I was having a chat with some other mums who study yesterday and I found myself relating that while I am officially an 'on campus' student, because I don't have lectures to attend, my time seems to be often considered as less important than other people's time.
That is to say, because I don't *have* to be in a certain place at a certain time - or risk failing - there seems to be a perception and an expectation that I can and will be available when it suits other people.
Now - in the interest of owning my own stuff, because that is important to me - I have done little to discourage this perception and related expectation. In an effort to please and accommodate others, I have told people my time is more flexible than theirs. However, I neglected to point that out I still have a workload I am committed to - that is at least forty hours of work on my PhD per week.
And so I find myself forced to schedule my time and be far less flexible that I have been in the past in an attempt to make it clear that my time is actually important.
Yes, I could go to this and that social gathering, but unfortunately, no that is occurring when I have time scheduled to study in the middle of the week.
I know we have real estate agents coming to the house on Friday to photograph the place and draw up floor plans, and I can see the house is a mess, but actually, keeping the house clean is not my job because my job is to complete this PhD so I can become gainfully employed so we don't have to rent forever.
I understand that I signed up for these committees - and I absolutely want to contribute - but these committees are and will remain prioritised below my family and my degree.
It has taken this past week of panic for me to come to the realisation that flexibility is something of an illusion. I may not have weekly blocks of time committed to other people, where I will be penalised for not attending, but I have a long range commitment to finish this degree and in order to make that happen, I must manage my time as if I had classes and appointments every day. It is really the only way to make it clear to myself and everyone else that my time is, indeed, precious.
Also, I think, because I don't have classes, people just don't know or understand what I am doing. The work I am doing in this PhD is hard work. My brain is having to stretch every day to accommodate new information, new perspectives, new concepts and words, on top of that I have to take what I am reading, make sense of it and then add to that information in a relevant and incisive manner. I am not merely writing a bunch of fictitious stories, I am talking about issues of identity and ambiguity both within a person and within a text. I am working with highly abstract concepts - and then I have to turn around and figure out how to be at all the parent teacher meetings at high school while also picking up my kids from primary school and finding a new home for us to live in, while organising a shopping list…
I am incredibly flexible, my time really isn't.