"A PhD should be treated like a job" is what my original supervisor told me - work on it 9-5 and you will complete in the 3 year funding period. Sounds easy right? Well actually, for me, it wasn't quite that straightforward, the PhD consumed my life for nearly 4 years, working late at night and weekends. I tried the whole 9-5 thing but it just wasn't for me, my moments of brilliance seemed to spark at random hours of the day and I would even find myself waking up at 2am with an idea. This will sound familiar to many postgrads but alien to others, but whatever the working pattern, I found that whenever I wasn't working on my thesis I would feel guilty, so even when I wasn't actually typing I constantly had thesis brain. The difficulty for me was I found that this put a strain on my relationship - a PhD can be just as stressful for those around you - and to quote my husband the day I submitted "thank god that's over, now we can get on with our life" - made me realise just how consumed you can become.
There's not a handbook on living life with a PhD and it will change people's life in different ways. You can’t help but become selfish whilst writing a thesis, I sat in my home office for hours on end, locked away while my other half watched TV alone downstairs. We often argued that I didn’t spend enough time with him and that the PhD was ruining our relationship. In my view he just didn’t understand what I was going through, the time constraints, the pressure; I had enough to deal with without him getting on at me. On reflection, at times I did put the PhD first and our marriage second. Towards the end of the thesis I had to balance working as a lecturer, applying for jobs and make those crucial final changes before submission. I was exhausted, sometimes working 14 hours a day and time with my husband took a back seat.
I feel lucky our marriage survived the strains of the PhD and I now realise that it can be a stressful time for those closest to me. I spent months turning down social events with only my pets and a mug of tea to keep me company; the PhD did not ruin my life, on the contrary it has given my an exciting future in Criminology, but I do regret not spending more time with those who were supporting me all the way.
I thank Sandy for his love and support and I hope he can understand I did it to give us a better life in the future. On submitting the PhD my focus is on making sure we spend that quality time together. Learning to ‘switch off’ is difficult but life is too short to sacrifice the most important people for the sake of 80,000 words.