Researching with Challenges: Parenting (Part I)

This week at Thesislink we are talking about some of the non-academic challenges that postgrad students can face during their degrees. Check back here each day for discussions on dealing with parenting responsibilities, financial stress, illness & disability, and disruptions at home.

Pursuing a research degree sometimes feels like one of the hardest things a human can do. It can demand every milligram of your energy, brainpower, and perseverance. Just like parenting.

We know there are lots of you out there who are doing research and parenting at the same time. Tomorrow we’ll post a story about one of those students and how she copes with the demands of postgraduate study while raising a child.

But for now, read on to find a toolbox of resources at AUT that are super handy for parents. We’ve also found some blogs and other international resources that might be useful for parents who do research.

Resources at AUT

Subsidised childcare

Full-time AUT students can apply for a childcare subsidy of up to $50 per dependent child, per week, paid directly to your childcare centre. Applications have closed for 2015 but you can put your application in for 2016 by emailing Check here for more details.

Childcare centres

If you’re based on the City or North Shore campuses and your children are aged 6 months to 5 years, there are childcare centres on campus that might be right for you. The City childcare centre has vacancies for 12-18 month-olds right now; contact the admin officer Ra Forsyth at to find out more.

Childcare at the City campus

Breastfeeding spaces

If you would like to breastfeed in private, you can find dedicated breastfeeding spaces on the City campus in WT106, and on the North Shore campus in AE102F.

Writing retreats

Writing retreats provide a free quiet stay at a residential retreat with absolutely no laundry to do, meals to cook, or toys on the floor. Many faculties run writing retreats, and the University Postgraduate Centre hosts several each year (including some specifically for Masters students). Search “writing retreat” in the Researcher Development online tool to find details of upcoming retreats.

Distance / online services

When your children are young, or home for school holidays / with winter colds, it’s not always feasible to get on campus. The good news is that you can access many University services online. Download your postgrad forms from your living room. Take StudySmart postgraduate courses as webinars. Learn the principles of statistics via online videos. Live chat with a librarian about your literature searching needs.

If you regularly move your workspace between home and campus, you might like to use Dropbox so that you can access all your files from wherever you are.

Free counselling

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, make an appointment with a counsellor. You can access free and confidential counselling either online or face-to-face at the Health, Counselling and Wellbeing Centres on each campus.


Read the stories of people who’ve researched with kids:

  • Tanya Golash-Boza, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, writes here about her experience of having three children while getting her MA and PhD.
  • Maranda Miller blogs about being a single mum and a PhD student here.
  • The Thesis Whisperer has tips for parents here. My favourite: don’t feel guilty if you occasionally use the TV (aka “the electronic babysitter”) to carve out some kid-free writing time.
  • Matt Duval is currently working on his PhD while juggling childcare responsibilities for his very young children. He writes here about scheduling reading time and being strict with the word “no.”
  • Andrea Zellner, a PhD student and single mum, gives her words of wisdom here – top tip: “when I fail (and I do fail often), my kids just don’t care. And that is a huge gift.”
  • Amanda Murdie, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri, gives her tips for researching with kids here. She has lots of great advice, including being realistic about the unexpected ups and downs of having a new baby (“My second baby had colic during my MA comps.  It was a type of hell I wouldn’t wish on “Reviewer 2,” no matter how bad he/she misread my paper.”)
  • Check out the book Papa, PhD for real stories of fathers in academia.
  • Mums Who Study is an Australian blog specifically for women who are combining higher education with parenting.

About Anaise Irvine

Dr Anaise Irvine is the Editor of Thesislink and leads the Researcher Education and Development team at Auckland University of Technology. Her PhD research analysed how contemporary films and novels represent genetic engineering as a social justice issue. These days she works with researchers at all levels to improve their research skills, and the most obscure of her own research skills is being able to turn novels into phylogenetic trees!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available