Support for Academic Carers
I became a parent in the latter part of my 3rd year as a PhD student, just a couple months after qualifying for candidacy. Becoming a parent while entering the more nebulous, open-ended portion of my PhD program was a challenge. Eight months later, the COVID Pandemic arrived and my family experienced a whole new level of difficulty. Among other setbacks, we missed out on much of the typical socializing that happens between new parents in those early years.
Working in academia, especially as a graduate student, postdoc or other term-limited employee, presents a particular set of challenges when you're a parent. I knew I wanted to try and connect, exchange resources and commiserate more with fellow academic parents and carers facing similar circumstances.
The first place to look for this sort of support, I found, was on Twitter, where there is a large community of academics, a large subset of whom are also parents. Various accounts serve to connect parents and amplify our stories, none more significant in my experience than @Momademia. Parents and Carers in academia may find value in following such amplifying accounts, which also include @AcademicDads, @AcademicDad, @AcademicParents, @mothersinsci, and more, and using hashtags like #AcademicParents or #AcademicMamas.
At a certain point I found I wanted more than what Twitter had to offer. I wanted a space that could facilitate more consistent contact, open up options for virtual and in-person meetings, maintain some institutional memory about prior conversations and resources, etc. To help fill this void, I co-founded the Academic Carers Community, centered around our Academic Carers Slack group. Anyone who is interested can join using this link. If this link isn't working or your struggling to join the group, please email or DM me on Twitter and I will make sure we get things sorted out.
The group now includes over 100 members. I think it has been a particularly valuable space for my fellow early-career scholars: grad students, postdocs, pre-tenure and non-tenure-track faculty and the like. We not only communicate consistently on Slack, but also have periodic Zoom meetings. As of the American Political Science Association (APSA) Meeting in September, 2022 in Montreal, we've also had a few in-person meetups. I hope that the group will continue to grow and offer an increasingly valuable space for those who want to be involved. Please reach out to me if you'd like to talk about parenting in academia, want to learn more about our group or have suggestions for improving it. Thanks!