This is an interesting blog post, and confirms something I had long suspected. There is another angle that the author hasn’t considered – the need for academics in some fields to travel for long periods to conduct primary research is hardly conducive to a ‘normal’ family life.

I already have my children. In fact, if it weren’t for them I probably wouldn’t be doing a PhD at all – it was the (extended) career break I took to look after them that gave me the time to think about what I wanted to do. Not so much what I wanted to do with my life, but what I wanted to do for me after giving 9 years of my life completely to them.

As for a desire to spawn, I never had one either. It’s amazing how much being told that if you leave it any longer you may not be ABLE to have children suddenly concentrates the mind. And before you think that it was my biological clock ticking, I’m only 37 now and my eldest is 10. Prior to that I had a miscarriage, so I had to consider potential infertility at 25.

I have found that although my fellow students are deeply respectful of the fact that I have returned to university to pursue a self-funded research degree while simultaneously running a 5 person family and servicing a mortgage, some of the staff are not. There is an assumption by some people (and particularly, I’m afraid some female staff) that because I have been at home looking after my children, I am a housewife and that’s all I’m capable of. In many respects I would say that being a housewife is the single most important thing I have done, although I would re-define it as being a mother. Any impact that my research has on society will be dwarfed by the impact that my children have on society merely by existing.

Being a stay at home mum; a mature student; a childless academic; marriage, children and tenure: they are all equally valid life choices, as long as they are gone into for the right reasons.