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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi! I am not sure what I am looking for…maybe support, advice, wise words from mamas who have been there. I have some internal conflict/guilt going on and no one IRL seems to understand. I have a 16 day old DD that I am currently at home with for the next month and a half.

A little background…I am currently in an engineering PhD program. I am 2 years into the program and have not started my research yet (and I have 3 more classes to take, plus my comprehensive and oral exams to complete). DH and I may have to move at the end of next year, so I may have to cut it down to a Masters degree.

During the school year, I am required to work (work not related to my research or classes) at least 10 hours and 40 hours during summer and winter break. For this I get my tuition paid plus about $1200/month. So this fall, DD would have to be in daycare for about 5-6 hours one day and 3-4 hours another day, plus some other days as needed. I am not sure about the spring yet, but next summer I would have to do my research project. I know this is not long, but I feel a lot of guilt about it. I do NOT want her to go to daycare! It would be the hourly care on the military base where DH works, so he could spend lunch with her, and it is only $3.50/hr so cost is not an issue. We went to visit the center and while it is safe, clean, and well-respected. They do kind of feed them crap, but I won't have to worry about that for 8 months. But the caregiver:child ratio can get as high as 1:4. I left feeling very depressed. I would not mind if it was my mom or MIL doing the care as I know she would be cuddled and loved the whole time. Being an AP parent is coming very naturally to me… I love holding her, slinging her, sleeping next to her, breastfeeding her, cloth diapering her. A job is so far from my list of wants right now.

I do have some options. I could continue with the PhD program and try my best to finish. I could just go for a Masters and I would not have to take any classes or exams and my project would be a lot smaller. Or I could finish a non-thesis masters and give up my stipend and I would not have to do much more at all. Giving up the salary would be hard on us, but if we cut back on some things and sold one car we could do it.

Anyway, if anyone got through this whole post congratulations! Sorry to ramble, but I needed to get my thoughts out and maybe get some perspective.
 

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Hard decision! Especially when she is still only a couple of weeks old, and it's impossible to imagine all of that stuff.

You may want to check out the working mums' forum - there's usually lots of great ideas there!

A couple of thoughts: What does finishing or working towards finishing the Phd mean to you? Does it get you closer to what you want to do long-term, or carry much more interest to you than a Master's, or is it more that you started it, so you want to finish it? (I dropped down from a Phd to a Master's, so maybe I have a vested interest in suggesting people periodically re-examine whether they want to bother finishing
). If you think you might want to do more academic work again in the future, dropping to a non-thesis master's might be a bad idea. On the other hand, if you can do what you want to do afterwards with the non-thesis, and be more or less done already, AND you've decided the stipend isn't worth it, that may be an option. The stipend and paid tuition sound nice, though.

With the daycare, is that for sure the only option? You may also want to check home-based care. If you ended up doing the thesis-based Master's you probably wouldn't need so much care. Could you even work on your project more when your dh is available to take over care?
 

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I would look into other dcp's, if possible. Both my kids have been in dc part of their lives and I know from experience that there is a HUGE difference from one center to another and from one home to another. Some places gave me the creeps, some places just made me sad, and some places (like the one DS2 is in now) just felt very welcoming and warm from the beginning.
I hear a lot of moms (on this board and IRL) say things like "I'm so against daycare" or "daycare is bad" - but I think daycare is like any other service we buy - it pays to shop around.

As with any professional - doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc - there are going to be those individuals who love their work and put their whole heart into what they do and some who are just there to get a paycheck. Daycare providers are no different. Some of them are doing it because they love children and want to be a nurturing influence in children's lives and some are just doing it because it doesn't require a lot of schooling and the hours are regular
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If finishing your PhD is important to you, then I'd keep looking until I found a loving dcp, even if it's not on base. What about your university? Do they have onsite care you could check out?
 

