Often, I feel the weight of being a minority in the department – not a racial or gender minority, but as one belonging to the small number of parents who are trying to get PhD’s. Being a parent and a PhD student are very trying things, but both together is a recipe for guilt beyond belief. I didn’t realize until today that 32 percent of the faculty in my department is female. Of these women, only two have children. I could be wrong in that because I do not know some of them well and they may not make it known that they have children, but I do know that a majority of the women with PhDs do not have children. It is not my intent to say that I think they should. I respect these women for the choices they have made. It just illustrates the level of the loneliness I sometimes feel – like I am the only one walking down this long road.
Tonight, one of my professors relayed an experience from his first couple years as a PhD student and father of two. He related a time where he felt like a failure, like the didn’t belong in the program. He felt that he would never get his PhD and that he wasn’t good enough or smart enough. He wasn’t used to failing at anything, but one moment shook him. He came home and as his two year old daughter ran to hug him, he started to sob into her. He didn’t want anyone else to know of his pain but in that moment, he shared it with one of the people who loved him unconditionally and did not judge him.
I have done that. My children have strengthened me in my weak moments.
Tonight, I am not alone.