Maybe it’s just my experience, but PhD programs sometimes raise a strict embargo on sharing any details about personal lives. It’s rigid, work-only professionalism: your research maters, not you. Drumming out the next chapter is obviously the sole focus of your life.
Party this weekend? Sorry, I’d much rather finish these footnotes. Your great-grandma’s 90th birthday? No can do, I need to submit these articles to journals and polish my CV. New Game of Thrones? Sorry, I’m busy reading this excellent treatise in fifteenth-century Latin, much more interesting.
I’m sure this is partly just me. I’m a blue-collar girl who was accidentally allowed inside the Ivory Tower on what I always assume was a dare by the admittance committee. Maybe I feel this way because I don’t have much in common with the personal interests of others in my field, and research ideas really are the only thing we have to talk about. Or maybe it’s because a thesis committee assumes having a personal life–a social life, a marriage during grad school, hobbies, 8 hours of sleep–will distract you from the finish line.
It doesn’t matter. For the last five years, the Advisor and I have, more or less, enjoyed a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell kind of policy. It works for us.
Sure, it was a little disheartening when I got hitched and only one professor on campus told me congratulations. And yeah, it was a little frustrating when I landed my teaching gig and the Advisor’s reply email was more about progress towards a defense date than Main Street getting renamed in my honor for finding a full-time position in the current academic job market. It’s the price we pay for not having to discuss yesterday’s programming on NPR. In my defense here, I’m sure faculty don’t want to talk about dinner with my in-laws or how I owned last weekend’s Cards Against Humanity round.
Still, I knew I’d need to tell the Advisor I was pregnant eventually.
Biting the bullet went something like this.
I wrote a dissertation chapter on a fourteenth-century religious order in Italy called the Gesuati and sent it to the Advisor for inspection/mutilation. When he emailed back, the Universe lined up the perfect shot.
Advisor: I see that Outlook changed “Gesuati” to “Gestate” in my last message. Don’t write a “Gestate” chapter.
Me: Yeah, I saw the typo yesterday. Actually…about that, funny thing, I *AM* writing a “Gestate” chapter. I’m due in April.