PhD Mum

I havent posted for a while as I have had a sick baba at home to take care of, which involved a hospital stay and convincing a toddler to keep a drip in his hand and then in his foot.  And then getting him out of the hospital room cupboard…

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When I tell people I have a toddler at home and I’m doing a PhD they do tend to react like I am some sort of Superwoman…. or Supermum…

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My response is always to say, “let me get the degree first, then we can decide if I’ve been successful!”.  At the moment, and especially after taking a week ‘off’ I feel like I am waaay behind, have so much to catch up on and that I have lost all of the threads I was working on before Henry got poorly. 

Coincidently I read this article in the Daily Mail yesterday (yes, I know, I know…) about childless women upset about the lack of flexibility that they have in their jobs and the extra work they have to take on.  I do think that anyone who cares for another person, older or younger than them, should be given as much help as feasible by their employer.  But then, one of the women talks about having the flexibility to leave early for a nice dinner, or the theatre.  Not quite the same thing. 

I do wonder about how Academia proper works with children.  My faculty is more gender equal than some, and given the presumption that women will do the majority of the childcare, it is reassuring to note the number of high up members who have children. 

Anyway,  trying to get back into things, and using this blog again to start typing out a few thoughts… I’m no superwoman, or supermum, I’m just another PhD Mum 🙂

 

People in squishy hats

I had the pleasure of attending my youngest sister’s graduation ceremony at Warwick this week.  Its always a great sight: a gaggle of nervous undergrads rocking the robe and mortar board, usually over the party dress that they’ll wear to cocktails and dancing later! A bit different to a Cambridge graduation where the dress code is strictly waitress/waiter: black skirt/trousers and a white shirt (or a plain black maternity dress for my MPhil graduation!).  Our German College Praelector is infamous for rigorously upholding the dress code and sending people away if they get it wrong (Navy shoes! Shocking!)

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And among the gradauating cohort at Warwick there were a few PhD students in their squishy hats and fancy gowns.  This was a useful reminder to me that people DO finish their PhDs and have a nice day with family and friends while still wearing that silly squishy hat.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel, if you just keep plunging on through the dark!

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So in that vein, my plan for the rest of this week:

  1. Seriously, get more interviews organised and done!
  2. Plan papers for the EASR/BASR conference and start timed writing to get going on them 🙂

Still plunging on in the dark….

 

 

Thoughts arising from the Writing Summer School

After spending all my four working days last week at the Summer Writing School I am now waaay behind… But I do genuinely feel like I have learnt some useful skills for dealing with writing issues, as well as making lots of new PhD friends who are in the same boat.

A couple of phrases kept repeating that are worth having a quick look at before I write myself this week’s to-do-list:

Kill Your Darlings: Great advice and something I always told the writers I worked with when I was a script editor.  But, as a huge geek, I tend to think of my darlings as potential zombies… there’s always a chance for resurrection.  When I cut a larger piece of text I put it in a ‘spare notes’ document, one for each writing project.  But what I have noticed is how rarely those darlings make it back from the grave… there is usually a reason why they had to die in the first place and no black magic is going to make them stagger back into my main document.

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Imposter Syndrome: Lots of people I spoke to at the Summer School were definitely displaying the symptoms of Imposter Syndrome: here’s the well written definition from PhD Confessional:

“Suffering from Impostor Syndrome.  For those unfamiliar with the term, here is a definition:

Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”

Many hadnt come across the term before, but I think at Cambridge its almost an endemic disease.  Cambridge can be a hive of supersmart people who never quite think that they fit in, and that the bee over there is doing so much better than them, and the one over there is coping so much better and being so much more productive than they are.  We constantly measure ourselves against each other, when really, when it comes to our PhD’s, we are all Queen (or King!) bees.  Some might realise that a PhD is not really for them, or an academic career isnt a good fit, but the actual work of getting a PhD is measured against what we can do, not what others can do.

