Continuing your education beyond undergrad is a big step for most people, but for a stay at home mom (or dad) it can be down right scary. When I decided to further my education beyond a Bachelor’s degree, I was so pumped and ready to tackle grad school head on. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I had heard horror stories from friends and associates who didn’t have any kids, about how they struggled to keep up with the workload and such. Then there were stories from those who had families that never finished because they couldn’t make it work. This didn’t help my anxiety. After some research, I made the call to several universities for more information on a Masters of psychology program. I spoke with an adviser at several schools before I made a decision on which program would work best for me. I chose the online route rather than a traditional on campus route. I picked a private, reputable, accredited, and non-profit university to attend. For a lot of parents, online learning is one of the most convenient ways to attend college because of the flexibility. It is just as challenging as traditional classes on campus.
I ordered my textbooks, printed my syllabuses and was ready to get started. Originally I was taking about 2-3 classes at a time and things were going great in the program I was enrolled in…then I ended up getting pregnant.
I took a small break because it was too much to deal with on top of the crazy pregnancy hormones and such. I found myself being easily annoyed with my professor as well as my classmates, even though there was no face to face interaction. I ended up enrolling back into class in the later part of the pregnancy, only to give birth in the middle of finals. At this point I had reduced the number of classes I was taking down to just one at a time to better manage things and to reduce stress. I had communicated a lot with the professor I had; so he was very understanding of the situation and gave me more time to complete the assignments. Oddly enough, I stayed on top of things and had everything turned in on time, including my final; despite giving birth.
I ended up graduating and with an amazing GPA and decided to take the next and final step in completing my education. A Doctorate.
Now this is where I lose my mind
I am pregnant again….The work load has gotten increasingly heavy with each class that I take. I have found myself hating school and doing my assignments. I procrastinated and turned a lot of stuff in the day it is due. Some classes I am on top of things and others I am not because well I simply don’t give a sh*t. With now 4 kids and expecting our 5th and last, sometimes I wonder WTF was I thinking enrolling into more classes. Over the years of being a mommy student, I have learned some things to help boost and maintain my production and reduce episodes of procrastination. Being a SAHM, I decided I wanted to make the most of my time and continue my education so that I can at least keep my resume fresh and use my time wisely while I am making humans, chasing toddlers, wiping boogers and booties. IF and WHEN I decide to return to work outside of the home, I want to make sure I am as marketable as possible since I was a part of the mommy drain (when you have a career, then start a family and never return back to work after maternity leave is over).
12 THINGS THAT HELPED ME SURVIVE GRAD SCHOOL AS A PARENT
- SMART goals. Smart goals help you break your goals down into simpler ones to help you reach them in a efficient and effective way.S. – Specific : By being specific with the goal you would like to reach, you increase the odds of you accomplishing it. Think who, what, when and where. A general goal for school would be to get good grades. A specific goal would be to write down objectives weekly and take notes three times a week.
M. – Measurable: Create a way to track your progress. You do this by writing down deadlines, making a checklist and including dates. So for example, write down all of your assignments you have due for that week and the days they are due. Give yourself a set time-frame to have it done and check them off as you go.
A. – Attainable: Select goals that mean the most to you. When you pinpoint the ones that are your top priority, you will be more motivated to make them happen. You can reach goals you have set for yourself by planning. Some goals that you thought were years or months away suddenly become within a week or two’s reach. You will begin to see more chances to reach your goals, as well as some opportunities that you may have ignored in the past.
R. – Realistic: Being realistic about what you are willing and unwilling to do helps make goals realistic. You can have a high profile goal that may seem unreal to others but is very realistic to you. You decipher just how high up or low your goal will be. Low goals actually aren’t easier to reach. They require little to no motivation.
T. – Timely: You should set a time-frame to obtain your goals. With no set time, there is no urgency and can cause you to stall or procrastinate. If you want to have your work turned in by Thursday, even though it is due by Sunday saying I will work on my assignment “someday before Wednesday” will not work out too well for you. If you set an actual day such as “I will have my assignment done on Tuesday”, you have already out reaching the goal in motion.
- Not focusing so much on having and maintaining a high GPA. Focus on actually learning the material and retaining it. I am not saying your GPA isn’t important. I am saying you need to focus on what you are learning as well as that number. A lot of doctors and scholars who are successful didn’t necessarily make straight A’s all the time or have an amazing GPA. Grad school isn’t all about passing a million test with amazing scores, but more so MASTERING the material. You are training to be a professional and semi-expert.
- Using my time wisely. I try to study or work on assignments when I have a little down time, in between feedings, naps etc. For the most part I work on things when my kids are sleeping for the night that way I do not have to worry about unexpected interruptions and can work in peace. I space out my assignments so that I am not bogged down all at once. My husband is in school as well, but for Industrial Engineering; so we try to do homework at the same time so that it does not cut into quality time.
- Using the TV as a babysitter and not feeling bad about it. There are times when I really need to focus and have a lot to do that I have to utilize screen time for peace and quiet. I don’t feel bad about this at time because guess what? It works.
- Caffeine. Lots of coffee and tea.
- Wine. Lots of wine (obviously not while preggo)
- Planning meals. I try to plan out meals every week that way it takes the guess work out of what we are having for dinner and I prep for it earlier in the day. If I am really bogged down, I have the kids snacks already measured out and in little baggies on the counter within reach so they can self serve.
- Exercise. So you tend to eat a lot of crap when you are in grad school so to combat the extra weight gain alongside those unhealthy snack choices, I try to be active. I get up and stretch, do some light exercising that can help burn a few calories as well as oxygenate my brain for better thinking.
- Investing in reliable supplies. My hubby bought me a nice and reliable laptop, mouse, and new printer. I also installed a reliable and free antivirus program on my computer to keep the threats of virus down. A good deal is great on more expensive brands, but keep in mind you get what you pay for when you go the super cheap route when it comes to laptops etc.
- Asking for help when I need it. There have been times where I have had to venture to my parent’s house or a friend’s house book-bag, books, and laptop on deck with the kids in order to get some work done. The kids are entertained and I can get some work down while having a “babysitter” for free.
- Change of scenery. Sometimes I have had to utilize going to the library or Starbucks (Yay! Coffee) for a more ambient environment while someone else watched the kids or they stayed home with daddy. It is also doubles as “me time”.
- Taking breaks. Sometimes life happens or things can get overwhelming. You have come too far to quit so a break may be necessary if you feel yourself becoming burnt out. There is nothing wrong with taking a term or semester (or two) off to recharge. DO NOT deprive yourself of breaks, even little ones while working on big or small assignments. When I am at home, I take breaks to play with my kids, text or chat with friends, nap, or step outside for some fresh air.
All of these things help me make my way through grad school without losing my sh*t…well sometimes I did lose my sh*t but not as often as I probably would have if I had just winged it. It’s rewarding once you reach the end and graduate. Once you are done, look back at all of those crazy nights and days of frustration and see your glorious accomplishment, that fancy framed receipt on the wall for all of those student loans.