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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Career Coach: Finding Financial Support
July 19, 2009 - 7:54pm

Dear Susan,

I just came across your blog, and I am excited to find women discussing the stresses of balancing graduate school and motherhood. Campuses are so geared towards the traditional aged students, that we older gals fall through the cracks.

I earned my MA in education before having children. When I had my first child, it was triplets! Four years later, a little sister arrived to complete the tribe with two boys and two girls. But fate
had a surprise in store, and she was born nineteen months later. It was more advantageous to work part-time while caring for five little ones, so I started teaching history part-time at a local
community college (my BA is in history). I fell in love with my job and decided to make it a full-time career. What I discovered is that while an MA is sufficient to teach part-time, a PhD is "preferred" for full-timers. That meant more education. Having been out of school for many years, I decided to earn an MA in history first. The last time I had written a research paper, I used a card catalogue and wrote on an IBM Selectric.

Teaching three to four classes per semester, raising five children, and taking a full-time load at school has been very challenging. Fortunately, my husband is terrific and really pitches in with the children. I also live in an area of the country with access to excellent research facilities. After two years, I successfully defended my thesis and graduated in May 2009. I also achieved my goal of acceptance into a prestigious PhD program. However, there is no funding from the school. Competition is fierce and funds are few these days. I have been researching, and trying to find creative avenues to fund my studies, but I am now short on ideas.

Unfortunately, after working so hard to get to this point, I am forced to defer my enrollment for a year while I continue to look for funding. This allows me to be considered for funding next year.
What I am discovering is that organizations have funds for younger people or moms without BA's. There is very little that I have found for mid-aged women in graduate programs. Do you have ideas or suggestions? Should I just concede that I went as far as I can? An MA in history provides few career opportunities. It is so hard to stay positive when I feel like I am failing.

Thanks,

Kathy

Dear Kathy,

First of all, please try to get over the notion that you are failing in any way. You have managed to raise five children while teaching and attending graduate school, and to perform well enough to earn acceptance into a good Ph.D. program. No matter what happens next, you are already a success.

As far as finding funding goes, I wish I knew what to tell you. This is way out of my area of expertise. I funded my own Ph.D. program through a combination of loans and credit card debt, which is not a route I would recommend to anyone.

I sent your letter on to my "think tank" of educational experts, but they came up blank as well. So I'm posting it here in the hope that readers will have some creative ideas.

I wish you the best of luck, and please keep me posted.

--Susan

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