After 5 years of researching towards a PhD., a friend has decided to call it quits. It wasn't an easy thing she did. After months of losing sleep and worrying and weighing the issues involved, she decided to throw in the towel, and cried while packing her books.
She just could not do it. She has tried and tried and tried and she was a brilliant student at school and her undergraduate course too but whilst handling 3 little kids and a husband who is also doing his PhD., it was just too much for her little shoulders.
I don't blame her.
It is not easy to study when you have kids. Period.
But it is worse when you're living in London where the living costs (especially the rent) are high and the money your sponsors give you is only really enough for single people or couples without children. It's not easy when your spouse is also doing his PhD and as a wife, somehow, just somehow, you end up doing most of the work at home on top of your own PhD. And don't forget, as a wife and mum to your kids, you are always, always emotionally engaged with your children's ups and downs when your husband, being a man, can simply 'disengage' and block anything and everything and just get on with his work.
I myself did plan to pursue something here - to also take the opportunity to gain something whilst in London. But my mother wisely said 'tak payahlah...sorang-sorang lah belajar. Dua-dua orang nak kejar itu, kejar ini..macammana?'
Wise words indeed, I think. And many of my friends here who are doing their PhD seem to think so too.
I know 4 married people here who are doing their PhDs and many, many times they have been at the verge of giving up everything and just fly back home.
You see, for most of them, their allowance will only just cover their rent here in London. For food, the children, the car and recreation they have to get money from somewhere else. And thus, one of them will have to find some work. And that is not very easy if you don't have the right qualification to your name. And because of the fact that due to the EU agreement, employers are to give priority to the people from within the EU, it gets even more difficult to get 'proper' jobs like what they used to have back home.
But once the non-studying spouse gets a job, who will take care of the baby when he/she goes to work to earn money for the family? Childcare is VERY expensive here. In the end, that job falls upon the shoulders of the one who is really supposed to be studying and working away at the library - but instead is at home trying to type a report on the PC while screaming at the children to be quiet so that he/she can concentrate.
But who said life is easy?
Still, I wonder why the universities in Malaysia send their lecturers here to London with such a pittance for one family to live by. Don't they realise the rent here is sky high (minimum average is around £700)? Don't they realise that because of the lack of funds, their sponsored student's performance will suffer and in the end it may well be pointless, anyway?
The summary to a discussion amongst friends yesterday, all married with children and studying for a better future for themselves and their family was; "If the PhD. is to be achieved, BOTH husband and wife cannot study at the same time. There is no other way about it - one of us (obviously the one who's NOT studying) will have to be worse off after all this. There has to be a BIG career sacrifice and he or she has to be resigned to the fact. Otherwise, not just the studying spouse's performance at the university and the stay-at-home spouse's working career will suffer - the marriage will also take a beating."
After all, if the stay-at-home spouse bears a grudge and keeps on harping about how BECAUSE of the other, he/she has lost out on this and that in her career, what else is bound to happen?
And all the above plus the necessity of the 'tightening of one's belt', of course. (And I mean that in a general way, not just when it comes to food.)
Because for most of the students here who come with their families, life is, indeed, NOT easy.
I hope for their sakes' and mine too that it will all be worth it.