Moving into lockdown after maternity leave as a PGR

As part of our blog series where we share experiences, tips, and tricks of living and working during lockdown, Philippa Carter a third year PhD student in Geography studying landscape, sense of place and intergenerational memory in North East England, discusses the challenges of returning to her PhD after maternity leave shortly before lockdown began.

I tend to work from home a lot of the time, so when the announcement of lockdown came in March it might not have seemed like such a big change for me compared to many others. Except of course, that my ‘office’, which already doubles up as the family dining room, then also became my husband’s office and my two-year-old daughter became our only other co-worker (unless you count the cat)!

I had my daughter in the second year of my PhD and getting back into the project after a year of maternity leave was tricky. A month before lockdown started, I drafted my first full findings chapter and I felt like I was finally finding some momentum and getting into the flow of the thesis. Six months on that is certainly not how I’m feeling.

In some ways it has been an anxious time for me, particularly before I had my extension confirmed; getting that sorted out was a massive weight off my mind. But whilst there have been a whole host of worries and stresses, it has also given me a different perspective on my research. My work focuses on the small details of family and community life and how these things impact on our sense of place and identity; spending so much time with my immediate family and getting to know my local area so much better has helped me think about this differently and realise again just how important place can be.

Overall, I’m sure when I look back on this time, I will think how lucky I was to have spent so much time with my daughter and we have had some great times, but at other times it has been hard to keep that perspective. I have missed immersing myself completely in my work (which is difficult even in normal circumstances with a young family). My daughter is back in nursery now and in the next few weeks my husband will be spending a couple of days a week back in the office so hopefully over the coming months I will begin to get more space – both physical and mental – for writing as I get closer to my completion date.

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