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PhD Watch - Time Minus 6 Months

6 months. 6 months on the back of 3.5 years of work. Can I do it? That is the question which keeps buzzing in the back of my mind every single day. Can I actually finish this mountain, the Mt Everest of the academic world? I am scared, scared of failure, scared of the impact on my precious family – my husband and 2 boys. Scared of the impact on my current job and business. I am also scared of success - that I might pull this off and become a Doctor in my field.

To back track a little. In 2011 I started the second year of my Master’s Thesis. I was encouraged to apply to transfer straight into the PhD programme based on the nature of my PhD and my academic ability. We got married December that year and while in India (wedding number 2) I found out that my transfer was successful (yahoo – this by the way is very rare). 8 weeks later we found out that I was pregnant – pregnant against huge odds. We were told it would take us 2-3 years plus if we were lucky. And so the journey of my PhD alongside my journey as a mum began. I wanted to be able to do both. Both I had no clue how to do (ha still have no clue!!).

In July 2012 I successfully obtained a three-year grant from the Heart Foundation – this was a huge achievement - without this it would have been extremely difficult for me to complete my PhD (with or without children!). Our first son Arjun was born October 2012. I took 12 weeks leave but started studying at home when Arjun was 6 weeks old. It was on the total faith of my best friend and husband that I could do this.

We took a gamble with our second child. We knew we had a choice – wait until I finished my PhD or try for a second baby, knowing that time to do both was not on our sides. Given the physiological challenges I am up against to conceive there was no option in my mind. I recall saying to my husband “what would I regret more? Not being able to have another child or taking longer to finish my PhD/ having to finish it with two children?”. After a miscarriage we embarked on assisted reproductive therapy early last year – which was successful. Another child later we are here! Counting down the final 6 months of my thesis.

I am now in what is called the ‘writing stage’. Your typical PhD takes 3 years. Your first year of planning, the second year of data collection, the third year of data analysis and writing your thesis. I have pushed this out a bit, having two children, working and running a business will do that! My funding runs out December 31st this year. So my deadline to submit my PhD is November 30th. It is not just about the funding. A PhD needs to be original, innovative research. My particular field, children’s independent mobility, while still new is rapidly gaining momentum. The research I have conducted is cutting edge but it needs to be complete and published to start making a difference.

Can I do it? Gulp!! I have enlisted the help of a great family friend and my business coach to also be my ‘head coach’ during this time. It was only in the last couple of weeks did I realised that my fear of not finishing was holding me back. This is a feeling that is not going away – so I am also enlisting your help in my journey. I am going to share with you my struggles, challenges and triumphs along the next 6 months. Do I want to achieve this – hell yes. It has been back braking work (mostly done very sleep deprived!) over the last 3.5 years. Do many people do this with children – no. Do many do it while working and running a business – no. Is it possible for me? Well anything is possible right? That is what I want to teach my boys. That your dreams truly are possible.

What am I up against this month? Last month I took on leaving my babies for the first time to get away to write. It was hard but I tell you what - extremely effective. I did 15 hour days but it did not feel like that. Most of my days are 15 hour days plus. Just being able to write without juggling everything else was a holiday!!

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This month I am struggling with getting my 2nd article finished (I have 5 to write). It is very statistically based and statistics may as well be French to me. Business wise things are in full swing, I have my first public presentation on the 24th of this month so I am feeling the pull to try and get both done. And it is winter, our 2nd son’s first winter in daycare…..I can’t afford to lose even one day – my PhD time is begged, browed and stolen time anyway! So when sickness strikes everything is going to come to a grinding halt, am trying to mentally prepare myself for this…….Goal for the month? Have my 2nd article submitted for review and have stated on the statistical analysis for my third paper – here goes nothing!!

Will check back in – in four weeks time!!

xx Dr Julie

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