Taking holidays while doing a PhD

At the moment I feel guilty when I take holidays. Does anyone else have the same slight back of the head worry that they are skiving off when their precious work awaits? One of the problems of doing these stupid PhDs full time in Australia with an APA award is that you are given four weeks annual leave. Ok, no issues there. It’s just that there is so much necessary fallow time with a PhD that it’s hard to work out whether one is taking a break or simply not doing the study.

Another issue is the tendency for my husband to be a complete workaholic. Which most of the time is absolutely fine because who wants someone hanging about the house when you have thinking to do, but it means our holidays are really ephemeral moments, usually tied to a conference. So it doesn’t feel like holidays at all, but rather a skiving off from work.

I’m desperately tired now. I teach quite a few hours a week, and, as the end of my stipend approaches, I am aware of the need to find more full time work to fill the employment gaps. But with all my teaching during semester time (term time for secondary students) I am in need of actual respite. The travel that my husband and I do could hardly count for “respite”. It’s work. It’s networking. It’s a freaking conference!

But there have been weeks in the last year when I’ve literally not been able to do anything. Such as when we bought a house. That was 2 whole months of NO work on the PhD because I was desperately flinging together our budget, doing 3 years of tax, and then getting the renovations organised before we moved in. I was terribly busy at that time. It was no holiday. As anyone who has bought a house and moved and renovated knows all too well.

So, when is a holiday from the PhD an actual holiday? Is it when you are too busy with other projects to fit decent study in? Is it when you need a mental break from it in amongst all the other activities yammering for attention? Or is it when, in an odd congruence, one’s physical AND mental breaks align and you can think, OK, I give myself permission to take a break?

Until my PhD is done and submitted, I won’t feel deserving of a holiday. It will sit at the back of my head, that little red devil, whispering in my ear: “finish me….finish me….”


2 thoughts on “Taking holidays while doing a PhD

  1. What you have written here is an exact description of my life, every bit of it. I came here when I put in some keywords into Google such as “working+holidays+PhD”. It does comfort me somewhat to know that I am not alone, but I have found no other approach other than escapism to handle my situation. Have you finished your PhD? Have you discovered a new way to handle these feelings? I would really like to know!!

    1. Hi Deepey, no. I’m still struggling with having 4 other people in the house at all times, my desk being used by my daughter as she uses my room while she’s staying with us and by the sense that even though Charles Bukowski says “be creative no matter what”, I can’t concentrate and he might have been a little bit bullshit. Besides, doing a PhD is less about being creative at this end of the game and more about ticking boxes. It requires deep concentration and I just can’t. Not here, not now. I want everyone to just go away, I want my husband to go back to work, I want peace and quiet and no distractions. I have found no new ways to handle these feelings!

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