From diapers to dissertations: Students’ experiences of new motherhood while enrolled in social work doctoral programs


Approximately 13% of doctoral students have children during their studies, and the mothers among them may face particular challenges. These can include time constraints, unsupportive faculty, and a tenure system that often favors women without children and men. As a result, a disproportionate number of young mothers may be leaving doctoral programs prior to completion. The unique perspectives and potential that is lost each time one of these students drops out represents a significant loss to the social work community. The leadership of social work doctoral programs has a responsibility to understand and address experiences and needs of women who are balancing studies and motherhood. This article will use ecological theory and role theory to explore the challenges faced by this group of students. The authors share their own stories, including our struggles and successes in juggling motherhood and our doctoral studies. Suggestions for ways in which social work doctoral programs can become more familyfriendly will be offered.



Motherhood, Ashley Davis, Carla Naumburg, Perspectives on Social Work, Motherhood, Perspectives on Social Work