The Balancing Act: Parenting in Graduate School
Guest Post By: Alayna Mcfee
The easiest part of graduate school was submitting the application. The $55 application fee was nothing compared to the $900 I spent on daycare a month. I decided to go to graduate school because I woke up dreading going to a job I hated just to get by. My newborn, looked at me in admiration, not knowing his mother was struggling with the end of my relationship to his father and allowing myself to continue with following my dreams. I found myself in self-doubt that I could have it all. The perfect balance of parenting and having a career I loved.
So, Fall of 2017, I made the decision to attend graduate school, not only for the potential career advancement, but to show my son that he can achieve anything he put his mind to. I knew that I was going to have to work harder and smarter than my classmates. The free time I had would have to be placed on pause for two years. Looking back know, I traded my free time for self-discovery.
If you are thinking about going to graduate school as a parent, here are some tips that will help you balance your work and school life without completely losing your sanity:
Utilize your Support System
It was challenging to accept help at first, I did not want anyone else raising my son. In a sense I felt people would judge me but I would not have made it with a village to support us. My mom picked up and watched my son at night while I attended school. I would come home after 10 pm to a sleeping baby and extra time to work on my assignments.
The support did not end at family and friends. I was blessed to have professors and a supervisor that knew what was going on. I was intimidated to tell my supervisor that I was going back to school. I did not want them to think that I would not handle my responsibilities at work. After having an open and honest conversation, he agreed to allow me to use my sick days in order to catch up on homework or to catch up from a stretch of “all-nighters”.
Organizing and Calendaring Everything
If you don’t have a planner, pick one up.
I had a calendar that held all events down to the hour and minutes. I had to write everything down or else I would be scrambling for time. I would schedule all my sons play dates, doctor’s appointments, and weekend activities months in advance in order to allow for quality time together. Despite dedicating 20 hours a week to studying, I always made time for me and my little man to hang out.
Calendaring all my homework assignments also allowed me to complete assignments before their due date. This decreased nights I would have to spend time studying instead of catching up on much needed rest.
Juggling being a mother, student, and full-time employee left me little room for self-care. After my second semester in my graduate program, I passed out one day after getting three hours of sleep. Being in the hospital for dehydration made me realize that it was the first time I had time to be still. I knew from that point on I had to take better care of myself during that season. My health both physical and emotional was not only important for myself, but also for my son.
Although I had very little disposable income, I treated myself to a once a month spa treatment. That hour to myself had great impact on my physical health. I also started seeing a therapist bi-weekly. I had to let go of the stigma that seeking a therapist meant something was wrong with me. Being able to have someone assist me in navigating my feelings and holding me accountable to take care of myself made me mentally strong to endure the harder times when I just wanted to drop out of my program.
Attending graduate school was both stressful and rewarding. There were times I felt defeated and wanted to quit, but knowing my son was watching me pushed me to excel. I wanted my son to be proud of me and know I did my best despite the challenges. I hope my story inspires any parent who wants to further their education to do so. You are the best example your children have, and you won't regret showing them they can achieve the “impossible.”