Author Topic: When family gets a little naggy...  (Read 5650 times)

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Dindrane

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Re: When family gets a little naggy...
« Reply #15 on: October 30, 2012, 09:44:19 AM »
Thank you, everyone, for all of your wonderful suggestions. They've really helped me think about how to talk about it differently.

There are a couple of things that do kind of stink about the situation and make it harder to talk about. For one, DH is entering year 7 of his PhD (and he started the darn thing with an MA in hand, no less), which is much longer than anyone (him and his advisor included) were expected at the outset. So the original plan, when he was young and full of hope, was to graduate this past spring. Which, of course, totally didn't happen. He's a little frustrated with that, because he's more than ready to be done. I am totally fine with the timing, except for wishing my DH wasn't unhappy about it himself.

The other thing is that, since DH feels like he just wasted two months, he really doesn't feel like he's able to take a vacation from writing when we visit Home City. I've encouraged him to, mostly because he needs real breaks from work from time to time, and vacation is always a good time to do that. But if his writing is going well, he often won't stop while it is so that he can take advantage of the momentum. If I can convince him to take a break, or at least to work when it's not super obvious he's working, I probably will use the "Please don't talk about it because we both need a vacation from it!" tactic, though.

Has anyone in your/DH's family ever written a dissertation?  Because they may be underestimating what a huge effort it is.  Trust me, I sympathize.  I make my living writing, and you wouldn't believe the number of people who think that you sit down in front of the computer and POOF the words just appear.

In my family, nobody has a PhD. My dad has an MA, but it's more of a professional degree that didn't involve writing a thesis. So for them, I'm positive that they just don't really get what it's like to write a book. I certainly didn't until I watched DH try to do it, and even I don't really know what it's like in the end.

In my DH's family, the nagging stings a bit more because it mostly comes from his mother, who has a PhD and has been an academic for her whole career. I swear she's Superwoman, though, because she finished hers in like 4 years (with three children and a husband in tow). Aside from that, her PhD is in a field that seems to be different enough from DH's that she doesn't actually seem to have a good understanding of how much research his dissertation entails, so she's ended up with some sort of unrealistic expectations about the amount of work necessary to finish.

Perhaps the family need also be reminded that done isn't good enough.  It also has to be good enough to be done.

Is your DH in a field where his dissertation may later be published?  Perhaps use that to spin the time commitment and make them understand.  i.e. "It can be frustrating, but DH is working so hard to finish with a strong dissertation.  Did you know that with a great dissertation he'll 1) be so much closer to publishing his first book or 2) be a much stronger candidate in this tough economy.  Think of it like building a house.  Do you want the builders to finish fast or build it strong?"

That's a good point. DH is going to be interviewing for jobs on the strength of his dissertation (among other things), and my parents know the job market for academics is pretty pitiful right about now, so that might be a good way to answer any questions they have about the timing without getting too confrontational.


TootsNYC

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Re: When family gets a little naggy...
« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2012, 11:31:07 AM »
"The dissertation is coming along fine but DH & I made a pact that we were taking a vacation from it for this week (or however long that you're in Home City) so we can relax."

Then bean dip like mad. And lather-rinse-repeat as needed.

The mention of the pact between you & DH and the word vacation, repeated as often as necessary, should drive home the fact that the topic is off limits for this trip without making it sound like it has anything to do with you not wanting the parents to ask, but more to do with your own needs to take a break from it.

I've found that often, the best way to get someone to do something you want is to put all the blame on yourself. So instead of implying that their asking is annoying, you're stating that it's all about your need for a holiday from work.

Since you say that your DH may actually BE writing, then say that you've got a pact to refrain from talking about it.

"It's bad enough he's writing it, let's not talk about it as well."

SPuck

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Re: When family gets a little naggy...
« Reply #17 on: October 30, 2012, 01:58:28 PM »
Do you think bringing him on a vacation away from his paper is a good idea if you go to a place where everyone there is going to remind him of it?

Dindrane

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Re: When family gets a little naggy...
« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2012, 02:47:09 PM »
Do you think bringing him on a vacation away from his paper is a good idea if you go to a place where everyone there is going to remind him of it?

He isn't really going to be away from his work, because he's bringing a lot of it with him. And in this case, the primary motivation for this trip is not to take a vacation. We're going because of my relative's milestone birthday party, and turning it into an almost-week-long trip because of the time it takes to travel.

Plus, since this trip involves airfare and we are leaving pretty soon, it doesn't really matter if it's a good idea or not -- the trip isn't really subject to change at this point.


Mikayla

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Re: When family gets a little naggy...
« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2012, 06:18:49 PM »
It's one of the ways they show (unintentionally) that DH is a part of the family -- he's close enough to them that they feel a vested interest in his successes and want to help, ...

