Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Link-Parenting through a PhD (or 5 ways not to go completely insane)



http://thesiswhisperer.com/2010/10/28/parenting-through-a-phd-or-5-ways-not-to-go-completely-insane/
To this post, amen and amen!  I'm feeling a little insane right now, especially as I am sick with a particularly cruddy cold (honestly, I don't think that I've ever had a cold in August), we are planning to go away for the weekend, and the semester starts next week.  Thankfully, the kids were able to go to childcare today, but I'm feeling agitated as I really need to get more work done whilst feeling particularly low on energy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Everything happens in the summer- some related thoughts

I just came across this blog post on mamanervosa.com, and I had to share it because I've been having some similar thoughts:

Everything happens in the summer



As I sit here tired out after being alone with my young children for nearly 5 full days as my husband was away for work, much has been going through my mind.  Of course, since today is one of my "child care days", I should be just focusing on my work.  However, as I already mentioned, I am frankly just tired.  Getting up early and rushing out to physical therapy (and the aftermath thereof) surely doesn't help as I try to sit here and send out letters to recruit participants for my dissertation research along with planning out the many other tasks that need to be completed before the semester begins (EEK!) in four weeks from today.   As I sit back and think about how tired I feel, I reflect on many things.  First, I have always admired my mother, who was a single parent for much of my life.  Yes, I am an only child, so she "only" had one child (see my sarcasm in the quotes there), but she had to battle with many things whilst raising me and juggling school and work.  Yes, she had a great deal of family support in the form of my grandparents and aunts/uncles-- I have fond memories, especially of summer days when my grandmother took me to the beach with my cousins; when I slept over my aunt's house and went swimming with my cousins and their cousins in their grandparents' pool.  Thus, I am reminiscing much in the way that the author of the above post does about my childhood as I reflect on how my children are enjoying the summer.  True, I really don't have that family support, but I am also not a single parent.  I can't imagine juggling my current situation of a PhD program, teaching, and children as a single parent, but I know that there are many men and women out there who do just that.  I have the utmost respect for them.



Second, I reflect on how blessed I am to have this time with my children, and to see the summer through their eyes.  Yes yes, if I had never gone back to school and if I had stayed in my professional field, I could have a decent full time job and would be making a decent salary by this point in my life.  However, I never would have had this time with my young children.  Yes, I have sacrificed work time to spend this time with them, but much of that is due to the plain fact that we simply can't afford to put both children in full time child care for the summer.  So, I try to make it as interesting as I can for them and take advantage of the weather when I can, since I know how quickly winter approaches in this part of the country.  I also know that I am highly privileged to be able to take them around to museums, parks, etc.  I reflect even more on my privilege when I think of the mothers and children mentioned in the above blog post-- those mothers in Guatemala, hoping that their children will reach the "land of freedom" safely, hoping that they can attain a better life.  Those mothers in places like Gaza, Syria, Iraq, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, the DRC, and the list goes on--- the parents who don't know if they or their children will live another day.  Those who live in informal settlements all around the world, fearing eviction, demolition, disease, and death.  Those who live in the "war zones" of our own country's streets.  True, none of us knows how long our time will be hear on earth, but for some, the concerns are more imminent.



This has not been the first time I've been alone for several days with my children.  I admit there were times when I just ran out of ideas; I grew impatient when a certain child decided to decorate the dining room table and floor *on purpose* with food after I had strained my back mopping earlier that day, but we also made summertime memories during those few days.  I know many people who have to "do it alone" for much longer periods of time, not because they are a single parent per se, but because their spouse is deployed.  With deployment comes its own set of daily uncertainties.  Much respect to military families.



As I think about the blog post and the challenging moments I've had with my kids; the times I wished that I had a little more support; the days I wished that I had more time and/or the focus and energy to spend on my work; I stop myself to focus on the fact that time is precious.  Yes, I have a responsibility to my academic work.  Yes, I need to set aside time to take care of household stuff.  However, these summer days are short, and I'm grateful that I have been able to spend this time, reliving some of the good points of childhood and also attending to some self care in the process. 




Tuesday, July 15, 2014

ABD!!!

