prepared me for a PhD

  1. Thank you for writing this. And there is so much love here! I have to admit that sometimes I feel down particularly when I am unable to compete (with time and lack of family obligations) as other single researchers, I can’t imagine doing this without my daughter! TO motherhood and Phds!

    1. High five! Honestly I felt the same at the beginning, but my single friends told me that they wasted their time to watch celebrity gossip and wallowing in “existential crisis”, they said … or other ways of procrastinating. Us, as moms of young kids, cannot afford such things 😀

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