Why it is OK to live a normal life when doing a PhD

Balancing studying for a PhD and family life can be difficult, but there is no reason why you can’t do both. Yes, you will need to make some sacrifices, unfortunately where both are concerned, but they will be worth it for the sense of achievement you will have when you are standing on that stage being congratulated by your peers.

Accept that your family comes first

It will be an incredibly busy few years, hectic in fact. Some of your study time will have to be sacrificed due to family commitments, but that is perfectly acceptable as long as you are aware it is inevitable and plan accordingly. Sure you can’t plan for your three-year-old to come down with a virus and need taking to the pediatrician, but when can you ever prepare for such an event?

There will be bumps in the road, as is the case with most journeys, but you can allocate study times for when your partner is around to take away some of the responsibility being a parent requires.

It will require teamwork

You will learn, pretty early on, that you need help. Lots of help will be required from your family and friends, so don’t be afraid to ask for it, they are your family and will be happy to help you out. It is similar to becoming a parent when trying to balance a working life, only instead of work you need to study.

Be careful not to burn yourself out

So the kids need picking up from school, you have research to do, and there’s a seminar you need to attend – and that’s just a Wednesday. It is important to make sure you aren’t doing too much otherwise you’ll run out of steam and be good for none of them. Allocating time for you to relax and unwind is very important if you are going to stay the course and finish your doctorate. If you want that certificate framed and on the wall then you’re going to have to recharge your batteries from time to time. Try to fit in a good snooze every now and again, you’ll be amazed how good it will be for you.

Make peace with the fact your PhD will not be perfect

Sadly you will have to compromise a bit of quality in your paper to make sure you come out the other side with that precious piece of paper and those letters after your name. Managing your expectations is key to keeping your stress levels to a minimum. If you start fussing over missing an hour of research and begin keeping a mental tally of how much time you’ve spent not working towards your PhD you will only be increasing your levels of anxiety. Learn to accept you don’t have as much time as your peers and, importantly, make peace with that fact.

It will be stressful, there’s no hiding that fact, but if you can come to terms with that then there is hope for you! We know that raising a family has its difficulties so if you’re studying for your doctorate at the same time then really you deserve some sort of medal for bravery.