Motherhood at Stanford

In honor of Mother’s Day, these Stanford students and postdocs reflect on the joys and challenges of raising kids on the Farm.

Classes, research papers, diaper-changing and bedtime stories are all part of the daily routine when you’re in school and raising kids.

In honor of Mother’s Day, these student and postdoc moms share the joys and challenges of raising families while pursuing degrees and careers. They also recount some memorable moments with their kids on the Farm and offer advice on making it all work.

Tina Cheuk

PhD candidate, Graduate School of Education



"I’m still learning how to be my full authentic self in these new roles, as both an emerging scholar and a new parent."



Read Cheuk’s interview

Maja Zuckerman

Jim Joseph Postdoctoral Fellow in Education and Jewish Studies



"You have to embrace the chaos that comes with having kids. They will not fit into your Stanford schedule in any way."



Read Zuckerman’s interview

Lisa Sauermann

PhD candidate, Department of Mathematics



"It really helps to speak with other graduate student mothers, and I benefited a lot from the encouragement and advice they gave me."



Read Sauermann’s interview

Sarah Eagleman

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine



"My most joyful times with my children are when I’ve hit a big deadline and allow myself a night off to not think about work."



Read Eagleman’s interview

Graduate School of Education PhD candidate Tina Cheuk , MA ’07, returned to Stanford in 2014 when her daughter, Alexandria, was just an infant. Since then, the two have celebrated many milestones together - from Alexandria’s first steps and starting preschool to Cheuk advancing to candidacy and preparing for her defense. Soon, they’ll celebrate another achievement.

"Now, both of us are graduating," said Cheuk. "Preschool for her, and PhD for me."

Over the past five years, the mom and daughter have made plenty of memories at Stanford, including attending the Cardinal Ballet Company’s performance of The Nutcracker with other families. One of Cheuk’s favorite parenting moments at Stanford was taking Alexandria to the provost’s residence for this year’s Easter Egg Roll.

"Alexandria had such a fun time hunting for eggs, getting her face painted and exploring the gardens," she said. "Afterward, I took her to Green Library, where she did a bit of fountain hopping, which was probably her favorite part of the day."

Cheuk is honest about the challenges of being a busy student and parent. She acknowledges she has shed tears because of the difficulties and exhaustion of trying to meet high academic standards while juggling the newness of motherhood. To manage it all, while at school, she focuses 100 percent on her scholarship, mentoring and teaching. But as soon as she gets home, her focus shifts to her role as mom.

"Compartmentalizing has helped me lessen the guilt I feel for not doing enough in either," she said. "I’m still learning how to be my full authentic self, in these new roles, as both an emerging scholar and a new parent."

Cheuk is currently researching how language and culture support science learning for linguistically diverse learners. She’s also researching ways to use this knowledge to create more equitable educational learning opportunities for all students. Last year, she co-wrote and published her first book, Preparing English Learners for College and Career . After leaving Stanford, she’ll be an assistant professor in science education at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

Cheuk, who co-founded Mothers in Academia and the Stanford Student Parent Alliance , offers a reassuring message and advice for other parents facing the demands of kids and school: "You are not alone. Find your people, build your community, and ask for help."

Graduate School of Education PhD candidate Tina Cheuk , MA ’07, returned to Stanford in 2014 when her daughter, Alexandria, was just an infant. Since then, the two have celebrated many milestones together - from Alexandria’s first steps and starting preschool to Cheuk advancing to candidacy and preparing for her defense. Soon, they’ll celebrate another achievement.

"Now, both of us are graduating," said Cheuk. "Preschool for her, and PhD for me."

Over the past five years, the mom and daughter have made plenty of memories at Stanford, including attending the Cardinal Ballet Company’s performance of The Nutcracker with other families. One of Cheuk’s favorite parenting moments at Stanford was taking Alexandria to the provost’s residence for this year’s Easter Egg Roll.

