Between my mother’s perfect passion for holiday decor, and my dad’s gift wrapping with the world’s strongest tape, I find myself stuck to the warm memories and nostalgia that being home for the holidays brings about. I also find comfort in my brother and I honoring each other’s quest for minimalism and non-consumerismo approaches to life, yet trying to find the perfect gifts for each other. The holidays bring about a welcome kind of busy, one that completely contrasts from my chaotic life as a doctoral student.
I hear a lot of doctoral students saying that their family “just didn’t understand” and it was really hard to create boundaries of space, time, and expectations during this period of doctoral studies. I was even told of stories from students who wrote a letter to each of their family members and told them not to contact them for a period or time, or not to expect them at Thanksgiving or Christmas while they were in the writing phase. I am not saying that their truths and systems of time management are wrong, I am just saying for me it is different. And most likely it will be different for you too. Especially for those in the social sciences. The higher ed doctorate is somewhat of a new practice. So it is understandable that everyone does not fully understand the structure, like we understand that of residencies and MDs. There are yet to be series and comedies such as Grey’s Anatomy, The Good Doctor, and even Scrubs to give us a glimpse into the lives of future doctors of education (@lenawaite or @ava I’m ready when you are). But that doesn’t mean that we can’t fully include families into our process, our research, and our spaces.
What type of white supremist ideas are we upholding with creating this artificial boundary between family and education? Mary Hamilton’s social context of literacy theory speaks all about the spaces, places, and participants in our literacy upbringings. This article resonated with me as it paid homage to the family work and the home work that goes unnoticed or uncentered as we become consumers of education. Our family participants, whether they hold doctorates or not) are the foundation of our educational success, and they deserve to be a part of our trajectories to our terminal degree accomplishments as well.
Yes, my parents, for the most part, don’t understand. No, it does not bother me one bit.
I actually adore the fact that to my parents, Reka is in school again. This is what she does, she goes to school. She’s smart. I remember during my first semester on a call with my dad…
Dad: uh huh, so you in school again? So when will you be done? In a year?
Me: ummm, no Dad. This degree takes most people four to seven years.
So with all the hustle and bustle of school, deadlines, reading, writing, and critical analysis, and self-reflection and growth, I love the few days a year where no one cares about my recent cognitive dissonance, and we can plan family holiday meals and Christmas pajamas.
And yes, superficially, they don’t care. I didn’t need an advanced degree to buy their love or attention ever. But they do care that I have found a path that challenges me and creates a space that I get to travel and teach - two of my passions fulfilled. My mom and I watch Real Housewives of Potomac, and talk about my similarities to Dr. Wendy and her four degrees. They celebrated with me when my first article came out, and when they sport their own PhemmeD and ResearcHER paraphernalia. The so called #ivorytower tries to keep families out of this academic journey by creating these false borders, however, we, especially as WOC in the academic space are doing this work to be inclusive, to make space and incite change for others, while bringing family and friends along.
Being in my hometown, being able to come off the rollercoaster of the first fully virtual semester, with the warmth and calm of hometown views is everything I need to reset for next semester, and all the peaks and valleys it comes with.
There is something so special about being home for the holidays.
Real life happens daily, even while doing your Ph.D. This year that lesson has resonated heavily with me, so I want to remind you to stop and smell the poinsettias, drink the hot chocolate, and cherish the moments with your family. The manuscripts and focus groups can wait.
Happy Holidays to you and yours!