I probably shouldn’t admit how many times I googled the title of this post. Some of the darkest of my dissertation-writing days were the ones I asked myself, is this worthy degree actually worth the total (emotional, temporal, opportunity, financial, fill-in-the-blank here) cost I’m paying, and my family is paying, so that I can finish it? and is it worth these years of my life to finish this degree when the odds are against my ever getting to use it directly and I can’t even make enough of a living with it to cover daycare? and is it actually even possible to bring this project to a strong finish now that we have a kid and every hour spent working on it gets weighted against her need for care and supervision?
On the days when I wasn’t sure that my answer was “yes,” I would go looking for inspiration in the form of other bloggers. Academic bloggers who finished their research degrees, parents who had kids and still managed to swim rather than sink under the pressures of grad school and the tyranny of the dissertation, awesome people who had time to spool out posts that could show me how other people managed to keep moving forward in pursuit of knowledge and the degree.
I found entirely too few.
Sure, I found academic parents. Generally, though, they were often still in the early stages of their projects and seemed to be making no more progress than I was. I found academic bloggers who became parents when they were already done and now in tenure track jobs. These bloggers sometimes blow the dust off their dissertations and mention what their lives were like with a mix of nostalgia and distress. I found academics who would map out all the nitty gritty details of their progress, revisions, committee-wrangling, and eventual dissertation defenses, exactly the kind of info I sought so that I could envision my own map and nitty gritties. Seemingly 99 times out of 100, the people in that last category didn’t have kids.
Simply put, few academic parents have time left over to blog when finishing their research degrees. Time spent blogging is not time spent writing a dissertation–or parenting, and both are very jealous of your time. However, I found that in the early stages, at least, blogging really helps to get your head in the writing game. As I witnessed more closely how some bloggers seem to make very little progress with their research, however, or stop blogging altogether, I came to fear that blogging became a crutch or an obstacle against making progress. So few active academic parent bloggers seemed to make substantial gains toward the finish line. Not a lot of blogging’s done or do-able from within the crucible. Come crunch time, blogging’s an expensive distraction in terms of time. (Especially for someone who also has a full time job, but that’s a topic for another post).
I figured out that as much as I wanted to spit out posts from within the crucible, I simply couldn’t afford the time to blog when I was crunching my way to the end. Once out of the crucible, I was too exhausted for quite some time afterward to return.
But. I’m feeling pulled back toward blogging again. Right now it feels odd and unfamiliar to write in this new blog space, and I feel rusty. Yet, with 6 years of previous blogging experience to draw on, I know that’ll change if I just. keep. posting.
I guess this makes me one of those academic parents who write about finishing their dissertations in past tense rather than in present tense. Best I can do now is to revisit what it felt like to be in that crucible and spool out my nitty gritty in case others are entering those same search terms in google’s engine.
Because there are some academic parents who finish their dissertations and live to blog about it. I’m proud and, frankly, rather surprised and amazed that I’m one of them.