So there was a lot of "Ooooohhhh," and "Really?!" when I told people I was going back to school for my doctorate. One of my favorite undergrad professors described it as "Years of back-breaking work," and given the fact that he's a labor historian, I tend to take that seriously. :) But honestly, it is (so far) no harder than any busy full-time job. I am certainly not as sleep-deprived as I was as a new teacher, and Spring was a particularly challenging semester. However, I do understand why PhD students complain and why people who have gotten their degrees consider it to be difficult:
1. Everything takes so frickin' long!
You can't just have a meeting, the meeting has to be 2 hours long. Which is followed up by another meeting with a subset of those people or a larger group of people. To have basically the same discussion. Luckily, I'm not in many of those, and the ones that I am in are usually paid and part of my assistantship, so I don't feel like I'm totally wasting my time.
2. Read, read, and read some more. And then read it all again.
In order to succeed at quals (qualifying exams - two take-home exams that are 7-10 days each), you need to have detailed notes on just about everything you've ever read, because (apparently) you'll want to have that ready when you start writing those exams. No one wants to reread what they've already read to get an idea of who said what when you're trying to write a concise paper that three of your profs are going to read and grade. As well, in order to prepare, I hear you need to read as much as possible (in addition to what you're already doing) about your topic, so you search every article for additional citations, and then read those, until you are basically coming back around to the same authors and articles you started with. Sheesh.
3. "Everyone is friendly, but you never make friends."
I've been sort of fortunate that I work in a TA office, because I do feel like I have some friends in the program! We are all in different departments or concentrations, but there are enough overlaps that we can commiserate about our experiences!
With all of this said, I really do like what I'm doing now. It's really self-indulgent to go back to school full time at my age, honestly. But I'll just keep my fingers crossed that I find an awesome job soon after graduation that hopefully doesn't have me moving to the ends of the earth!