In the 10 days, much has transpired. The kids had their last days of school. I submitted 30 pages to my adviser of what I'm now thinking will end up being 2 separate chapters (with obviously will require much editing and additions to each). I took my kids out for 2 days. Family came to visit for the weekend. Kids started day camp. In the last three days, I transcribed 3 interviews totaling about 200 minutes of audio and probably 8-9 hours of transcription time. I've looked up a few peer-reviewed articles and I've sketched out some ideas related to my overall argument, and some topics/themes that I want to really flesh out somewhere in the dissertation. I did some laundry and dishes. I finally put those old clothes in my closet in a bag. I wrote a recommendation letter for a student. I bought some clothes for one of my kids. Yet amongst all this, I'm feeling like somewhat of a failure. I saw this post on Facebook about all the stuff we tell ourselves in academia. Much of it is related to imposter syndrome, the competitive nature of academia, jealousy, and how all of that intersects. Many times, it manifests in anxiety and/or depression, like I've said before. For me, I feel like my anxiety level is going through the roof lately. I guess I'm not alone. Do a search on Twitter or Facebook with the words, depression anxiety, and tons of stuff comes up. It doesn't help that we have a big trip coming up, that, well, I really wasn't too crazy about in the first place, and I have so much to get done before then. However, what am I really measuring my progress up against? Is it some false notion that I MUST write something coherent every day, that even a fully transcribed interview that took me 3 hours of work time isn't a tangible enough measure of my success? Is it an unrealistic expectation that I've imposed upon myself, that I'll have all interviews coded and I'll have all my media articles reviewed within the next 3 weeks? Really, anxiety can do strange things to one's ability to measure these things.
And, of course, some mom guilt mixes in. I'm paying for the kids to attend day camp, and I feel like I should have gotten so much more done. It's funny, because it almost feels like the last day of school was weeks ago, and they've been going to camp for weeks even though they just started on Monday. Also, it doesn't help that some of the kids' stuff is on the other side of my desk. I glance over, and I see this little happy-meal style box that one child brought home from their field day a couple weeks ago. I look at the cartoonish scene on it, and I feel sad. Sometimes I think to myself, "wouldn't it be better if they were spending the time with me?" Then, I realize that I have gotten a good deal of work done this week, both academic and household-wise, that I wouldn't have been able to do if they weren't at camp. Also, I think of how they've excitedly told me about the things they did each day, and how bored they might have been if they just had to sit in the house while I tried to get something done each day. But, sometimes I still feel bad, that even in the evenings when they come home, I'm not in the best of moods, although I try to switch gears.
Another thought goes back to something I mentioned earlier-- how are we measuring our progress? I've read many articles and advice blogs about this. If we're writing, many times, we think the first draft has to be perfect, which becomes a roadblock to progress. Also, we can tend to think that anything we do BESIDES writing really isn't that important and isn't REAL progress. Again, that is wrong. Yesterday, I spent about 2 hours thinking about an argument that I want to make in another chapter. Reviewing literature and transcribing an interview helped me to think about how I want to frame that argument. Towards the end of the day, I typed out a paragraph that I think will help me not only to structure a chapter, but also the overall argument of my dissertation.
Bottom line, I know that I put unrealistic expectations on myself. I think self-reflection is important. Yes, we need to set interim deadlines. Yes, we need to tune out distractions. However, we are also human beings. We have lives and various responsibilities, especially those of us who are considered "non-traditional" students. And, we can't ignore self-care if we're also trying to manage anxiety or other issues amongst all of these seemingly often competing priorities.
And now...I set out to try to make some progress today! :)