10 Tips for Moms Writing a PhD Thesis

By Abeer Arshad

Can dissertating and parenting go hand in hand? Yes! Learn 10 ways you can balance your PhD thesis as a mom.

Writing a PhD thesis is one heck of a job, especially for moms, who have to manage the PhD dissertation and a child together. Trust me, I know this! My baby boy came into my life right when I started working on working on my PhD thesis. While I can say having a child is a beautiful experience, it is one that requires a lot of work. Moms often have to bear the maximum responsibilities of bringing up the child, which takes up day and night. When a mom works or is a student, things do become challenging; but, I think this challenge can be overcome by time management and determination.

Our academic system is not designed to facilitate parental needs; that’s why studying moms are always in survival mode…but don’t worry, moms, I’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of thesis-writing tips for busy moms balancing the challenges of PhD thesis writing with motherhood. 

(By the way, if you don’t have a kid, the first four tips can still be useful to you in your thesis writing – so keep reading!)

1. Rely on scheduling

If you intend to write a timely PhD thesis, the first thing you should do is to make a schedule of tasks. Sticking to your schedule will help you meet deadlines on time. When you fall short of your scheduled tasks, you can adjust deadlines to make your tasks more manageable. Having a schedule really helps to differentiate writing from family time in an organized manner so that you can manage both.

2. Write in short chunks of time

Logically, waiting for a large chunk of time to write your thesis is useless. That’s because it might never come your way. More realistically, as a mom, you might have one hour here or there – for example, when your child is sleeping. (Even if you’re not a mom, you might be juggling various tasks that don’t leave you with a lot of free time.)

Luckily, as I’ve learned, it is not necessary to have large blocks of time to work on your PhD thesis. Make use of small chunks of time. You may find that you are more efficient working with less time, and you’ll stay in touch with thesis writing responsibilities.

Let’s say you work on your thesis every day for one hour. By the end of the month, you’ll have worked 30 hours – a big accomplishment, if you ask me.

3. Write regularly

Be regular with writing! Writing regularly will keep you in touch with your research. Write daily for as much time as you have – whether that’s 30 minutes or three hours. Find a secluded corner in your home to stay focused for longer durations.

Let me tell you one thing, there might be days when you don’t feel like writing anything at all…don’t be hard on yourself! Writing a dissertation takes time and effort, and won’t happen overnight. When you write regularly, though, your work adds up over time.

4. Get out of the house

Leave the comfort of your house to write your thesis. Go to your university’s library to do uninterrupted work. If you live farther away from your university, look for a library or coffee shop near you. You can leave your child with your partner or other family members. You’ll get some quality time for yourself this way, too.

5. Don’t shy away from asking for help

The most helpful thing I can recommend is to seek support in taking care of your child while you write your thesis. I recommend teamwork for childcare: your partner should lend you a helping hand in raising your child. They should be in charge of the child at least for a few hours every day so that you can focus on the writing process. If you get help from a friend, family or a neighbor, be grateful and go for it. If you can afford house help or a house cleaner, get one. This way, you can work tension-free on your thesis for a few hours while the baby is under someone else’s supervision.

6. Make use of the baby’s late-night wake-up calls

Babies do wake up at night, either for feeding or for a diaper change. How many times your baby wakes up at night depends on their age. While this wake-up routine can become exhausting for moms, you can make the most of them. As you are awake and your brain is alert, brainstorm some ideas and jot them down to help guide your thesis writing for the coming day. 

7. Adopt the “stay and support” method

Have you heard of the “stay and support” method? It is a parenting method that allows babies to fall asleep on their own without any intervention from parents. Babies are put to sleep when they are already tired and about to sleep, minimizing parental interference. You can stay on the side to observe your child while they sleep. When they are asleep, you are free to work on your thesis.

8. Think of the baby’s feeding time as an opportunity to do a bit of work

Regardless of whether you breastfeed or formula feed, you can use feeding time to recall your ideas or write them down. You may get a few minutes to work, but as the saying goes, “less is more.” If you are a breastfeeding mom, it might be difficult for you to use a laptop, but it could be convenient for you to use your phone to write notes.

9. Use a baby monitor

I think a baby monitor is the smartest digital invention for moms. You can keep an eye on your baby while you are working on your laptop. Usually, babies can play by themselves for at least 30 minutes. You can make use of this time to read or write a page. During this time, you want your child to stay in your sight, and the baby monitor will be handy in this situation.

10. Do bulk chores

To keep yourself free of daily household work, do a deep cleaning of the house once a week. Instead of doing your child’s laundry daily, do it twice a week. Devote a day every month to making baby food and stocking up your freezer. This way you can avoid everyday distractions from the writing process.

These are the thesis writing tips that have worked for me as a mom currently writing my PhD thesis. Following these strategies, along with keeping focused on your goal of thesis writing, will help you complete your dissertation in a timely manner.

Have you balanced mom responsibilities and writing your PhD thesis? If you have any tips for fellow moms, chime in below in the comments! By the way, Fancy Comma can help with editing your thesis. To learn more, get in touch!

photo of abeer arshad

Abeer Arshad wants to make the planet greener and better. For the past 10 years, she has focused her study and research on environmental analysis, pollution management and sustainability. She is currently in her final year of her PhD in environmental sciences, working on her thesis and defense.


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