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Taking break while pursuing PhD

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Joined: 10 Nov 2009
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Taking break while pursuing PhD [#permalink] New post 10 Nov 2009, 00:47
Hi Everybody,
I am an aspiring Phd student. Have given my exams and ready to begin the application process. Let me give my background - am an Indian, married and in my early 30s. I want to be sure of certain things before I start my Phd. My concern is that if I begin my studies in 2010, education is for 4-5 years and I will be 35+ when I complete. By then, I might be a little late for a baby. So want to know if I will be permitted to take few months break for pregnancy in between my studies probably after a year or two of commencing my studies. If that is not feasible, then I would rather consider having a baby and then pursue my studies after 2/3 years. This is a practical hindrance in pursuing my studies - want to have advice of seniors here. Please help me decide.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Taking break while pursuing PhD [#permalink] New post 10 Nov 2009, 16:11
Let me first say that in my opinion it is a bad idea to plan family matters (as important as having a baby) based on outside career conventions and constraints. I know this is very common in the US, but I believe it is a flawed practice. You should have your baby when you feel ready for it, and you can usually arrange the rest around it.

I strongly believe in the above as a general strategy. However, some short term tactics can help. First, having a baby will change everything in your life. doing it before you start your studies might change your determination to start such a demanding path.
Second, having a baby after your qualifying exams (usually the end of year 2), may be even a good idea, and many schools will agree for a short leave, or even be flexible enough to "take your time" in your dissertation process (watch, though, for the stipend issues). Many schools are now moving towards more family friendly policies, so that you can officially get some time off or other kinds of support.
I've known many PhD students who have successfully coped with a PhD program while raising babies, but I've also seen people that failed and withdrew.

a PhD program is very demanding. Raising a baby is even more (and more fun, as well).

Good Luck.
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Re: Taking break while pursuing PhD [#permalink] New post 11 Nov 2009, 12:03
I agree with everything swint said above. My wife got pregnant during my 1st year in a PhD program and the baby was about 6 months old when I wrote my comprehensive exams. Not the greatest idea -- in retrospect I should probably have waited one more year before committing to having a baby, but again that wasn't so bad. Our youngest son was born while I was ABD (all but dissertation, all coursework done but doing research), and that went much better -- I was able to take all the time off that I needed, work later at night, and so on. A few of my female friends in PhD programs have done the same as well.

Having a kid changes everything indeed, and I'm not sure I would advise you on undertaking PhD studies with a child who is less than 18 months old, unless you have a lot of support and will be able to fully concentrate on your studies (not just during the day, but many evenings and some weekends as well). The first few semesters of coursework are very time-intensive.

Most schools will not let you officially take time off, especially before the qualifiers, but after the exams, the very fact that you build your own schedule for the most part should make it easier to have a kid, especially if you are a female and may need all the rest you can.
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Re: Taking break while pursuing PhD [#permalink] New post 23 Nov 2009, 18:13
You may find this post useful.

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Re: Taking break while pursuing PhD [#permalink] New post 18 Dec 2009, 08:25
tkkoh wrote:
You may find this post useful.

Great link!

Although I don't have experience yet with PhD, I'll throw in the experience I do have as it might help.
This will be (hopefully I'll get in) my third time in the university with kids. I was pregnant at the age of 17 when I finished high school and started pursuing my BSc in Business Administration. When I started my MSc in Organizational Psychology my middle one was two years old. A better age but he was still breastfed and only started sleeping through the night at the age of 3, so it took a toll on me. Now my youngest will be one year old when I (again, hopefully) start my PhD and I'm confident it can work out fine. Overall, I believe it's doable.

The best advice I can pass on if you decide to juggle kids and school is to watch out for the "since", it's your worst enemy. Specially if your spouse works full time. Since you don't have class today, since you've got flex hours, since you can work on that paper later might end up with an overload of house and family errands (all of which get significantly more time consuming with kids). School = work and will probably be as demanding, if not even much more demanding, than a full time job. Don't let a flex schedule give you the illusion that you can be responsible for more than your share of house and family chores. Your research or your sanity (or both) will suffer.

I did way more pick-up and drop-offs, groceries, kid's doctors than I should at the beginning of my MSc, and ended up doing 14 hour days non-stop (not even to eat) to finish my thesis. All of which could have been easily avoided hadn't I not fallen for the illusion stated above. I can only imagine the risks in a PhD pursuit being even higher.

Whatever you decide: good luck!

"From a situation in which everyone writes, few people read, and even fewer think, only chaos can result." ROBERT SOMMER

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Re: Taking break while pursuing PhD [#permalink] New post 28 Jun 2010, 19:08
I know I'm late to this thread, but for what it's worth, a female PhD student in my program essentially took a year off to have her child. I think she was ABD, but I'm not 100% sure, as it was before my time.
Re: Taking break while pursuing PhD   [#permalink] 28 Jun 2010, 19:08
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