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I have no advice on the situation other than to say that military family child care providers are awesome - if I do say so myself
The ratio allowable is 1:6 kids but only 2 under the age of 2. Often there are providers who just love babies so only take 2 under the age of 1 no other children. Or folks like me who just wanted the kids around for easy socialization (though I took babies occasionally because they are so precious) - either way I never had more than 4 kids. PLUS the military has a thorough application process/and monthly inspection process that I feel confident in the safety of providers. Of course you would still have to find one you were comfortable with but definitely wanted to put in a plug for military FCCs!
 

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I have also heard good things about military child care.

Also, for a toddler at least, a 1:4 ratio is REALLY good compared to what you'll find elsewhere. Most places I've seen have a 1:6 or even higher ratio--not kidding.

Is there a day care available for grad students? Or, do you know any other grad students with kids, or is there any kind of grad student parent network? Forming a child care co-op with a couple of other people, or doing a babysitting trade, can be a fantastic way to get really fantastic (and free!) child care. (Or close to free--when there are more than 3 kids parents usually hire a nanny to help, and split the cost). The way it works is (for instance) all the kids come to your house on Monday, then they go to Parent #2's house Tuesday, and #3 on Wednesday. Very flexible and you really get to know the other parents.

The problem with day care is that you rarely get to know the providers or the other parents, and my experience has been that you just don't know what happens when you're not there. With friends/colleagues this can be very different.

You also might consider a nanny share with someone else--depends on if the nanny wants to do it, but your kids can get much more focused attention and you would only have to pay half of what you'd normally do.

Having a baby can be isolating, esp. in a PhD program, so it would be great if you could find other parents like yourself. Hang in there, you will figure it out! Do you have the support/understanding of your advisor?

(And if you really want to finish your PhD, then do it. It might take you a couple of years longer, espeically if you haven't taken your exams, but--think about the long-term consequences of taking the master's. We need more women engineers, esp. at the higher levels.)

One other thing-- have you considered taking a leave of absence from your program for 6 months or a year, or going part-time? The PhD students I know who took no time off when they had babies were basically utterly and absolutely exhausted and *extremely* stressed out. You can expect to get around 5-6 hours of sleep a night for the next 2 years. I took a semester off, and then went part-time 2 semesters after that--and I am actually only a few months behind a freind of mine who took NO time off. (and she had a full-time nanny) If you are on a military schedule this may not be an option, but if it is--look into it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you for all the replies! I am starting to feel better already. Finishing a PhD is not of utmost important to me, but I hate throwing out an opportunity like this. I do not want to stay in academia, so I would definitely be okay with just a Masters. I wish I could just take my time, but it is very likely that we will have to move in Nov 2007 and I will need to be done with research and classes by then (writing and defending will not have to be done though). Otherwise I would definitely take more time off. I do have a VERY understanding advisor. He is still paying me this summer to do some things from home even though I can't come in. He also doesn't micro-manage, so as long as I get what I need to do done and am there for meetings, etc, he is happy. I do think he would be disappointed if I don't complete the PhD though.

My university unfortunately does not have daycare for babies, just kids 3 and over. I think we will check out the military FCC's. I also know two dads in my program with babies and one post-doc mama, so the babysitting-share thing may also be an option with them, thanks for the ideas! I'm also going to go to some LLL meetings here so possibly I may meet other mamas in my situation, who knows?

When she is older and eating solids, I would really like to either provide her food or find someone with similar eating habits (ie not giving babies juice, cereal, hydrogenated oils, etc). I don't think most daycares will do this unless there is a doctor's note.
 

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Is it possible to look for students on campus who'd be willing to do in-home care? That's what alot of my friends who were grad students did/do. They advertise through the university job-board. You'd need to do interviews and check references, but everyone I know who's done this has been thrilled with the results.

