'Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evel for evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.' 1 Peter 3:11 NIV of The Bible
It's a new year! I am taking classes on campus, four classes to be specific. It's a whole lot more than I'd like to be taking, but I'll be glad to have them done when I get to the end of the semester.
Truth is, I feel pretty overwhelmed some days when I think about all my responsibilities and 'hats'. And as I look around for role models, it seems pretty hard to find other women doing the same 'thing.' I guess that is a big reason why I decided to start back on this blog. Recently, I went 'googling' trying to find any resources for women who were working on advanced degrees and had children. I found a few bits but nothing was especially helpful. It's frustrating for me to feel like I'm the only person who is trying to get a PhD and be the primary caretaker for thier child. I know I'm not the only one... So where is everyone else?
The technology is available to put myself "out there", so I'm going to try. Maybe if I make some discoveries on how to do this while being the best possible student and mom that I can be, the evidence will be here to pass along to others that attempt the same noble feat.
I am currently a bit isolated from others in my department. Some of this is self-imposed. I (my husband and I) did not want to rely on full-time daycare as the means of caring for our son while I continued working on my degree. This something I felt strongly about long before I had children. I couldn't imagine carrying him with me 24/7 throughout my pregnancy, then care for him around the clock post-partum, and choosing after a maternity leave to turn over to daycare workers for 40 hours a week. I (We) wanted to be the ones he spent the vast majority of his time with. I know for many couples this is there only option, but we felt like we needed to do otherwise.
So, for my first semester back after having Ramogi, I would work while he took naps. This meant I worked from home and was away from the company of my peers and professors. Some days this was incredibly difficult, other times it worked smoothly. My son is a great sleeper and when I started back to research/work he was napping 6 hours a day. If I worked through 4 of those hours, I was doing really well. Unrealistically, I first thought I would work 6 days a week. Truth be told, I was still thinking of myself as a full-time student and a full-time mom. As my frustration would mount that I couldn't get enough done, or my son didn't sleep well on a given day, I saw my folly.
I CANNOT be both a full-time mom and student. I had to chose one or the other. Well, that was easy, I had already chosen to be a full-time mom. Now I had to figure out how to be a part-time student.
Some thoughts/advice as of today with an 8 month-old and 2 years in to a PhD program:
1. Make sure that you chose an advisor who is supportive of family and will not question your decision to put family first. If you already have an advisor and are just now bringing up the subject, steel yourself to be firm on your priorities.
2. Have a plan on how you expect to manage family and school, and then have a back-up plan. (I had every intention of taking a full courseload through my pregnancy, but was nearly disabled and physically overwhelmed through much of it. Instead of completing 18 hours as planned, I completed 12. But, I've adjusted and am only one semester behind in coursework.)
3. Even if you can do work/research from home and will be the primary care for your child(ren), still plan to ahve some help. There will be projects that require large blocks of time. You will need to elave the house to go to a meeting or see someone face-to-face. Don't wait until it comes up to get help. Schedule and find help now. Make a regular plan to use help so that they are always there and you can rely on them. Piece meal help is nice when something occassionally comes up, but trying to beg someone every other Thursday to take your son so you can go to seminar will just get exhausting and stressful. Find some reliable and keep them!