"Alexandria had such a fun time hunting for eggs, getting her face painted and exploring the gardens," she said. "Afterward, I took her to Green Library, where she did a bit of fountain hopping, which was probably her favorite part of the day."

Cheuk is honest about the challenges of being a busy student and parent. She acknowledges she has shed tears because of the difficulties and exhaustion of trying to meet high academic standards while juggling the newness of motherhood. To manage it all, while at school, she focuses 100 percent on her scholarship, mentoring and teaching. But as soon as she gets home, her focus shifts to her role as mom.

"Compartmentalizing has helped me lessen the guilt I feel for not doing enough in either," she said. "I’m still learning how to be my full authentic self, in these new roles, as both an emerging scholar and a new parent."

Cheuk is currently researching how language and culture support science learning for linguistically diverse learners. She’s also researching ways to use this knowledge to create more equitable educational learning opportunities for all students. Last year, she co-wrote and published her first book, Preparing English Learners for College and Career . After leaving Stanford, she’ll be an assistant professor in science education at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

Cheuk, who co-founded Mothers in Academia and the Stanford Student Parent Alliance , offers a reassuring message and advice for other parents facing the demands of kids and school: "You are not alone. Find your people, build your community, and ask for help."

Postdoctoral scholar Maja Zuckerman and her children (Image credit: Courtesy Maja Zuckerman)

Postdoc Maja Zuckerman sat down to respond to questions for this story, but then her child’s preschool called to report that her son had a fever.

"You have to embrace the chaos that comes with having kids," she said. "They will not fit into your Stanford schedule in any way."

Zuckerman knows from experience. One of her most memorable moments at Stanford was giving birth to her second son. One Friday at 5 a.m. she woke up with intense contractions, then rushed from her home in Escondido Village to the hospital to give birth.

When asked how she balances academia and family, Zuckerman insisted there is no such thing as balance.

"We just do our best to make daily prioritizations and, of course, work our asses off," she said.

Zuckerman said that, at Stanford, there are many hard-working student and postdoc moms who don’t ask for help. But when it comes to raising a family while in school, it’s important to have a community of neighbors, friends and peers who can provide support.

In addition to being the mother of two boys, Zuckerman is the Jim Joseph Postdoctoral Fellow in Education and Jewish Studies. She came to Stanford in 2016 with her husband, who is also a Stanford grad student. She’s currently researching how Jewish day school students experience the rise of anti-Semitism and their perception of the rise in security measures around their schools. When her postdoc position ends in August, she plans to work with Jewish high school students.

While she acknowledges the challenges of being a postdoc with a young family, she said she loves hanging out with her kids and watching them grow up at Stanford. Her oldest son, 5-year-old Anton, learned to ride a bike on campus. Since then, she’s enjoyed taking him on rides around the Farm.

"The joy he experiences in cruising around the Stanford campus, commenting and questioning everything, and the way he describes the place as his ’village’ - those are precious moments for me," she said.

Postdoctoral scholar Maja Zuckerman and her children (Image credit: Courtesy Maja Zuckerman)

Postdoc Maja Zuckerman sat down to respond to questions for this story, but then her child’s preschool called to report that her son had a fever.

"You have to embrace the chaos that comes with having kids," she said. "They will not fit into your Stanford schedule in any way."

Zuckerman knows from experience. One of her most memorable moments at Stanford was giving birth to her second son. One Friday at 5 a.m. she woke up with intense contractions, then rushed from her home in Escondido Village to the hospital to give birth.

When asked how she balances academia and family, Zuckerman insisted there is no such thing as balance.

"We just do our best to make daily prioritizations and, of course, work our asses off," she said.

Zuckerman said that, at Stanford, there are many hard-working student and postdoc moms who don’t ask for help. But when it comes to raising a family while in school, it’s important to have a community of neighbors, friends and peers who can provide support.

In addition to being the mother of two boys, Zuckerman is the Jim Joseph Postdoctoral Fellow in Education and Jewish Studies. She came to Stanford in 2016 with her husband, who is also a Stanford grad student. She’s currently researching how Jewish day school students experience the rise of anti-Semitism and their perception of the rise in security measures around their schools. When her postdoc position ends in August, she plans to work with Jewish high school students.