Dh and I were doctoral students in music when we had our little bean, and we ultimately decided to leave without finishing. In our field (music), things were changing so much and the future jobs paying sooooo little that we couldn't see putting ourselves and baby through that and accruing even more debt just to get jobs where we still couldn't pay our bills!
: I'm actually fine about the fact that I didn't finish (most of the time), just upset that accademia tends to be so un-family-friendly. At least at the bigger schools...I was teaching adjunct at a small state school when ds was born. Granted, I was teaching one-on-one flute lessons, but I brought ds with me and carried him in the sling. The only times he got fussy were when someone was playing particularly badly!


Kristen
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Charles Baudelaire
Simple way to figure this out.

What's most important to you? Career or child?

Do that.
I didn't get the impression that those were the choices the original poster was weighing. She has a whole bunch of options, on a continuum. Various options to finish her graduate work, spend time with her baby, utilize others in her community as caregivers, etc etc. The trick is to find the spot where, for you, things feel balanced.

For the PhD, I get that you like your supervisor, that he'd be disappointed, and that you don't want to waste "the opportunity." However, you don't want to work in academia after. If it's really just a matter of feeling like you "should" do it, and that someone else (who's not you, your spouse, or your child) will be disappointed if you don't, well, that's probably not a good enough reason. Unless there's more there that I'm missing? The thesis master's may be a good option - you're still getting a sense of accomplishment, it looks better for future job prospects I would guess, and so on. I know that when I continued on with school after having my daughter, I also enjoyed having classes a couple of times a week, where I could just think about interesting things and be a student for a while!
 

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To Charles B: What if both career and child are important to you? Would you ask a father that question?

To the OP: If you aren't interested in an academic career, or in work that requires a PhD, then there would seem to be little reason to continue after the master's. I would still get the master's, though, because you will need it if you ever want to work in the field, and the master's will usually automatically put you into a higher income category if you end up doing some other kind of work.

If you do most of your work in the evenings and on weekends when your husband can care for the baby, you might be able to get by with very little babysitting/child care. When my son was 6 months old I went back part-time into my PhD program, and had a wonderful student babysitter twice a week for 4 hours each time. This was just enough to keep me squeaking by (it helped that my son wanted to go to sleep at about 6:30 pm!).

"Child care" does not have to mean 40 hours a week. You can often get by with much less, especially on a flexible grad student schedule. You might have to go a while without a whole lot of interaction with your spouse, but if he can understand that this is for the long-term good of your whole family hopefully he will be OK. But you will have to be firm about taking the time you need in the evenings/weekends to finish your coursework, and be very efficient.

A friend of mind finished her PhD in botany during her baby's naps and on evenings & weekends when her husband came home. She was ABD, though, when she had her baby, and her research was basically complete, which made it a lot easier--she just had to write it up. They are totally committed attachment parents.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by fuller2
The problem with day care is that you rarely get to know the providers or the other parents, and my experience has been that you just don't know what happens when you're not there.
If you don't get to know providers or the other parents that's your own fault. My experience has been that I talk to them every morning at drop off and my husband talks to them every night at pick up. We are also lucky that many of them live in our neighbourhood so we run into them at the park, shopping, at the dentist. And the parents we see at birthday parties, at the playground, and on play dates.

As a previous poster said, there are bad day cares out there but don't lump them all together because there are great day cares available. You just have to get out and visit them and if you don't feel good about one, keep looking.

I'd also like to put a plug in for not worrying so much. I know this is SO hard but you have this precious time with your newborn, enjoy it! Sometimes if you step back and let things slide a little the answer will float to the surface.

Go have a nap with your baby,

Liz
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks guys!
DH is going to try to arrange his schedule so he goes in early and gets off early on the days I need to be at school. Hopefully they will work with him a little. He gets off between 3 and 4 already, and I don't need to be into school until 11 one day and 12 another.
I don't have to decide about the PhD right now. We find out in Nov where we are going to live at the end of next year, so I think I will wait until then to make any real decisions.
Liz, DH tells me I need to stop worrying too, so I think you guys are right!

**Oh, the beating-a-dead-horse WOHM vs SAHM debate really doesn't apply here so I'm not going to address any of those types of posts.
 
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