Going Back to Study After a Baby. Why??


I was an OK student, worked hard, but did so to ‘be a good girl’ and jump through hopes. But I have to say the older I get the more appealing the thought of studying is. Learning for the joy of it.

Here Anna, tells all about doing exactly that. Juggling being a mum whilst studying at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama:

  • I was never academic.

  • In fact, I spent the whole of my school career consistently being at the bottom for everything. This made me all the more determined.

  • When I was 30 (late in the Academic game) I did my masters.

  • I’m now 36 and I’ve just started my PhD which will (hopefully!) be looking at Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, transition (when you move from your paediatric doctor to your adult doctor) and whether artistic interventions (specifically Applied Theatre) can help with this process.

  • Doing a PhD is like being so bothered by a problem you just HAVE to do something. I think about it all the time. It’s like a fly buzzing round your head. I try and swat it away, but like a hangry toddler, it just keeps coming back.

  • However, it’s a real slow burner.

  • Don’t expect ANY results fast.

  • In fact, as I’m part-time, I’m on this treadmill for six whole years. SIX.

  • This roughly breaks down to: the first 18 months being about your methodology (how you are going to do what you are going to do) and your literature review (all the other peeps who’ve done what you’re going to do) and you proving that what you are doing is original and new in some way.

  • Yeah. I’m not sure what these things will be either, but I believe the answer is both out there, and within me, somewhere!

  • The next four years being (for me) about practice (doing my research with real participants) and then writing it all up. Wowzers. Even just writing that makes the room tilt.

  • Don’t expect your writing to be good for a very, very long time.

  • Don’t expect any glory.

  • I thought about my research area for a year before I even put pen to paper.It took me another year to write my research proposal (in between weaning, potty training and general mumming).

  • I snatched tiny pockets of time and tried to articulate in the clearest way what it was going to be about.

  • When I finally got accepted to the institution of my dreams I was on cloud nine. I did miss out on any funding though, which has been tough.

  • So, I had a little chat with myself: ‘Hey a WHOLE PERSON came out of you, you can do anything!’

  • I felt like my research area was too important to not think about.

  • I took the spot at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and decided to self-fund anyway. I pay all my fees myself, and this makes me all the more determined to succeed.

  • In fact, my PhD is very inspired by my Mum who suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis. Seeing how she copes with her disease, and the inspirational work of her charity NRAS made me want to combine my own passions (Applied Theatre) with research.

  • The balance is really tough. Crank that guilt factor up to level ten when you add a job on top (don’t even mention seeing mates anymore).

  • PhD research is not just for intellectuals. At first, I had total imposter syndrome. My institution is brilliant and runs a lot of support classes on how to run your research. But I often find myself pretty mute and overwhelmed.

  • What I’ve worked out is that it’s really like running (crawling) a super slow marathon.

  • I work roughly 1 -2 days a week on my PhD plus some additional reading time on top. Sometimes this does get derailed by general life stuff – but that’s ok.

  • Persistence, failure and picking yourself back up again is the name of the game.

  • However hard it is, I’ve already learned so much in my first few months.

  • Reading one to two books a week? Hard, but not impossible. I can feel my brain expanding.

  • Knowing there are a few hours a week JUST FOR ME? Yes please! I love it when my partner says, ‘Mummy is doing her PhD so we’re gonna go out to the park for a few hours now’. That’s support right there.

  • Dishes piling up and a long list of un-finished things in the flat? So what!

  • Support from other women (and men!) in my academic family feels fantastic. I have two brilliant female supervisors who are really inspiring. There are lots of support groups and forums online where people get it. Everyone’s got your back.

  • Making new adult friends you can drink wine with after a really hard lecture = WINNING.

  • The feeling I get when my three-year old tells people ‘My Mummy went to school today’.

  • Further studying is bloody hard. But the pain should one day be outweighed by the results – my PhD is about helping teenagers with arthritis, something I believe passionately about. Hopefully I’ll get there…one day!

**As well as all of the above Anna also curated a poetry anthology: Poems for New Mums read more about it here. **

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1 Comment

  • Reply whatgeorgiedidnext August 3, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    Great piece – feels like no one ever writes about this. I’m just finishing off my Masters with a five year old and the race to complete my dissertation fuelled by the imminent arrival of no 2. I’ve loved the space it’s given me, although I worry I should be earning too ! My fellow students are all recent graduates and I sometimes feel that I shouldn’t be there studying but this list has reinvigorated me – thank you for telling a different type of story from the usual mumpreneur ones !!!

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