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Two Body Problem: For some of the coupled up PhDs this can be a major problem.  Academia is a transient field these days and maintaing relationships and a career seemed to be problematic for a few people I spoke to.  I wish I had the answer. I have a husband and a son and I know there is going to be a crunch time when I have to choose between the awesome job and the right location for all of us.  Unless of course someone wants to pay me the big bucks and I can be the breadwinner for a while!

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Just some thoughts… 🙂

Learning How to Write (I Probably Should Have Done That a While Ago!)

I have been a little quiet on here for the last couple of days as I’ve been attending a Summer School on writing skills for grads.

I’ve always assumed that I am a pretty okay or even a good writer as I’ve been paid to do it for various mediums over the last ten-ish years.  But I do find academic writing tricky.  I think in part its because I presume that there is an authoritative, neutral academic ‘voice’ to emulate.  Doing this course has shown me some of the fallacies of that voice.  Its unclear, its unnecessarily mystifying, it might even be a bit elitist (“What, you dont know what I mean by ‘detraditionalization’! You ignoramus! Please do get out…”).  I am now aiming to bring some clarity, and some elegance (!) to my academic writing… wish me luck!

Which brings me to the other aspect that this course has helped me with (so far, two days still to go).  We’ve been discussing some of our problems with just sitting down and writing the bloody thesis.  There seems to be a common thread of anxiety running through the participants, whether they are first years or fourth.  A PhD is a BIG thing to do.  But writing it doesnt have to be if we tackle a little at a time, or warm ourselves up by writing small chunks of texts regularly.  That’s what I am hoping to do with this blog: practising writing regularly as well as drawing out ideas and themes from my research.

Oh, and the course is being held in this awesome location I’ve never been to before.  They do maths here:

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Looking back… Fieldwork Interviews and Noisy Neighbours

While the tiny Tazmanian Devil I live with sleeps I’ve just been quickly uploading the last interview I did to a safer location than my dictaphone.

One theme I notice with my interviews so far (a massive 5 done already! ummm… only another 35 to do according to my supervisor) is location.  Noisy coffee shops with inquisitive neighbours might not be all that ideal.

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However, its interesting to me that in considering the location for the Skype interviews I am scheduling I am very concerned about who will be able to overhear us… my husband at home, other grads at my college, should I book a private room at college, at my faculty? And yet I have a much more laissez-faire attitude to members of the public sharing our air-space.

I think its in part that I am feeding off of my interviewees’ attitudes.  They really dont mind if Joe Bloggs hears them discussing the 5th Dimensional protection that they recently received from Archangel Michael.  Because for many of them, they want others to know about the world changes, or the Ascension as some of them call it, that is taking place as we ALL start to operate at a higher vibrational frequency.  So while I might plan my Skype interviews ahead of time and dictate the space I am in, when its face to face, the space that they are in is mostly influenced by their message.  Something I need to bear in mind in my paper responding to the idea that being spiritual is to be overly individual and non-social in some way.  Everything they do is about spreading out their message, even if their original journey is inwards, inwards to find the authentic self.

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Inspired by Social Media Knowledge Exchange

After attending a two day conference held at CRASSH by the Social Media Knowledge Exchange  on issues and themes around the use of social media by institutions and individual academics, I’ve been inspired to use a blog to write up my PhD diary and to plan out some of things I am working on.  Partly backward looking, partly forward looking, this blog will be of interest (hopefully!) to:

  • Anyone doing a humanities PhD and using digital humanities methods
  • Anyone using social-anthropology/religious studies methods in their research project
  • And anyone who is interested in New Religious Movements, especially those online and using social media to form communities.

For the forward looking parts of the blog, I intend to write at least a post a day with my goals for that day, and another once a week covering what I hope to get done that week.  For the backward looking, I want to write up some of my fieldwork and research notes as I go in order to pull together a PhD diary that might help me when it comes to writing up my thesis.  Fingers Crossed!

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