Again, I haven't posted in a fairly long while.  Thankfully, I have good news to share.  I successfully defended by dissertation proposal in April and have thus entered the "ABD" stage.  My defense was followed by the last 2 weeks of the semester and crazy grading for 2 classes; compiling my IRB application alongside prepping for a month-long overseas trip to visit my in-laws.  I was blessed that my son LOVES airplanes and that although my daughter is a very feisty and independent 2 year old, they did splendidly well on all of the flights and while we were in South Asia/the Middle East.  Every since we got back a few weeks ago, they have been asking to go back there.  If only it weren't so expensive (and of course, tiring)...we could go more often. 

Since we returned from the trip, I've been a bit swamped working on another project whilst patiently waiting for IRB approval to begin my dissertation research.  I received the official approval right before the 4th of July weekend.  I've been adding to my list of potential interviewees and doing more background research.  A few scheduling issues have crept up-- mainly 1.  I only have 2 days of day care per week for the rest of the summer; 2.  I had to start physical therapy twice per week for chronic back problems.  Unfortunately, the PT office doesn't have evening hours, so I've been trying to get the earliest or the latest appointments to squeeze out as much work time those two days per week.  I'm also trying (or at least *starting* to try) to get even a little work done during the evenings, but I must say, it is challenging for different reasons.  I was encouraged this morning by the following post that I uncovered on Inside Higher Ed.  I really need to make my schedule more "sacred":

http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/parenting-grad-school#sthash.XfkWkn8x.dpbs

I must say that I've also had my fair share of symptoms of "imposter syndrome" the last couple of weeks, which has been enhanced by the chronic sense of not having enough time.  I need to take the advice of the author of this article and continually perform cognitive behavioral therapy on myself (I think that I mentioned this in one of my prior "advice that I should take myself" posts) by saying that "I do have enough time; I will get these things done; I will reach my goals, no matter how miniscule they might seem."  I also need to tell myself that it's okay if I need to spend some time organizing my disastrous house (i.e., projects that should have been done LAST summer) so that we can 1.  possibly get some stuff together to have a tag sale, since things are quite tight financially this summer; 2.  it will just help me to be more focused overall.  Also, the ABD stage comes with the reality that I will have to figure out many things on my own; due to the fact that I live far from campus and the basic nature of my research project, I will feel very isolated at times.  This is all part of professional development, although getting over the initial hurdles of recruiting participants is not always an easy feat.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Grading


 I can definitely relate to the blog post below.  I'm always amazed as well (like many of the other instructors who commented on this blog post) at how many students ask if I have graded their papers yet (either the very next day or 2 days after they were due), know the sheer magnitude of papers that were submitted.  I saw that one student commented on this post, saying that professors shouldn't assign papers if they don't like grading them; that they should stop whining because they as students have much more work to do.  I could tell this person from experience, that professors (especially newer instructors) spend more time prepping for each class than a student does (on average).  Not to mention, providing useful feedback on papers for even a class of 15-20 students can take much more time than it would take one of them to actually write the paper.  All of this doesn't include responding to e-mails, meetings during office hours, etc.  I don't expect students to get it, by any means.  Before I taught my first class, I had similar sentiments.  However, I assign papers because it is part of the whole learning process, and I want students to apply the concepts we discuss in class to the "outside world."  Well, I could rant and rave about this topic, but I need to get on to grading!



The Five Stages of Grading

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Forgot the valentines for school...I felt bad about it, but my son doesn't seem to care

