Most PhDs morph into something different than you first expect, so they say. I’ve been helping with a research program “separate” to my PhD. Or so I thought.

It was a three-year research program with one of the Aboriginal groups that I’m working with. This other research program had real overlaps with mine. Plus two of my supervisors (I have four) were involved. It made sense to join in.

I filled in for my supervisor while she was on maternity leave and did some of the fieldwork. I allowed my research to work within the gaps. It was good for the Aboriginal community, because I wasn’t an annoying researcher trying to do stuff that was already going on. There’s often heaps going on in Indigenous communities: programs, research, workshops, meetings, and not a lot of communication between the players. People get tired of it.

Then it came to writing a paper for the research. It was one supervisor and I as the writers. The same supervisor I referred to above, on maternity leave with her second child.

When the paper was sent back with positive feedback but needing major review, we sat on it for a while. It would take a big effort to re-write. And left to us. For me this meant working on the “not my PhD” paper. For my supervisor that meant working while on maternity leave, with two small children.

A few weeks before the deadline we committed and launched in. We worked day and night for two weeks. I loved the writing and even the re-writing and re-re-writing. My supervisor held us together. She’d send funny emails at night when we were both up close to midnight, and text pictures of her boys during the days. My partner cooked and did the dishes for a whole week. The change in routine to this intense writing was kinda fun.

While I was waking up groggy, getting back on my computer with fuzzy eyes, I wondered how my supervisor was going, with two (beautiful) dependents and all of their needs. She negotiated her family and this work with so much humour. She’s my inspiration academic-Mum.

At 1:30am on the last night, she sent off the paper to the rest of the team. We were happy with it; it was time for fresh eyes and a good red pen.

In the meantime, I’d realised that this project was not “not my PhD”, but very much mine. I’d learnt a lot and I have a lot to say about the topic, which is on the “other side” to the perspective my research is taking. Being in this “other” research gave me an inside view to the problem that drove my own research in the first place.

I was excited – I am excited! I wanted to share this with my supervisor. By the time I got around to texting her, she’d already messaged me…She’d texted a photo of one of the kids in hospital with a broken arm…from the week before!! Self appointed “mum of the year!” and me-appointed (now more epic) inspo academic mum! I’d better reserve a special place in the acknowledgements for that one.


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