Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Grad School Mommy Part 3: How I Do It.

I’ve already outlined 5 of the drawbacks to being a graduate school Mommy here.

I even found 5 positive aspects to the gig that I’m currently working.  You can find them here.

In this third installment of the series I’m going to write about our day to day life.  The question I get most often is, “How do you do it?”  This is where I’m going to tell you how I do it.  We all have our own challenges and necessary flexibilities, so this will not be an exact description of every week of our lives.  But this is how our family works out all the stuff that we need to get done in a way that works for us. 

Just before Mayzie was born, we made the hard decision to pull Annika out of part-time childcare.  I had just completed all of my coursework for my PhD and was staring down my qualifying exams.  I was also 8 months pregnant with my second girl, and the first was only 2 years old.  We knew it was going to be a struggle to begin with, and we were right, but quitting graduate school wasn’t really an appealing option after all the time I had already put into my PhD.  I was just getting to the good stuff.  We could barely afford childcare for one child, so two was completely out of the question.  We decided that I would stay home with the girls during the day and work on my degree in the evenings. 
It has never been easy, but I’ve never been one to take the easy route in anything.  Funny enough, the decision didn’t feel that difficult to make at the time.  It just all seemed so logical and matter of fact.  This was the only appealing option to all of us at the time.  It was partly selfish, wanting to finish my degree.  I know that, but I knew that I wanted to set an example and a precedent for my girls.  I wanted them to be proud of me and to show them that when you start something, you should finish it no matter what the obstacles.  This is how I’ve done that. 

My weeks were long and exhausting when I was writing my qualifying exams.  I spent long days with the girls, long evenings at the library, and short nights in bed.  It was not fun at all.  I did eventually get a little bit of help from a surprise gift and an amazing babysitter, and we all made it work for us. 

When we were in Germany, we flipped rolls.  Andy was the parent at home and I did my work running all over the city.  We both only had one job, and it was pretty amazing how much we actually got to see each other. 

We moved back to Andy’s hometown when he got a job here.  The cost of living is much easier on the bank account here, and we are surrounded by family who can and do help us all the time.  I’m far away from my school, library, and grad school friends, but being able to send Annika to preschool was something we most likely would have had to skip had we gone back to Cleveland in October.  Super extra bonus points go to my MIL who watches our girls for us as much as possible, between her days filled with volunteer work and church service.  (She’s pretty amazing like that.) 

Here is our typical schedule right now:

Monday: Annika goes to school 8-11am.  Mayzie and I hang out in the morning, and pick up Ani at school at 11.  We eat lunch.  Mayzie naps until around 2pm.  We run errands or do something fun in the afternoon.  Andy comes home around 5:15.  I head to the gym while he feeds the girls and gets them ready for bed.  I get home in time to tuck in the girls, and then eat some dinner.  Andy and I both do about an hour of working stuff until my brain turns off around 9 pm, and then we hang out until we go to bed.  Typically this means that I knit while we watch something on Netflix, but not always. 

Tuesday: Annika goes to school and stays at after-care until 5pm.  Mayzie goes to her Nana’s house.  I work from home from 9-5.  I pick up Ani from after-care and then go pick up Andy from work.  We drive out to Nana & Papaw’s house and eat dinner with them.  We get home in time to put the girls to bed.  Andy goes to his weekly soccer game.  I do some work for an hour or so, and then hang out until bed. 

Wednesday: The same as Monday. 

Thursday: Annika goes to school 8-11.  Mayzie & I pick her up, and we three girls hang out in the afternoon.  When Andy comes home, I go to work at the library.  I come home around 9pm to eat dinner, chat, and go to bed. 

Friday: Annika goes to school 8-11.  Mayzie and I hang out in the morning.  11:15ish, Nana comes by with Annika and Ella (our cousin) in the car, and picks up Mayzie for a girl-filled afternoon.  I work in the afternoon.  I pick up the girls around 4:30-5.  We come home to eat dinner.  Andy and I both work until around 9pm.  Sometimes one of us goes out with friends, but more often than not, we stay home together. 

Saturday: I get up early with the girls.  I wake up Andy around 8:30am and I go to a Yoga class.  Andy spends the day with the girls, usually doing the grocery shopping and playing.  I come home from Yoga, shower, and head out to work somewhere.  I come home for dinner around 6pm.  We put the girls to bed.  We work for a couple of hours, then we hang out. 

Sunday: I sleep until 7:30 and Andy asks me why I don’t sleep longer. (I can’t.)  I go work somewhere for a couple hours then go to the gym for a workout.  I come home, shower, and go back to work at the library from 1-5pm.  Alternatively, some Sundays we get to spend the whole afternoon together as a family.  I wish we could do it every week, but I really have to take advantage of the work time when I can.  We eat dinner as a family.  We put the girls to bed.  I hang out with Andy for our regular Sunday date with the Walking Dead. 

It all starts over again on Monday. 

This is what works for us right now.  This how we make it happen.  It is much less than ideal.  It is
surely NOT what we would choose if we had all the resources in the world, but we don’t.  This isn’t forever.  This is what we have figured out to help us reach that next milestone: my PhD. What comes next is a mystery right now.  We’re actively working to try to decide what it is that we want to pursue next.  As I’ve mentioned before, we’re trying to enjoy the betwixt and between for what it is in the meantime.  I'm not sure I've revealed anything so groundbreaking and helpful here, and I certainly don't feel that there are any real secrets to my success.


  1. I loved this glimpse into your schedule!

    Although it maybe isn't the way you'd structure everything if you had the ideal situation--but who ever has that? You are figuring it out and making things work for you! Posting it here makes us all realize we could maybe do that, too, if we tried!:)

    1. Thanks! It really isn't magic or anything, and we have to schedule fun time in there. I also caution that this takes an extraordinarily EQUAL partner who keeps your happiness a priority. I could NOT do this without his amazing help.

  2. I am impressed by all of it and very happy you have a fantastic MIL as well. Extra hands on deck can make such a difference during this crazy journey. Stay the course!

    1. Thanks Marianne! The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. :-)

  3. Thank you for taking the time to put this series together!! I'm an early 30s stay at home mom of three. All of my kids will be in school next Fall and I'm entering my freshman year of college, with plans to get a PhD. I'll still be in college when my oldest begins, and my two littles won't be too far behind her. It just seems so crazy, but with their ages and my hubby being able to support us all, I know I can do it. Reading this has really helped me see that it CAN be done! If you can do it with two young littles, surely I can handle it with three older ones.

    Anyway, thank you! Your story is inspiring. I'm off to check out more recent posts to see where life has led you since 2013. :-)



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