The decision to continue my education while having a baby to bring up was bound to invite challenges, and it did. Being a mom, you have to make tough decisions every day. Should you give her one more “good bye” hug and kiss or run immediately because you are late for the early morning lecture? Should you play dolls with her as she is asking you to do that with a priceless smile on her cute face, or should you shut yourself in your room to finish an assignment as you have an approaching deadline? Having these questions in mind, I would dare to say “being a mom and a graduate student at the same time is an everyday challenge”.
Managing and prioritizing
Being a graduate student, you constantly feel you have a great volume of work to do and lack the time to do it all. Being a mom and a graduate student, you still have that same volume of work and even less time to do it. But you can ignore none of your responsibilities. So you have to learn how to be more productive. First, you learn to manage your time effectively. That is to say you need to have a plan. Every day, you plan how much time you need to allocate for a) studies, b) child, and c) husband. And, yes, child and husband are not included in one “family” category, because each of them needs your separate attention. Now you see that for the first category in your plan you most probably allocated less time than your friends, who neither have a family nor work. In order not to fail in your studies because of a lack of time, you need to learn to be flexible enough to revise priorities constantly. In other words, not all tasks are equally important and not all courses will equally contribute to maximizing your career opportunities. So, you need to choose which ones require most of your time and to which ones you can devote less time while reaching the level you find acceptable.
You finally realize that every significant achievement requires effort and some degree of compromise. Having responsibilities as a student, a wife, and a mother, you cannot be perfect in each of these categories. Even more, if you want to keep an acceptable balance for all three, you can’t be perfect in any of them. You just need to accept it and learn to be realistic, and make compromises with yourself. For example, there were days when I compromised a dinner with my husband, or a walk in the park with my child, or just my night’s sleep to meet my deadlines. At the same time there were days when I sacrificed several points from my grade to read fairy-tales and watch cartoons a whole day with my little one when she was sick; or watch the release of a long-expected movie with my husband instead of studying.
Making use of short time periods
Short periods of time can be very productive. Before, when I was only a bachelor student or only a mother, I thought that two hours were enough to have something to eat and then rest a little before starting actual work. Now, I realize that 2-3 hours of a baby’s nap is a precious time when I can do most of my assignments either on campus or at home. I never underestimate short periods of time any more.
The rule of 3-V(alues)
This is something, I believe, important in any phase of your life, and that is the ability to value. The challenge of being mom and a graduate student at the same time revealed three real values in my life: a) time in general, b) time spent with family, and c) the people supporting me. These two years made me value my time so much that I started to organize it (my whole day, leisure and work) so as not to waste it for something that was senseless for me. I learned to say NO to people who asked to do something instead of doing it on their own, and to my own laziness as well.
I started to value the time spent with my family, instead of taking it for granted. When I have an hour or two with my loved ones, I try to make them as pleasant and memorable as possible.
Finally, finding myself in situations, where I had to be in two places simultaneously, and, of course, never could have done that, I saw the real value of the people supporting me. In my case, those are both of my child’s grandmas, who helped me a lot by taking up a mother’s role in my absence.
What can I say to conclude is that despite all the difficulties, all my efforts are rewarded when my little girl takes my laptop, notebook and pen and pretends to do her homework, saying, “I’m like mom”. So, yes, it feels awesome to be a mom and a student at a time. If you still doubt it, take on the challenge yourself.
P.S. and if you are a graduating mother, don’t forget that you have already practiced skills that are invaluable in the job market 😉