Tuesday, November 16, 2010

PhD Family Leave

It’s like hitting a brick wall. All I want is to not be paid over the Christmas school holidays for eight weeks so I can care for my kids adequately.  I need to use the annual four weeks recreation leave for a break from the PhD entirely, not to care for kids. I don't choose to take this break at Christmas. Successful time management to complete a PhD involves taking recreation leave to avoid burnout. But as a parent I’m expected to use annual leave for childcare over school holidays. How does four weeks divide into the eleven-twelve weeks holidays over the school term?

Liam, Kai and Sol at Evans Head

I’d like to reduce my work load over the holidays so I don't get the mother guilt of failing to juggle both home and work. I'll still be studying where possible as I want to finish this PhD. I am not paid enough to put three kids in care so I can study. I get the odd chance to cram in some study when family or friends look after them during school holidays. I can't rely on this kind gesture so really I can't work to full capacity on the PhD over school holidays. Isn't it simple, take leave.

Taking leave means I have no access to the library. As I'm writing up the thesis I'm constantly using the library for journals etc. But no, they want us to take leave and actually leave the thesis behind. Just like I mother 24/7, I study 24/7 and I can’t leave it behind. I don't want to take 10 years to finish this study. My supervisor and the post graduate supervisor were understanding of the issue and at the last review were going to follow it up. Hopefully they can topple the brick wall, but don’t hold your breath. Meanwhile as I ring around the postgraduate centre and the library the answer continues to be “you would be on leave so there is no access to the library or insurance cover for field work”.

In the past during Christmas holidays I’ve luckily had numerous productive sessions on the PhD when family has looked after the kids. Not the same productiveness as during term time but at least a step forward. So I relaxed and accepted the four weeks annual leave will cover the pitfall in time. As I often did field work during this time I kept the PhD clock ticking to be safe and covered. But now I’m not doing field work, I’m writing up and would like to stop the clock to prevent the associated guilt of failing to do both well. I want to parent well and do the PhD a little to keep it progressing over the school holidays. Is it really too hard to create a leave that stops the pay and the clock but not the library access.

I believe the mean age of Australian PhD students is 34*. You can safely assume many of these students will become parents. Let’s look after our kids and the sanity of the parents by creating a study/work family friendly university.
* Becoming Doctor Mum http://drmum.anu.edu.au/Becoming_Dr_Mum_Report/About_the_study.html

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