One of my colleagues at work defended her dissertation last month, and is now an official member of the Ph.D. club. I am very happy for her, because completing her degree will make the future that much easier for her. But nothing has really changed within her. She was just as smart two months ago as she is today. She was doing kick-ass science then, and she will continue to do kick-ass science for the rest of her career. But those three little letters make quite a difference in how she will be perceived.
Thinking about this made me realize that I am approaching the five-year anniversary of having a doctorate. It is not that big of a deal to me, really; I think I remembered to celebrate the date of my defense the first year, but totally forgot about it every subsequent year. And really, beyond the fact that having a Ph.D. has opened doors for me in my career, I haven't felt much personal impact from it at all. Every year I get a few letters addressed to "Dr.", and sometimes I use the title just for a laugh, but I'm not reminded of the existence of my degree enough to hardly notice it.
I do feel a lot different than I did five years ago, but becoming a mother is what transformed me the most, not earning my Ph.D. After all, I do get called "Mama" every day. But more importantly, motherhood has changed my perspective and transformed my personality. A measly degree couldn't hope to do that.