Many of the university procedures and rules that govern graduate students’ lives assume that grad school is your entire life. However, graduate students are diverse, and many juggle commitments to family and work beyond the university. For graduate students who are parents, the process of writing, editing, and formatting a dissertation can be particularly challenging, as many universities and faculty members may not understand that students who are parents need more flexibility and different support systems than students without kids.

Your Family, Your Support System

As one writer at Inside Higher Ed points out, having young children can be particularly exhausting when you’re also trying to write a dissertation. With both kids and a dissertation making demands on your time, opportunities to maintain other social relationships can fall by the wayside. However, the writer observes that his kids and family are also his support system. He writes: “They love me and cheer for me, which reminds me of why I’m working so hard in the first place. So many grad students go at this alone, having no at-home support systems to keep them up when the inevitable deflations come.”

Scheduling Dissertation Writing

Andrea Zellner writes that scheduling was everything when she was juggling dissertation writing and parenthood. She says: “Setting the schedule ahead of time and sticking to it is the only way I can get all the things done, and even then I don’t quite make it. . . . Objectively seeing the shortfalls in my schedule also helps me know when I need to ask for more help, adjust deadlines, or if I need to say no to new projects.” Having a schedule can help you be realistic about deadlines, and can help you break down dissertation writing and family commitments into concrete, doable tasks. Dissertation-Editor can help with assisting you in creating a research plan or timeline, and help organize your work into more manageable chunks.

The Importance of Boundaries

Zellner makes an additional, crucial point: By having a schedule, you can see where you might need to ask for support or when you might need to say no. For many graduate students and parents—and for women in particular—saying no and asking for help can be extremely difficult. We often feel pressure to perform at 100% at all times, and many fear professional consequences for failing to do so. But sometimes, you have to say no. Finding a supportive community can make this easier. Consider seeking out other graduate students at your university who might also be parents, who can remind you that saying no is sometimes a necessity and doesn’t have to be a source of shame. It can help you get that dissertation written and edited more quickly, and make more time for your family.

Finding Family-Friendly Universities

Beyond the question of time commitment, navigating parenthood and dissertation writing can be challenging financially. Graduate student employment rarely pays well. In families with two parents, this may mean that one will shoulder the breadwinning role while the other writes their dissertation; single-parent families may rely entirely on income from teaching assistantships and research assistantships. If you’re still deciding on a graduate program, you may want to consider which programs offer the most financial support for students with families. At some universities, graduate student employees are unionized, and have managed to gain parental leave and childcare subsidies for dissertation writers. As you consider programs, it’s important to find out whether or not these kinds of resources will be available to you. Theresa Philips recommends seeking out “family friendly” institutions.

A dissertation consultant can help you develop a plan to balance dissertation writing and family. In addition, working with a dissertation editor or a dissertation formatting expert can save you time and stress. Our dissertation research services can also take care of the time-consuming grunt work involved in writing a dissertation. We’re here for you when you need dissertation support!