How my research question developed
“Why are you considering a PhD? You will only quit to have babies!”
Shortly before I finished my Masters degree I started looking around for PhD supervisors. I was very interested in physical activity and mental well-being at the time and was thinking my research would head in that sort of direction. My Masters research examined invisible illnesses (such as chronic fatigue) and based on those findings I was interested in learning more about the link between physicality and emotional and mental states.
Off I went to various meetings with researchers in all sorts of different areas of psychology trying to find the right match. I was 22 years old and super keen to undertake even more studying (a perfect candidate you would think!) One meeting was particularly memorable for all the wrong reasons. It was during this meeting that I was basically told not to bother studying as I would be going off to have babies so what was the point anyway? If that comment had been made to me now… well… I would be straight down the equity and discrimination highway looking for revenge! But at the time I thought maybe this experienced academic knew what he was talking about so I forgot about studying for a while and went to work instead. But my desire for learning and research was still there so I enrolled in a law degree (should perhaps finish that one day!) and then had my first child.
It was during this time of studying law with a young baby that I started to think this is very difficult. Why do they have the tutorials on at 6pm? Why are they so inflexible with class times? What’s with scheduling assessments on public holidays when childcare is not available? So you can see the perfect storm was brewing…I withdrew and then received a phone call from the university asking why I was pulling out. I tried to explain and was simply told ‘well maybe try again when you are more motivated to make your studies a priority’. Shortly after that I was enrolled in a PhD with two fantastic supervisors who totally understood what I was trying to achieve and investigate. The pot had been stirred and I started to dig deeper into the experience of mothering while undertaking study. From the start I was met with a total lack of information. I couldn’t even find out how many students I was looking at because universities don’t collect data on parental status (why should they? Some might ask and I will answer that in another post).