Like many schools in the Northeast, my DS had a snow day for Valentine's Day (he is in preschool, but it is part of a larger school).  Actually, he was hardly in school the two weeks prior due to snow days, sickness, etc (he attends 3 days per week).  Last week was school vacation week, so his class had a belated Valentine's Day party yesterday.  I felt like a total flake...he brought home a painted bag with little valentines and treats from his various classmates.  I know that there are 17 or 18 kids in his class, so I counted the little cards.  He was probably one of maybe two or three kids who didn't distribute valentines.  Most of the cards also had his name on it; I was thinking, "I must have missed the memo, because I didn't get a list of names for this."  It is very possible that I DID miss the memo, since DS was absent the Friday before Valentine's week and they usually send home notices on Fridays.  Not to mention, with DD and DS taking turns being sick for the last few weeks, teaching, school vacation, deadlines coming and going with my diss proposal and trying to do marathon work sessions this past weekend to submit a fairly complete draft, getting the valentine cards slipped my mind.  To be honest, I was also unsure if they were going to be distributing cards.  Since I've been feeling unreasonably guilty about this, I started to look through some of DS's old school papers.  I noticed the January newsletter from his teachers; it did mention at the end that a Valentine's party was going to be planned for Feb, and that a list of the students' names would be distributed ahead of time.  I must have missed that, or I must have just forgotten.  I even saw some cards on sale when I took DS to the store on Sunday, but I thought, "they probably aren't going to do anything at this point."  Ah well.  I just feel like the lone flaky parent who forgot.  I even forgot to get little cards for both DD and DS to distribute at day care, but I noticed that only a select few of the kids actually distributed cards there (well, mostly the parents did, of course, since the majority of the kids are 3 and under!).

The whole point of this rant is that I don't know why I feel so bad about this whole thing.  I even kept saying last night to DS, "I'm sorry that I forgot to send cards with you to school."  He could have honestly cared less-- he was more excited about the cards and treats he got, and he really didn't care much WHO each cards was from.  (Of course, being in preschool, he can identify letters but he really can't read the names anyway).  Then, why do I feel so bad??? I remember a similar thing happened last year with something at his old preschool, and I posted something on facebook about it.  Several parents made comments saying that they've done these things at many points of time in the past; it is human to do so, and it isn't going to ruin your kids' lives if you forget stuff like this every now and then.  Of course, part of it has to do with the fact that I feel so busy and scatter-brained, despite having an online and print calendar; sometimes I feel like all of this is taking over my life and I WISH that I had more time to put more thought into these little things.  However, as was pointed out by my fellow parent friends, our kids often have a different point of view.  They remember other things that are more significant.  For instance, fun, quality time that we've spent with them, even if it doesn't seem major to us-- like going to a playground, or taking them to a museum.  I guess that I should just let this incident go.  After all, it wasn't deliberate.  My son was more excited that he got to see his friends after almost 2 weeks; he also had his first swim lesson yesterday; he was happier about the time we were able to spend together at a museum on Friday and the time that he was able to spend with friends and family at a cousin's birthday party on Saturday. 

As parents, we are just often too hard on ourselves. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Advice that I should take myself #2 (ok, some of this I actually have applied on various occasions)

I just came across this link and I can definitely say "amen" to it:

http://3monththesis.com/7-and-a-half-unconventional-tips-for-thesis-writers-and-phd-researchers/

Another point  I would like to make on this beautiful, unseasonably warm (especially compared to the horrible winter we've been having) day:

1.  Do cognitive behavioral therapy on yourself.  I need to do this today.  My husband took the kids out so that I could get my proposal draft done (or at least mostly done) since I told my chair I would get it to her by Monday.  Right now, I would rather go outside.  I would have rather gone with them since they went 2 hours away to a family member's birthday party.  However, I know that I need this time to get work done.  I didn't have as much time during the week because my son was off from school, both kids were sick for half the week, and I myself wasn't feeling to great.  Not to mention, I had to teach 4/5 days.  If I keep telling myself that I feel down because I couldn't go with them and because I really need to go outside and soak up some Vitamin D, I'll be less motivated.  I need to tell myself that I CAN do this, I CAN make progress today, and I WILL.  Maybe I can tell myself that if I get 2-3 solid hours of work done, I can go out and buy myself some much needed clothing with my Christmas gift cards, or even stomp around for a few minutes in the melting snow outside to soak up some rays (making sure that I'm not clobbered by snow and ice sliding off the roof). As a PhD student, I can't go outside ALL day on every single nice day.  Sometimes the schedule just works out that way, and it's ok.  Also, I can't keep telling myself that I feel guilty that my husband took the kids alone.  He's had weekend days and evenings where he's had to do work, so we have to make it work.






