Diapers and Dissertations: An Exploration of Doctoral and Postdoctoral Trainee Decision-Making Surrounding First-Time Parenthood
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While published literature over the past several decades has related the perspectives of established academic mothers, decidedly less attention has been devoted to the topic of parenthood among trainees at the doctoral and postdoctoral levels. With increasing numbers of women and men entering postgraduate training in Canada each year—many at an age when the average Canadian is contemplating having their first child—it seems necessary that trainee voices be added to discussions about family planning and work/life management within the academy. Inspired by my own questioning about the possibility of combining parenthood with graduate training, this study explored the factors that influence first-time parenthood amongst doctoral and postdoctoral trainees. Using a feminist standpoint theory approach to narrative inquiry, I conducted in-depth interviews (both individually and together) with ten heterosexual trainee couples at varying stages of the family planning process to unpack their motivations, concerns, and experiences. Interview data was used to construct women’s, men’s, and at times, shared narratives for each couple—narratives which repeatedly highlighted the ways that the academic and personal realms of their lives could be intertwined. The participant narratives revealed a complex and oftentimes gendered experience of academic training—particularly for women—that impacted leisure behaviours, as well as personal relationships and family decision-making for both trainees and their partners. The narratives also exposed the multitude of factors that can impact family planning for individuals and couples, including personal and/or shared desires, gender roles expectations for both men and women, internal and external pressures, as well as varying constraints and supports. While some of these factors were found to influence both genders (albeit, in different ways), others were found to disproportionately influence women through the promotion of pronatalist ideology and the expected prioritization of emotional labour over academic pursuits. Overall, the parallel female and male narratives in this study showcased unique critical insights into the inner workings of academic trainee relationships, as well as the gendered marginalization frequently experienced by academic trainee women and families. Consequently, the findings from this study can be used to inform university policies designed to assist trainee parents, while also contributing an additional dimension to literature focused on the areas of higher education, family studies, and leisure.
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Stephanie Chesser (2017). Diapers and Dissertations: An Exploration of Doctoral and Postdoctoral Trainee Decision-Making Surrounding First-Time Parenthood. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/11148