Parenting & Motherhood Tips

How Possible is it to Obtain a PhD as a Busy Mother?

There is so much milk on the floor. How? HOW? And—you don’t even like to ask this question anymore, but WHY? That’s what it is like to be a busy parent. There are always ten things demanding your attention and none of them seem interested in leaving room for homework.

Well, not your homework. As a busy mother, you’ll likely spend a lot of time at the dining room table with your child, who doesn’t understand what you mean when you tell them to “carry the one”.

Is it possible to go back to school and get a PhD as a busy mother? Short answer: Yes. Longer answer? Well, let’s dive in and take a look.

Is it possible to go back to school and get a PhD as a busy mother? Short answer: Yes. Longer answer? Well, let’s dive in and take a look.


You’ve Got This

In some ways, you are more prepared than ever to go back to school. While eighteen-year-olds have the benefit of an open schedule, that’s pretty much all they have going for them in terms of academic aptitude.

They lack wisdom, discipline, money. They take out enormous loans and have no earthly concept of what the terms are or how they will pay them off.

As an established adult, things may be a little different for you. At the very least, you will most likely have a clear idea of what you want to do with your PhD. A specific career or lifestyle that you hope awaits you at the other end of the graduation procession.

At best, you might even have access to resources that will make the entire thing more affordable. For example, some parents may decide to pay for their degree in cash, taking on only the classes they can afford to pay for in real time.

Depending on what university you choose, it may only (a word used loosely in this context) a few hundred dollars a month to take 2-3 classes. That pace might delay your graduation, but it will help you avoid debt and interest payments.

Depending on if and where you work, you might also have access to employer-provided funds that make the process much more affordable.

Even without any financial benefits, you’re most likely more mature and responsible than you were in your early twenties. The road ahead will be challenging, but you’ve got it!

Below, we take a look at a few steps that will make it easier to get your PhD.

Explore Grant and Scholarship Eligibility

You may be eligible for a wide range of grants and scholarships simply by virtue of being a parent who wants to return to school. When looking for financial support, it’s always a good idea to start as locally as possible, and then branch out from there.

For example, consider looking at opportunities provided by local charities or community groups in your town. From there, consider any special eligibilities you might have. For example, some grants are only available to minorities.

These are a great opportunity because the number of eligible applicants is significantly smaller—improving your odds of getting accepted.

Then go to the state level, the national level, and so on. Apply to as many grants and scholarships as you can. Even gifts of a few hundred dollars here or there can add up considerably over time.

Choose a Program that Makes Sense for You

Unfortunately, your options may be relatively limited. PhD programs aren’t as common as, say, a Master’s program. You may be limited simply based on what is available in your community.

However, we do live in an age where location is less limiting than it used to be. If you can’t find a program that suits your interests locally, you may still be able to find digital opportunities. Most schools will have a well-developed remote learning program (that’s one thing we can thank Covid for) that is open to students everywhere.

Keep in mind that remote classes show up on your transcript the same way that physical ones do. From an outside perspective, there is no distinction between a degree you earned virtually, versus one you got in person.


Most graduate programs will require a letter of intent, as well as various records of your previous academic transcript. You can contact your previous universities to get a record of your grades from undergrad and graduate school.

Make sure you spend a good amount of time on your letter of intent. Good grades aren’t enough to get you into highly competitive programs. Schools want candidates who complement their image. The letter of intent is a good way to show that that is you.

Map it Out

It’s a good idea to sit down and map out how you want to tackle your degree. The plan may change over the years, but simply having one at all can make your goals feel more achievable. Note that laying out your future classes can also help from a budgetary perspective.

You usually pay by the credit hour. While those fees may change over the years, having a plan can at least give you a rough cuts idea of what you will be spending each year.

Tap into Your Support System

Now that you’ve done the hard work of getting admitted into a PhD program, it’s time to tap into your support system. If you have a partner, or extended family who can help with the kids, it’s important to let them know what sort of assistance you will require.

Develop a plan that gives you enough time not just for class and homework, but also for general self-care. It’s easy to burn out when making such a sustained and difficult effort.

Basic things like getting enough sleep (or at least not less sleep than you were getting before you started school) can go a long way toward ensuring that you have enough gas in the tank to do well in class.

Remember, you may also need to cut yourself a little slack on traditional chores and tasks. Floors don’t up and leave if you neglect to sweep them for a few days.

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TWL Working Mom

Jennifer is the owner of TWL Working Moms. She is a full time teacher, a mom & step mom, and NBCT Facilitator. Jennifer lives in Washington State and is a born + raised New Yorker. In her spare time, she loves traveling, yoga, the beach, writing, listening to books and drinking coffee.

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