Friday, February 14, 2014

Advice that I should take myself #1

Well, it has (once again) been a crazy busy semester (I guess that's no surprise).  I'm teaching 2 classes at 2 different colleges-- one is a new prep for me and is turning out to be a little more work than I had originally planned (again, why am I surprised by that?  I shouldn't be).  The good news:  I got through one draft of my dissertation proposal, and have been in the process of editing that draft.  I've had to do some additional reading to strengthen certain sections of the proposal.  Unfortunately, most of my notes from that reading haven't made it into the proposal yet.  Can we say, crazy winter?  Between snow days and children's illnesses, I've gotten a bit thrown off.  I seriously think that I have some issues with concentration.  I'm one of those people who can't read (and comprehend) well with ANY background noise (TV, music, kids, etc).  Not to mention writing.  I used to be able to listen to music and write papers in undergrad...I honestly don't know what happened between then and now (well, it has been several years...).  I wish that I was one of those people who could go to a coffee shop, bookstore, or even library (well, the latter establishments are supposed to be quiet, but not always) and get a good amount of work done.  Anyways...I've already gotten thrown off from the original stuff I wanted to say by talking about how I get distracted.

As a means of holding myself accountable, I wanted to start doing some regular postings (not sure how I would define "regular" yet) entitled, "advice that I should take myself."  Much of these are going to fall into the realm of time management-- something I really need to get a better handle on.  So, here are a few of my random thoughts for the first post in this very informal series:

1.  Make YOUR academic work a priority.  If you are teaching as an adjunct instructor whilst working on any aspect of your dissertation (proposal, research, writing the final product), put your dissertation work first.  Of course, you have to prep for your class, but don't overdo it.  Give yourself a set amount of time each week and try not to exceed that time limit.  One of my advisors told me once that we often over prepare for class, and in the end all of that "over preparation" doesn't do us or the students any better.  Even when it comes to grading-- students will be anxious and ask about grades.  I usually try to get things back within a week, but sometimes I've had to increase that time limit due to various circumstances (size of the class, type of assignment, personal circumstances, other deadlines, etc).  I try to give them a rough estimate of when they can expect grades, but no one is perfect.  Some students will be less anxious and more understanding than others.  Some could honestly care less.  The whole point is, give your best time to your dissertation work, or comprehensive exam prep, or whatever you are working on at the time being in your program.  Try not to get aggravated or give too much emotional energy to demanding students.  Again, I am trying to work on this myself, and I need to take my own advice. 

2.  Try to use (or at least TRY) a time management program/technique.  I've heard quite a bit about the pomodoro (or tomato) technique.  I even downloaded an app on my phone for it.  Try to focus on specific tasks for a short amount of time (I think the pomodoro suggests 25 minutes) or maybe a few chunks of time before giving yourself a break/small reward.  Theoretically, this can help with issues related to distraction; may apps allow you to track your productivity over a longer period of time.  I'm still in the process of figuring out tasks related to my proposal that will fit into smaller time frames so that I am not overwhelmed by what I know should be the end product.  I've already been doing this with a part-time research job I am doing for one of my advisors, but I also need to increase my productivity with that. 

3.  Think of "odd" times throughout the day where you can fit work in.    This goes along with #2.  I admit, I have gotten away from this this semester between the snow days and sicknesses.  I've also just been feeling so dang tired in the evenings, not to mention all of the household duties, spending time with the kids, etc.  Ok, and the Olympics has been a distraction; there are 1 or 2 Hindi serials I like to watch at night.  However, I know that there are some tasks I could do after the kids go to bed that don't require as much concentration as fitting my reading notes into my proposal draft.  Can I update my references section while watching a show?  Can I search for some articles for my research job?  Alas, I know that I need to do this to make my time during the day less hectic, but it is hard. 

And of course, as I've mentioned before, I want to spend time with my family and it is hard to get much done anyways when everyone is home.  Needless to say, the weekends haven't been a good time for me to get much work done.  We always feel like we're playing catch up with everything else we have to do.  I'm going to have to figure something out soon, since we most likely won't be able to afford much child care in the summer and we might have to go back to sending DD part time in the fall.  That is another issue that has been stressing me out, especially since I am still scheduled to teach a class in the fall and I am hoping that I will be in the process of conducting my research by then, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.  For now, I really have to get to work!

To all dealing with ice and snow, stay safe and warm!!!