While she acknowledges the challenges of being a postdoc with a young family, she said she loves hanging out with her kids and watching them grow up at Stanford. Her oldest son, 5-year-old Anton, learned to ride a bike on campus. Since then, she’s enjoyed taking him on rides around the Farm.

"The joy he experiences in cruising around the Stanford campus, commenting and questioning everything, and the way he describes the place as his ’village’ - those are precious moments for me," she said.

Graduate student Lisa Sauermann and her daughter (Image credit: Courtesy Lisa Sauermann)

Fifth-year mathematics PhD candidate Lisa Sauermann loves taking her 8-month old daughter, Clara, for walks around campus. It’s not only a time to bond, but a time for serious intellectual reflection.

One day this past January, they went for a walk through the Rains graduate student housing complex when Sauermann had a mathematical epiphany.

"Clara fell asleep in the stroller, and I started thinking about one of my research projects," she said. "I had a crucial idea on this walk that had been the missing piece to make the project work."

Sauermann said that the revelation made her feel like she was successfully balancing parenting with research. Despite this, she acknowledges there are moments when she feels like the balance isn’t working as well. Sauermann and her husband - who is also a Stanford PhD student - take turns watching Clara. She said while child care would lessen the workload, she and her husband enjoy the time to be parents and are grateful that they have flexible schedules.

"I have also had very positive experiences as a graduate student mother with the campus community as a whole, and in particular with my department," she said.

Sauermann said she enjoys the group Mothers in Academia, as well as the community in the graduate student family housing complex. "It really helps to speak with other graduate student mothers, and I benefited a lot from the encouragement and advice they gave me," she said.

Sauermann is currently researching an area of mathematics called extremal combinatorics and is finishing her thesis. After graduating this spring, she’ll join Stanford’s Department of Mathematics as a Szegö Assistant Professor.

Graduate student Lisa Sauermann and her daughter (Image credit: Courtesy Lisa Sauermann)

Fifth-year mathematics PhD candidate Lisa Sauermann loves taking her 8-month old daughter, Clara, for walks around campus. It’s not only a time to bond, but a time for serious intellectual reflection.

One day this past January, they went for a walk through the Rains graduate student housing complex when Sauermann had a mathematical epiphany.

"Clara fell asleep in the stroller, and I started thinking about one of my research projects," she said. "I had a crucial idea on this walk that had been the missing piece to make the project work."

Sauermann said that the revelation made her feel like she was successfully balancing parenting with research. Despite this, she acknowledges there are moments when she feels like the balance isn’t working as well. Sauermann and her husband - who is also a Stanford PhD student - take turns watching Clara. She said while child care would lessen the workload, she and her husband enjoy the time to be parents and are grateful that they have flexible schedules.

"I have also had very positive experiences as a graduate student mother with the campus community as a whole, and in particular with my department," she said.

Sauermann said she enjoys the group Mothers in Academia, as well as the community in the graduate student family housing complex. "It really helps to speak with other graduate student mothers, and I benefited a lot from the encouragement and advice they gave me," she said.

Sauermann is currently researching an area of mathematics called extremal combinatorics and is finishing her thesis. After graduating this spring, she’ll join Stanford’s Department of Mathematics as a Szegö Assistant Professor.

Postdoctoral scholar Sarah Eagleman and her children (Image credit: Sarah Eagleman)

Last year, postdoctoral fellow Sarah Eagleman spoke at a "Taste of Science" event, where she discussed virtual reality and how vision, time and consciousness are constructions of the brain.

"After I gave a talk, my son spontaneously got up and gave a mini TED-style talk to the room of 40 people," Eagleman said. "I didn’t realize that all the science talks he had heard - from us and others - had rubbed off on him."

