So I have now been a PhD student for seven months, how am I doing?
This has been the steepest and hardest learning curve of my entire life. I did my MA in 2004.
Its amazing how much you can forget in ten years! Plus, well, I didnt actually do too well on my dissertation. It was in my fourth year in a subject I was thoroughly sick of. I thought Ancient History would be full of phalluses and sex and drinking and all that fun stuff, turns out thats mostly Classics. Ancient History is about battles and politics and the law and a really dire book about the Hellenistic world that was essentially the minutes of council meetings about wheat. I wanted to do a dissertation about women. I got a very nice supervisor who suggested Augustus’s daughters (women arent very prominent in Ancient History, what with them being mostly uneducated furniture). I wrote the entire dissertation on about five statues and a handful of coins. Thats all the evidence there was pretty much. I hated every second, wrote it all in the week before it was due in, got 13 out of 20 and immediately tried to forget all about it.
In the last seven months I have had to:
Learn how to research from scratch, find journal articles and understand them, learn about psychoanalysis from a position of zero knowledge, learn a whole new language of academia and science, remember how to use a library, lost some friends to jealousy, come home crying with the screams of my son ringing in my ears as they have pulled him off me at nursery, dug in the dirty washing pile repeatedly for clean items of uniform for my daughter when my organised washing system broke down due to my research, fallen asleep on my books at 1am and got up at 6am to start the school run, cried in general (surprisingly quite a lot).
I have missed most of the university training sessions due to childcare issues so I have very much been doing it by myself.
And most of the time it has been brilliant (bar the crying of course). Being a SAHM was a level of stagnation I cannot even begin to explain in words. Unless you have been there you can read about it but it doesnt convey the sheer bonenumbing boredom of looking after a baby or toddler everyday, the repetition of tasks until you want to scream, the bodily fluids, the lack of adult conversation. It was like moving through mud, the days were so slow and I was watching everyone else zoom by as I dragged my carcass along. I should add here that I did have some untreated PND which made the whole business a whole lot worse, I know a lot of people enjoy being at home with their kids. I was at home with mine for 9 (NINE!) whole years. It wasnt my choice which made it harder I think.
Conclusion: I am incredibly lucky with this opportunity and whilst sometimes it feels like climbing a mountain made of glass in slippers, the alternative is a fuck of a lot worse.