Sofia Katerina Refetoff Zahed
PhD Candidate, Zoology,
University of Wisconsin-Madison

From Motherhood the Elephant in the Laboratory,

We are taught in the sciences that the most parsimonious answer is likely to be the right one. However, this is not the case if you are living a dual life of mother and scientist. The simplest explanation is certainly not the most likely to be true. If it were, you would not be raising children while simultaneously pursuing a doctoral degree. The two are mutually inhibitory. Student life means working long hours and receiving little money for your efforts. Child-rearing means working long hours and receiving no money for your efforts. Therefore, if one is busy in the lab and has little money, how can you pay the high costs of child care?

The requirements of a doctoral degree, can sometimes be intimidating as well as demanding. I gave my first presentation at an international conference while six months pregnant. My two-year-old daughter managed to choke on a one-cent euro coin right before I delivered my talk. What timing. And the night before I had my qualifying exams, she had a fever of 104, her first ever. Behind the scenes there are constant mini-emergencies like falling from the playground monkey bars. In addition there are constant responsibilities such as accompanying your child on her first bus ride or field trip and routine pediatric checkups followed by almost continuous visits for ear infections and other winter maladies.

Basically, active children have daily demands that you must somehow integrate into your studies. I used the commute from campus to day care as a time to make my phone calls while breast pumping so that I had milk to provide at pickup (thus far without an accident). The pursuit of a higher degree and mothering both require time. Any way that you can combine your efforts and multitask is time well spent.


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