The moment was one of the more memorable ones for Eagleman since she joined Stanford two years ago. The mother of two said she’s enjoyed watching her kids grow up on the Farm, where they’ve had fun splashing in the fountains and where she’s been able to connect with other moms trying to balance academic careers and family.

"My most joyful times with my children are when I’ve hit a big deadline and allow myself a night off to not think about work, or when I get lost with my kids in fun and can forget about the pressures of publishing papers and writing grants," Eagleman said. But like others, she’s needed to find creative ways of balancing her science career  and parenting. She’s read neuroscience papers aloud as bedtime stories and even wrote part of her dissertation at a children’s museum on a table built for toddlers.

Eagleman said she is constantly working, whether at home or in the lab. "I never stop. For all academic parents, many other responsibilities are expected to come first," she said, emphasizing that many postdoc parents on campus face similar challenges, but with limited resources. "The expense of the Bay Area makes it difficult for postdoc families to stretch their budgets for housing and childcare."

In the lab, she’s focused on neuroscience research, which includes creating and testing novel analytical approaches to better capture anesthetic depth using electrophysiology. She ultimately plans to obtain a research faculty position to study the neural correlates of consciousness from a systems neuroscience perspective. To stay grounded, Eagleman meditates and exercises daily.

For parents balancing family and full-time careers, Eagleman encourages them to connect with other parents and resources at Stanford.

"Build community and don’t be afraid to make requests from that community. People want to help you," she said. "Utilize the resources at Stanford, such as the Stanford parents listserv, SURPAS [Stanford University Postdoctoral Association] postdoc wiki and SURPAS Family Facebook group."

Finally, she offers some advice: "Try to find time to enjoy this experience," she said. "This precious time does not last forever. We get a small window to build a brain and impact the life trajectories of our children, and when it’s gone, it’s gone."

Postdoctoral scholar Sarah Eagleman and her children (Image credit: Sarah Eagleman)

Last year, postdoctoral fellow Sarah Eagleman spoke at a "Taste of Science" event, where she discussed virtual reality and how vision, time and consciousness are constructions of the brain.

"After I gave a talk, my son spontaneously got up and gave a mini TED-style talk to the room of 40 people," Eagleman said. "I didn’t realize that all the science talks he had heard - from us and others - had rubbed off on him."

The moment was one of the more memorable ones for Eagleman since she joined Stanford two years ago. The mother of two said she’s enjoyed watching her kids grow up on the Farm, where they’ve had fun splashing in the fountains and where she’s been able to connect with other moms trying to balance academic careers and family.

"My most joyful times with my children are when I’ve hit a big deadline and allow myself a night off to not think about work, or when I get lost with my kids in fun and can forget about the pressures of publishing papers and writing grants," Eagleman said. But like others, she’s needed to find creative ways of balancing her science career  and parenting. She’s read neuroscience papers aloud as bedtime stories and even wrote part of her dissertation at a children’s museum on a table built for toddlers.

Eagleman said she is constantly working, whether at home or in the lab. "I never stop. For all academic parents, many other responsibilities are expected to come first," she said, emphasizing that many postdoc parents on campus face similar challenges, but with limited resources. "The expense of the Bay Area makes it difficult for postdoc families to stretch their budgets for housing and childcare."

In the lab, she’s focused on neuroscience research, which includes creating and testing novel analytical approaches to better capture anesthetic depth using electrophysiology. She ultimately plans to obtain a research faculty position to study the neural correlates of consciousness from a systems neuroscience perspective. To stay grounded, Eagleman meditates and exercises daily.

For parents balancing family and full-time careers, Eagleman encourages them to connect with other parents and resources at Stanford.

"Build community and don’t be afraid to make requests from that community. People want to help you," she said. "Utilize the resources at Stanford, such as the Stanford parents listserv, SURPAS [Stanford University Postdoctoral Association] postdoc wiki and SURPAS Family Facebook group."

Finally, she offers some advice: "Try to find time to enjoy this experience," she said. "This precious time does not last forever. We get a small window to build a brain and impact the life trajectories of our children, and when it’s gone, it’s gone."