Becoming Dr Mum

About the study


Completing a PhD is a major life challenge.  So is becoming a mum.  So who would tackle both at the same time?

Quite a few people, it turns out - although we don’t know exactly how many, because universities don’t always keep central statistics about maternity leave, program breaks and the like.

Still, around 80% of babies born in Canberra every year have mothers aged between 25 and 39, and around a third of ANU PhD students are women in that age bracket. (The mean age of Australian PhD students is 34.) It’s not surprising that campus childcare is in high demand!

If you’re in the process of “becoming Dr Mum”, or you’ve recently completed your degree, then the experience has probably taught you a few things worth passing on.

Perhaps other women could benefit from hearing your story as they weigh up their own reproductive, educational and career choices.  Or maybe your insights could help supervisors work more effectively with students who are also new parents. Perhaps you’ve identified a specific policy or practice that is crying out for reform.  Or you’ve discovered a helpful resource that should be more widely known.

We’d hate to see such hard-earned knowledge go to waste, so we designed and carried out this study to make the acquired wisdom of experienced Dr Mums more broadly accessible.

At the same time, we felt it was important to publicly honour those women who have  worked to attain the highest qualifications in their field while starting a family. Combining doctoral studies with early motherhood is a huge undertaking. By making the results of the study available through this website, we hope to provide some meaningful acknowledgement to all those who have made the attempt. 

To all the Dr Mums out there: You are amazing. We salute you!

This study was proposed on behalf of a group of female PhD students and early career academics with first-hand experience of combining early motherhood with higher degree research at ANU. 

Insights gained from this experience have the potential to enhance supervision, policy formulation, pastoral care and gender equity across the board. 

The study was designed to capture these insights using a qualitative approach that acknowledges the diversity of women’s experiences while protecting individuals’ privacy.

Background documents including ethics application, recruitment materials and participant information can be found here.