I’m a PhD candidate in biology studying the combined effects of climate change and contaminant exposure on amphibian susceptibility to parasites. I’m mom to a 3-year-old and currently pregnant due in September, and I’m passionate about science and about breaking the myth that women can’t start a family during graduate school.
“Balancing home life and academia can be tricky.”
I first got pregnant in the summer leading up to my final year of my undergrad degree. I completed all the lab work needed for my undergrad thesis that summer, since I knew I wouldn’t be around during the winter semester. And I worked through the back pain and exhaustion to complete and defend my thesis two months before my February due date. Once I had passed this hurdle, I started to think about my future. I was worried – I’d never known a mom before who had managed to do an undergrad, let alone grad school, with a new baby.
I reached out to my network of friends and family on social media, to ask if it was truly possible to have both, a family and a career, I was shocked by how many told me I needed to only focus on being a mom, that nothing else mattered, and I needed to set my priorities straight. Luckily, there were also a lot of others who inspired me to push through it and set the example for others.
Shortly after the birth of our daughter, my husband who is in the military got posted 2 hours from any university. This was tricky. I couldn’t return to university so I enrolled in full time online courses when my daughter was just 4 months old, and worked like a crazy woman to finish my undergrad. There was no TV, no social outings, only caring for my baby, and school. They consumed my every moment. I’m lucky I have such a supportive husband who helped me every way he could. But I knew I wanted to get into grad school, and I knew I needed amazing grades if I was going to afford daycare. And so I did.
After my graduation, we were able to move slightly closer to my old university. I started interviewing for graduate school positions. My first interview was horrible. I spent over half the interview defending why I was fully capable of undertaking grad school, even as a mother who commuted, and had a husband in the military who was often away. I left the interview with a bad taste in my mouth, and felt dejected. But that didn’t last more than a few days. Instead I got infuriated. I became determined to prove him wrong. I accepted another position, and was so lucky to be working for another mother who has been incredibly supportive, every step of the way. I’ve just finished the first year of my Master’s, will soon be taking my PhD qualifying exam, have published multiple papers, exceeded all academic expectations. Now I’m pregnant with my second baby and have been met with only support from my peers.
Balancing home life and academia can be tricky. So far I’ve been taking weekends and evenings while my daughter is awake off from work. That time is too important, and I think keeping a healthy work-life balance helps keep me motivated.
My ultimate goal is to help other moms who might need support, advice, or just a friend. We face lots of adversity, and still have to work so hard to be taken seriously. But I don’t think that will last forever. I think that in time, we can educate enough people to help end that stigma. I’m so thrilled to be a part of this community, and to learn from each of you.