Grad School Mommy
June 2, 2013 § 2 Comments
Ok, so this post is overdue. The spring semester ended a month ago. However, I’ve spent the last month trying to catch up (and work on exciting projects—more later. Love that teaser?). Now that I’m (mostly) caught up, I figured I write a bit about my experience having a baby four weeks into the spring semester of my second year in a doctorate program.
I was very fortunate to have so much amazing support and assistance when Evelyn was born. In fact, I only had to bring her to class ONCE all semester because we didn’t have childcare. Throughout the semester, we had parents, siblings, and friends either visit or watch Evelyn so that I could go to class. Additionally, I was co-teaching interpersonal communication with a professor, who made me take a maternity leave for six weeks (he emailed me and told me to stop responding to student emails the week after Evelyn was born!), and I had five amazing classmates who substituted for me. Although I went back to class the third week after Evy was born, I did not have to teach until she was six weeks old, which was so wonderful. My professors were very understanding, and despite a very difficult semester, I was able to finish all my work on time.
Last semester consisted of the most difficult and the most rewarding few months of my life. Not only did we get to welcome an amazing and fun baby into the world, but I also saw how much I am capable of accomplishing in school, as well. I knew we were ready to have a baby, but I had absolutely no idea how much I would enjoy being a mommy. I had to learn to prioritize once again, and had to deal with the guilt I would feel if I wasn’t with Evy, or if I was with Evy and wasn’t doing homework. I would remind myself that part of the reason I was in school was for Evelyn, and that if I put all my time toward her and didn’t finish school, we’d all be in trouble. My goal was to finish the semester without incomplete, and I did it. It was so, so, so difficult to make it happen (to which many of the visitors can attest). There were times when Evelyn would decide that she did not want to sleep three hours like she normally did, or that she did not want to sleep at all between 4-10pm. At times I would put her in the Baby Bjorn and do homework, or vacuum, or something just to make sure that she was happy and I was productive. Sometimes I had to read with her in my lap. But in any case, I was always willing to put her before work.
Being a graduate student mom has its downfalls, since my work is always with me and I can’t leave it at the office, which might mean the whole day feels like it’s been dedicated to homework. Although I don’t necessarily go into an office for 40 hours/week, I definitely put in at least that many hours in a much more sporadic way. And, I never really had a maternity leave (I’m taking a summer class right now, and working on other odds and ends). Yet, I think I have been extremely fortunate to have a baby while in graduate school. Steve has a flexible schedule and has been so supportive and involved—waking up with me in the middle of the night in the beginning to help with diaper changes and feedings, and helping with Evy when he would get home from school so I could work on homework—which made everything easier and more fun. As a result, I have (for the most part) been able to do homework while Evelyn’s sleeping (or when we have had visitors to take care of her), and still play with her while she’s awake. I wouldn’t trade this (crazy, stressful, exciting) time for anything.
In the end, it’s come down to perspective and priorities for me. As long as I keep a realistic perspective on things and remember what is most important, the rest will fall into place. There will be compromises, but it does not necessarily mean I have to give anything up completely. I just need to keep reminding myself of this :)