The last eight months of my life have been one transition after the other. Here are the most notable highlights:
- I had a baby! It was a long time coming. Transitioning to parenthood has been intense.
- Two months postpartum I cleaned up my dissertation proposal, defended it, and became ABD.
- Two weeks after that, we moved to the D.C.
- Two months after finding a place and settling in, I’ve been trying to establish a writing routine for my first chapter.
- Now I’m teaching an online course “Multiculturalism in Hawai‘i,” ironically not while I’m in Hawai‘i.
During these transitions–some more momentous than others–it’s become glaringly clear that life doesn’t stop for grad school…and it shouldn’t. But this brings up issues of privilege again, especially gendered ones.
Grad life isn’t family friendly.
I’ve brought up issues about institutional family support before. This problem is even more pronounced in grad school with no economic protections, job security, benefits, social security, or even moral support for being a parent. To holistically thrive as a grad student, you need to be wealthy enough, ideally young or old enough (outside of childbearing age if you’re a woman), and emotionally tough as nails to endure. (Notice I didn’t even mention, “smart enough.”)
Relatively speaking, I have a lot going for me. My partner supports my PhD endeavors but it definitely places stress on our household finances, and inevitably our relationship. My dissertation committee members (and classmates) are quite supportive of my being a new mom. My committee members were some of the first to know that I was pregnant. They also commiserate about the academic “system” with me. Although tangible changes from their efforts are slow (not their faults), they’re trying, which is morally uplifting.
Despite the privileges that enable my grad school life, having this little human so overwhelmingly dependent on me for his survival exacerbate the aforementioned issues that make PhDing impossible for the vast majority of the population.
For now, I’ll keep forging ahead…