Memorable Moments As a PhD Student and a Single Parent

By Thuy Do, PhD Student

September 25, 2018

Being a single parent and a PhD student is a daunting task. It requires a different type of effort than the effort necessary if someone is supported by a partner. It can be intimidating with many interactions and you may wonder if you are reaching your goals as a PhD student. However, based on my experience, effectively managing your time and your daily life makes the work of being both a single parent and a PhD student easy and enjoyable.

After my first year as a PhD student, I found a home within walking distance of my children’s future secondary school. This arrangement meant they could come and live with me, which they have done since the start of my second year.

My children’s education is one of important components in my journey and plays a key role in my life. In Vietnam, taking my children to school and picking them up was a critical consideration because it took so much time. Now, the convenience of having their school nearby is at the heart of managing my daily time. It plays a major role in the maintenance of my professional working schedule as a PhD student even though my children are still at elementary school and I must escort them there every day. It significantly reduces the amount of time that I spend on transporting my children to school during the day and helps me to work productively.

Usually, the life of a PhD student is concentrated on doing research. Yet, being a single parent and a PhD student, I am enjoying the two monumental roles at the same time and the tasks of each are supporting each other. Thanks to the company of my children, my PhD life is happier since I have a fruitful regular schedule every day.

When my children go to school, I start focusing on my PhD work until they get home and I start preparing dinner. I remember when I was alone doing my PhD last year. I often would not start my day until late in the morning because I thought I would have a long day to work. Adjusting my schedule to accommodate the needs of my children, the total amount of time that I spend on my PhD work during the day is still 8 hours, but I also have time to care for my health in terms of food consumption. I am always motivated to prepare good meals for my children, which are also for myself.

One of the limitations of being a single parent and a PhD student is time spent on chores in the house. However, thanks to my efforts in caring for them, my children are happy to take care of some chores in the house, which they previously did not care to do. My children are also more responsible when they see my busy schedule being a PhD student while still taking care of them. I often do not need to stress about their school work, such as homework, school clothing, school schedule, etc., since they take care of these things by themselves properly.

Every day is a sweet, memorable moment of my PhD life. My children always come home from school with interesting stories of their new adventures. I feel relaxed and refreshed during our dinner conversations. There are no arguments among us because most of our conversations are about schooling. Despite the barrier of language that is challenging them, my children are often excited to tell me stories about the differences between studying in Canada and in my home country. It is beautiful to listen to their honest comments about the education that they are receiving here.

Along with our exercise routine, I also schedule my entertainment activities and have done so since the children joined me on my journey. Every weekend we do the grocery shopping, we cook our favorite foods together, go hiking, and watch movies.  Sharing in theses activities not only helps us relax, they are also the times that we have more conversations about our lives, which makes our relationship closer. I always try to include meaningful lessons in our dialogues and my children enjoy discussing these in more detail.

The time that I have spent with my children since they’ve joined me here has shown me that my path as a PhD student has benefited from their involvement. I always feel happy and blessed. One of the most significant outcomes of this change is that every day of my PhD life is not the same. Each day is always fresh and memorable.