Hannah Siburt’s life changed 13 months ago.
The 29-year-old was a second-year audiology Ph.D. student at UF when she gave birth to her son, Jacob.
Although she was thrilled, after a while, juggling classes, teaching, researching, working and scheduling family time began to leave her feeling isolated and misunderstood.
Then she met Melody Schiaffino, a health services, research, management and policy Ph.D. student and mother who had a project in mind to help them both.
Schiaffino formed PhDMoms, a support group new this semester designed to join doctoral mothers who want to share, learn, study and grow together.
The organization first met Sept. 10.
Seventeen moms attended, and Schiaffino was blown away by the results.
“Moms were from nearly a dozen departments,” she said. “Some were expecting, others had newborns, others with toddlers or kindergarteners and even teens.”
Schiaffino’s motives for establishing the group came from her own feelings of seclusion and discouragement as a single mom and student.
“A female doctoral student parent is not common in any department,” she said. “I created PhDMoms to find other like-minded doctoral student parents and to support each other.”
Her hope is that the group will support moms in every step of the doctoral program.
PhDMoms will give them a place to “rest, vent and sound off on their concerns, struggles and stresses,” she said.
They’ll also learn potential coping skills, find helpful resources and meet friends, Schiaffino said.
The group will meet every month at Corry Village Commons Room. Children and spouses are welcome to attend, and there’s a play area for children. T
Schiaffino said she was touched to see other mothers there had similar feelings.
“There was this sense of relief that there are other mothers going through the same thing,” she said.
At Siburt’s household, the emotional stress has decreased a bit.
While she’s not completely free of the physical and scheduling demands of motherhood and doctoral work, Siburt said the group makes her feel better, because it’s nice to know she has peers that empathize.
“Only the ones that are in the situation I’m in can understand it,” she said.