Reasons not to Quit the Phd

I’m currently in Japan now to see family and as my husband goes back to work, I will stay on for an extended holiday with my daughter.


It has been wonderful so far although challenging at times with my daughter going through the “terrible twos tantrums “.  I brought her along thinking that apart from spending some precious Mother-and-Daughter time together, I could also see what it would be like to do my fieldwork year here with her– but I was overly ambitious. I couldn’t go with her near any bookstore or library. She is no longer the baby who could sit somewhat quietly by me. She now wanted to run and scream, naturally, as toddlers do.

There were many moments on this trip that made me question, “would I really be able to finish this Phd? “,  “how am I gonna pull this off?” and “Should I just forget about the whole thing and focus on my family?” 

The last question popped into my head a couple of times because most Japanese mums I know stay at home with their child until they turn three. And they seem completely happy and able to cope. When we speak (mostly about our children), they tell me it seems difficult for me because I work. And that they have given up work, for now. And the conversation always ends with “今しかないのよ。” (you have only have them now).

The past few weeks with my daughter’s meltdowns have made me question if I am giving her my best– that I am always preoccupied and sensing it, she demands attention in the most unpleasant of ways. Then I entertain the thought of not doing the Phd and reasons to keep going at it come at me like flashbacks.

And this is why I want to write this down. As a reminder to myself to keep going on.

  1. Research and writing makes me happy. I am happiest when I find answers to things I question, finding clues, and links, and making sense of the grey areas. I feel that when I do this I am actually doing something meaningful with my strengths and skills. And this makes me feel good, confident and useful.
  2. You can’t go back in time. I say this because I’ve truly spent a good part of my youth traveling  and working in different countries so I don’t have many regrets. It would have been ideal had I been younger, at both the Phd and children aspect but I can’t go back in time. Therefore I can only make good use of time from now onwards. And going back to graduate school was something I thought I would do.
  3. A healthy relationship with my family. I have tried to play just one role– that is being  full-time SAHM but I couldn’t, though fortunately not because of financial needs, but because it made me very restless and leaving me very unfulfilled. And I know this is so immature and I’m ashamed to say this but I take it out on my family by being really resentful when my daughter gets mad at me or when I feel tired and think that my husband isn’t helping out enough.
  4. I am truly lucky to get paid for doing what I love–that is to research, study and teach, over the next couple of years. Although this is a really demanding programme, it offers me more flexibility to tend to my family’s needs. In the worst case scenario, paid baby-sitting takes makes sure my daughter is looked after when I need to be at my seminars, teaching or meetings. I don’t have a typical 9-5/6pm kinda day so I can be there to pick her up, spend mornings with her if needed and work after she sleeps.
  5. How my daughter sees me. Growing up, I always felt safe knowing that my mum was at home but I also took that for granted. In her later years, she never failed to let me know how much she had regretted not being able to hold her own income and how she had become completely dependent on my father. And so this became extremely crucial for me that I would always work and not live in fear for not knowing financial independence. They say that mums who work are more efficient, and eventually they get the knack ( believe me, I’m still trying) at really just being there in the moment with their kids. And being there, 100%, is really important. So I want to show my daughter that I am able to find work that I enjoy and it is possible to fulfil a dream or two.

If you are like me, starting early in this graduate school journey, I would love to hear your thoughts on how you keep going on.

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