Being a Grad School Parent

So, now I’m a graduate student and a stay-at-home-mom with a near-15 month old.


How did this happen?!

I’ve been trying this role and idea on for about 12 months, and it’s been one tiny toe into the giant lake of academia each month.  I’ve written a little bit about my mixed feelings about college at all here.  I’m also fairly certain that I told some of my college friends to talk some sense into me if I ever tried to go to grad school.  None of them have turned up yet though with a well thought out argument or a swift kick to the head. I’m not yet sure they won’t.

I decided to look into graduate school March 2011 when I was six months pregnant and contemplating the options of being a stay at home mother, returning to work at my current occupation, or well, something else.  I chose something else.  I took my GRE exam a mere six weeks after giving birth.  Yes, I did all my studying as I struggled through nights where I didn’t string together more than three hours of sleep in a row.  Thank God that’s over.

I made the decision to apply thinking about the flexibility of staying home and balancing study during naps.  It’s also easy for me to make the choice to see friends during the day, and study at night.  Something that full time graduate students, or full time career/students don’t always have the option for.  It’s important to me that I don’t sacrifice friendships (which I just wrote about last week) for a life of studying!  I also had the hope of returning to work when my son is ready for pre-school in a new and exciting career. In short, it seemed like good timing.

I got accepted in the MS of Industrial Organizational Psychology program in November of 2011.  I took my first class this spring, and it wasn’t difficult – in fact, I’m fairly certain it was deceptively light on the readings.  I took my second class in the summer – six weeks of statistics, about 20 hours of work per week.  That was more what I imagined as I balanced study during naptime, church commitments, and the excitement of starting a new blog with my friends.

This fall, I’m taking two classes (yes, it’s part time) and completing 10 work study hours per week.  As I’m sitting down this week counting up the hours of my time I’ve committed to school and other projects, drafting out nights to study, and nights to relax, and compiling a list of questions to ask potential babysitters, I decided to google “grad school parenting” to find out what others suggest and recommend.

How Common is This?

This article for example says there aren’t that many doctoral student mothers.  I don’t quite fit into this category anyway, since I’m not intending to complete a doctorate. (But, well, that’s what I said about a Masters Degree too, so we’ll see about that. Eventually.) In my anecdotal experience I know two other stay at home student-mothers.  I’ve heard from several middle aged women that that was the route they chose. I also really enjoyed the comments in response to this article about how one person handled the balance.

How do you do it?

I’m interested to know this as it relates to me, but also, how it relates to any intellectual who is also a parent.  A lot of grad school (or any job) is finding someone to care for the children, and getting a good idea of how much time it takes you to do a project then being sure you’re ready at that time to tackle the project.

However, particularly with intellectual and artistic projects (writing, composing, studying all come to mind) there’s a little something else that goes into the mix. Call it creativity, insight, or real learning if you want.  How do you get that if so much your day is the taken up in the same fifteen phrases, the liturgy of parenting (as this blogger puts it)?  I feel as though I often spend so much of my best “thinking hours” enjoying the simplicity of the park and taking care of activities of daily living.

When it comes time to study at night my brain is exhausted. I want it to be different, but it often isn’t.  That’s what I’m looking for as I balance parenting and grad school – the intersection between integrating and compartmentalizing my different roles in life – allowing real thought to happen amidst some of the more mindless aspects of parenting.

Do you experience difficulty being creative after caring for a small child, or turning out your “best work” no matter what that might be.  What are your thoughts on this?

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Author: Beth M

I love new ideas & information, connecting people, and discovering New England adventures.

3 thoughts on “Being a Grad School Parent”

  1. I can’t really answer your question regarding myself, Beth, but I have had many parent/graduate students at SSU and for the most part I’ve been really impressed with their incredible organizational skills, their discipline, and their commitment. Good luck in the new semester!

    1. Thank You. Yes, I think Salem State does a really good job supporting diversity in it’s student body ethnically, socioeconomically, and age wise. Particularly in the continuing education classes, and graduate classes I’ve taken there’s been no one “mold” that every student, or even half the students fit into. A refreshing model of education (though I’m sure it leads to unique challenges as well.)

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