Some honest thoughts about doing a PhD

Today is my day off.

I am a full-time PhD student, I work a part-time job at a museum, and I work a 6-day work week. I’ve been taking advantage of the longer summer days to work late in my office, not getting home until 7 or 7.30. My housemate moved out last week and the new one isn’t due to move in until September, which means the full load of housework is mine, too. It’s easy for my day off to start to look something like this:

To Do:

  • Clean bathroom
  • Laundry
  • Swimming
  • Pay membership at Botanic Garden
  • Grocery shopping
  • Hoover floors

…and so on. But it’s my day off, and I’m exhausted. Back in March I posted about Postgraditis, and though I wrote it satirically, it does have an element of truth. Being a PhD student is hard. It might not look like much most of the time: I go to my office and read, think, take notes, read some more, and maybe write a little. I make endless trips to the library and can spend an entire afternoon looking up articles on online databases. But the life of the mind is hard work. It can be so exhausting that housework falls by the wayside, laundry is only done when you desperately need clothes to wear, and grocery shopping done when you’ve finally run out of milk or anything else in the fridge. And the garden? It’s gone to weeds. I care, but not enough to muster what energy I have to weed my meagre flower patch when I just want to sleep.

So my day off today is more likely going to look like this:

  • update blog
  • laundry
  • buy milk
  • sleep
  • watch The Hour

And since I opened the buttermilk to add some to my porridge (I was out of milk, okay?), I guess I might finally bake some rhubarb muffins, since I bought the buttermilk to make those but haven’t yet.

Honestly, I don’t know how PhD students with families manage it. My boyfriend and I both are channeling most of our energies into our respective PhD theses, with just enough left to function somewhat in the outside world.

If you know a PhD student (well, you know me, so that’s one), be kind to them. Take them out for a meal and let them take home leftovers. Be forgiving if they forget to call or email or otherwise communicate. Know that the closer they get to finishing, the more help they will need. Writing a PhD thesis is no easy thing.

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