It’s strange being a PhD student with a small child.
Semester two has passed us by in a glorious and seemingly never-ending whirlpool of pre-school illness: ear infections, perforated ear drum, scarlet fever and vomiting bug (though I managed to avoid that one myself by taking hand washing to levels previously only observed in OCD sufferers). As I write, my daughter has laryngitis and a serious case of stay-at-home-with-mammy blues. So she’s watching ‘Traein na nDineasár’ (fact: if the cartoon is in Irish it’s educational) and I’m supposed to read for my theoretical framework (fact: reading theory is the most difficult PhD task you could decide to do with a four-year-old). But I’m far more interested in all the red spots appearing on my skin. Which childhood disease could this be?
When I first started the PhD, I felt like I was the only one with a small demanding child at home. And I thought that everyone else was either a) at THE best party EVER, or b) writing their PhD. I’ve since realised that they are only at amazing parties some of the time. Plus they have to spend time recovering from those amazing parties. And I tell myself that they are probably terrible procrastinators, all these party-going students with no children. Of course I know all this because I see their party pictures when I procrastinate on Facebook.
I’ve since found out it’s not how much time you have. But what you do with it. That small children can make you think about your project and ideas in a new and exciting way. That they distract you from your very important PhD in a good way. They get you to focus on more important things. Like how ladybirds fly and why the dinosaurs died. And show you that painting pictures at breakfast time is absolutely the best way to start the day.
Most importantly of all, I’ve met other parents since returning to university. These are the bleary-eyed people who know that the best ice-breaker at a conference dinner is not ‘tell me about your research’ but ‘does she sleep?’, a question which will be followed by much eye-rolling, several outrageous stories, hoots of laughter and maybe, just maybe, one more beer. Because after all, you’re on your holidays.