"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Determine the Perfect Length of Your Ph.D. Program!

Determining the perfect length of a Ph.D. program is an important issue that many of us struggle with. Because of this, Theologian Mom has designed an easy calculation to determine the perfect length of your doctoral program. Just follow these simple directions.

Begin with your age. (e.g. 28)
If you are married, add your spouse’s age. (e.g. 28+29=57)
Add the age of each child that you currently have. (e.g. 57+2=59)
If you are hoping you'll have kid(s) during the program, add 5 to the above sum. (e.g. 59+5=64)
Subtract the number of years of guaranteed funding. (e.g. 64-3=61)
If your spouse is the primary bread winner (and is willing to continue as such), add 10. If not, subtract 10. (e.g. 61-10=51)
If your spouse is not the primary bread winner, and you care about going into debt, subtract 10. (e.g. 51-10=41)
Add the total number of exams required for your program. (e.g. 41+4=45)
Now, divide by the total number of years it took you to get your masters and your bachelors degrees. (e.g. 45/8=5.5 years approximately)
According to this handy formula, 5.5 years is the perfect length for my doctoral program!
Of course, if somehow your calculation results in the exact amount of time it takes you to finish the program, you have probably made a mistake in the calculation. As it turns out, there is no “perfect” length. Some people (like that confused uncle who can’t understand why the heck you’re still a student) will think you have taken too long. Others (like a prospective employer) may think you completed the program too quickly for adequate scholarly formation. Some (like that toddler) will wonder when she’ll ever get to live in a place that has a yard. Others will wonder why you don’t have more footnotes…or why you don’t already know everything.

As for your own preferences on how long the program should take, forget it! Most of the forces are beyond your control. Besides that, your opinion is probably wrong.


Clara said...

You're right, of course, that the length of your program generally depends on many factors outside your control. I think (though I haven't actually finished my PhD, so take my advice as you like!) that the main rule is: just keep working. Whatever else you do, keep working, even if that sometimes means just an hour or two of work each day.

Unless immediate financial needs are pressuring you to finish asap, it really might not matter so much whether you're working quickly or slowly. Slow and steady can get you there eventually, and you're really not racing anybody in a PhD program. What's deadly is to stop. Inertia is huge when it comes to doctoral work. The project of writing a dissertation seems so massive and daunting that, once you've gone a few months without touching it, starting up again can start to feel impossible. Also, if you go too long without producing anything, the faculty who work with you might start writing you off, particularly if you have other "strikes against you" (e.g. kids). They've seen this pattern so many times before.

Though I don't have kids, I struggle with this too in the sense that I'm working on my dissertation remotely after getting married. I know, of course, that getting married and moving away tends to immediately raise questions in people's minds about how likely you are to finish. It's not that they hate marriage... they're just applying the principles of induction based on other cases that they've seen. Having kids has a sort of similar effect, I think. But nobody is rooting for you to fail, and as long as you can show that progress is still being made, you'll get there in the end!

Clara said...

By the way, I sort of hope your formula isn't right, because if it is, then I'm supposed to finish about eight months from now, and I don't think that's gonna happen!