Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The fourth “M”

This blog chronicles the journey (and tangents) of my PhD.

It begins in Montreal, where I am a student in the Université de Montréal’s geography department. Almost immediately it jumps to a tiny street in Quezon City called Mayumi. Mayumi was my home base for my three month exploratory field season in the Philippines in 2010. Then, it returns to Montreal for coursework and comprehensive assessments (neither of which receive much space on these pages). The third “M” refers to an intensive two-month Tagalog (Filipino) language course in Madison, Wisconsin.

Thus we arrive at the fourth “M”: motherhood.

On many occasions, I have been told that there is never a “good time” to have kids. This is particularly true for academics – not as an undergraduate or graduate student (time and financial constraints), not as a post-doc (similar constraints as students), not as a young prof trying to balance a research programme, teaching requirements and administrative duties. The gap in publications that often accompanies parental leave isn’t always looked upon favourably in tenure applications.

And so, for someone (hopefully) headed on a professorial track, the question is not when to have a family but rather how to make it work.

*             *             *             *

Four months ago my husband and I became parents. Thus far, it has been an exhilarating experience.

Motherhood is also changing various dimensions of my PhD, in particular the dynamics of my field research. In this field season, for example, I’m joined by my husband and daughter. While they won’t accompany me to every meeting, interview and event, they will be integral parts of the research process. I anticipate that I will be treated differently, and perhaps privy to different kinds of insights, when people see me as a mother, in addition to being a western woman researcher. Caring for an infant also means that the pace of research is slowed. Plus, it's more challenging to act spontaneously and chase down leads at a moment's notice. 

On a personal level, I'm thrilled to share the highs and lows of new experiences with loved ones in person, and not just via Skype, email and blogs. 

*             *             *             *

And so I enter my main field season with fresh eyes and ears, attuned not only to things relevant to my research project, but also to things relevant to family life.

I invite you to follow along, and to comment on things that intrigue, surprise or provoke you.


  1. so neat

    Ada's first words may be Phillipino - I wonder?

    Uncle Bob ( MIlko)

  2. Hi Christine! I'm glad to have news and what news!!! Congratulation for the baby! Good luck for your research and hope to see you around in Montreal one day...
    Caroline Sanchez Valero.