This may be a really effective framework to stress to him if you haven't.  It may not reduce his annoyance, but it puts it into a totally different context.

When I graduated from college, I lived/stayed with my bro and his wife for a summer.  About a month into it, she said something to me I wasn't too happy about, and I mentioned this to him.  He laughed and said "Don't you get it?  She talks that way to family".  I don't recall exactly what it was, but it turned my perception of her statement from criticism to feeling I belonged in this group and had to take my licks like everyone else in the family.  In fact, it ended up as a compliment to me.

If he doesn't want you to say anything to them, he does need to consider changing his reactions.  Maybe this would help a little.



blarg314

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Re: When family gets a little naggy...
« Reply #20 on: October 30, 2012, 08:47:33 PM »

I've done a PhD dissertation, and even when it's going well, there's a period of about six months to a year where you're working flat out, and  the last thing you want to hear is "How's the thesis going?  Is is done yet?" yet again.

I think I'd drop them an email or a call, and say "DH is really stressed about finishing right now, and the last thing he needs is a whole bunch of questions about why the dissertation isn't done yet/when he's finish.  Can you help me try to take his mind off the stress?"

You don't need to reference details about your situation, because the above request replies to pretty much everyone who is finishing a dissertation.

gmatoy

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Re: When family gets a little naggy...
« Reply #21 on: October 30, 2012, 09:02:28 PM »
Chiming in to say: A friend of mine (who hadn't yet had children) was complaining to me (I still haven't done a dissertation) about everyone asking when she was going to be done. I laughingly said, "Ah, it is like having a baby...everyone asks when it is coming and says things like 'haven't you had that baby yet?' As if you didn't want to be done with the pregnancy already!"

She told me later that when her family started on her again, she just compared it the way I had and all the women "got" it and they called off the men. 


Dindrane

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Re: When family gets a little naggy...
« Reply #22 on: November 01, 2012, 10:01:07 AM »
So as a slight update, my DH has apparently been thinking about how to head off the questions about his dissertation before we travel to see my family in a few weeks, and perhaps more importantly, before we travel to see his family over Christmas. We'll be spending quite a long time with his family when we go to visit, so everyone will have ample opportunity to wonder why he's still working on his dissertation after all this time.

So DH, who writes a sporadic blog on various topics related to the classes he has taught or the research he has done, wrote a truly exhaustive blog post about what, precisely, he has been doing since he started his PhD degree program. He even included a few scanned documents of the primary sources he is using, so that the whole world can see how incredibly difficult it is to read 100-year-old, poorly-preserved, hand-written documents that are not in English. Then he took that blog link and sent it to his family in an email. I'm planning on mentioning the post to my parents before we go in the hopes that at least one of them will read it.

Since he's done that, we can now redirect any conversations away from "when are you going to finish" to both what he's actually doing, and perhaps more importantly, what he's already done.

I did talk with DH about some of your suggestions, and I think a lot of them will fit in well with what he's said in his blog, as a way of redirecting conversations so that he can talk about what he's doing (which is much nicer than feeling like he has to justify why he's still doing it).


YummyMummy66

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Re: When family gets a little naggy...
« Reply #23 on: November 01, 2012, 11:49:12 AM »
What I think your dh should do is go into a very lengthy discussion of his dissertion.  You know, like an hour or more.   And bring it up every five minutes or so or bring it up into every conversation.   By the end of the first day with your family, I bet no one brings up the dissertation again!

mbbored

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Re: When family gets a little naggy...
« Reply #24 on: November 01, 2012, 11:56:59 AM »
What I think your dh should do is go into a very lengthy discussion of his dissertion.  You know, like an hour or more.   And bring it up every five minutes or so or bring it up into every conversation.   By the end of the first day with your family, I bet no one brings up the dissertation again!

When I'm with people who are generally sympathetic and not too nosy, I often compare it to asking a single person when they're going to meet somebody, or newlyweds when they're going to have a baby.

Unfortunately, my family thinks that those are perfectly acceptable questions, so I go with the above. Usually all I need is 45 minutes of me discussing how you determine mosquito trap location, the sexual reproduction of the malaria parasite, and how exactly onchocerciasis makes you go blind and then they leave me alone for the rest of the visit.

Dindrane

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Re: When family gets a little naggy...
« Reply #25 on: November 02, 2012, 12:01:54 AM »
He more or less did just that. I talked to my mom earlier this evening, and she had read the blog post. Her response to it was, essentially, that it was interesting and she'll never ask him about it again.

In thinking about, he was a teeny bit defensive in his tone, but at least it gives anyone who reads it an accurate depiction of what he spends his time doing.

It also had the added benefit of having my mom know what I was talking about when I mentioned that DH had spent all afternoon researching a specific set of documents. Now she knows what they are and what they look like!