We caught up with Kirsty Bolton, a Postgraduate student studying a PhD in Medieval Literature, to talk about her life as a Student Parent at the University of Southampton. Here’s what she said:

My daughter’s Pre-School teacher pulled me aside at collection time the other day to tell me that they had been talking about what jobs the children’s parents do.  “She told us that you go to university to read and study bugs?!”  Well, I don’t study bugs (I think that she meant books), but it makes me really happy to see how proud my daughter is of what I do, which is a PhD in Medieval Literature with the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies over on Avenue Campus.

I have two children, a little girl who is nearly four and a one year old boy, so I am studying part-time.  Some people outside of university life seem to think that I am lazy for studying part-time (“So, you have a job as well, right?”  “I studied for my *insert other qualification here* in the evenings.”  “Can’t you just put CBeebies on for them while you work?”), but anyone in academia knows that a full-time PhD is a full-time job, and anyone who’s ever encountered a child knows that parenting is a 24/7 commitment.  I study part-time because I want to be able to give my children and my research both the attention that they deserve.  I study part-time because university fees and nursery fees are both very expensive and there’s not a lot of funding available for medieval literature PhDs.  I study part-time because I have a passion for academic research and I couldn’t not study any longer, but I had to make concessions.

My desk at home is in a cupboard under the stairs and I love it – it is Virginia Woolf’s fabled room of one’s own.  It is my space to read, write, and think.  I share it with the fusebox, many post-it notes with cryptic phrases on, and wilted bunches of dandelions and lavender that my daughter brings me.  Studying and being a parent requires a lot of organisation and plenty of guilt that I’m not doing justice to either (this morning I was assessing how bad my daughter’s cough was in the hope that it won’t stop me going to a training event tomorrow), but whenever I wobble, I remind myself how important it is to me that my children grow up seeing me in a career that I love and knowing that they can also achieve anything that they want to achieve.

By Kirsty Bolton

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