Monday, August 5, 2013

Domestic Enemies of Grad School Mom

Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici
I got this submission ages ago and like a big DORK, I am just running it now. Many apologies to the lovely and intelligent author of this post. This one is for all those moms out there trying to go to grad school and raise a family.

Hi, I'm Raedyn, but everyone calls me Rae.  Most of the time, I live with my husband (E), my beautiful toddler son (D), and my awesome teenage step-son (L), in our big, old, falling-apart house in Wisconsin.  I was born in the South, but I was lured to the frozen tundra for graduate school, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  As of mid-February, Caan, D, and I are on a one-year assignment in India (my step-son chose to stay with his mom for the year), where I'm trying desperately to finish my degree through an unreliable internet connection and a prayer.  And here I thought being a graduate student mom in the States was hard... Like the wondrous ladies here at Rants from Mommyland, I blog about my adventures in writing, mommying, and living in a foreign country at

Let me tell you a secret, ya’ll. School is hard. School is work. And no amount of judgey-side-eye makes it easier.  I’ve been a college student for eleven years.  That’s right people, eleven.  I have a toddler (D), a teen step-son (L), and a husband (E) who all depend on me to keep our household running smoothly while I teach two classes a week and try to finish my degree.  I have one semester left, and if all goes according to plan (dear Maude, please let it go according to plan), I’ll soon graduate with a PhD in English. And possibly PTSD (post-traumatic student disorder).  I love my life and the chances that have been afforded to me, but allow me to enumerate the reasons I sometimes have to smile and say bless your heart.*

Academic People.  These are the people who got that look on their faces when I told them I was getting married, then again when we got pregnant.  The look that smugly says: oh yeah, just give her some time and one of us will get her office.  I don’t use my office much, but it’s still mine.  Having a family is not a death sentence to a graduate degree, so please stop busting out the bagpipes every time I walk into the room.

Non-academic People.  These people were very supportive of a school/home life double load, right up until I needed some actual help from them.  They give me the side-eye when I ask someone to watch D so I can get some writing done in the afternoon.  Writing and researching are my real work, even if I haven’t changed out of my penguin pajama pants yet.  They’re how I plan to finally stop going to school and pay back my ridiculous student loans.  I’m not abandoning my child so I can update my Facebook status.   

Bad mommy syndrome.  Let me reiterate, I am not abandoning my child.  I say that for my own peace of mind because when I do finally find someone to come over and play with D for a few hours, it slices through me when I hear him yelling mama, mama from the other side of my office door.  I am not a bad mom.  I am trying to show both our boys what it means to persevere and finish something incredible.  

Administrators.  Please, for the love of Maude, stop scheduling meetings during my kid’s nap time.  We live in a nice suburban neighborhood which is almost an hour’s drive from the university campus where I teach classes (because as long as I teach the school will pay my ungodly tuition for me), and where it is very hard to find a reasonably priced babysitter for any time during the day.  That means that when you schedule a mandatory meeting for the middle of the next day, you make it very hard for me to actually make the meeting.  Prep time, drive time, meeting time, and more drive time equals a week’s worth of salary.  I get that most of the other graduate teaching assistants don’t have family responsibilities, but I can’t be the only one who would benefit from evening meetings. 

Patronizers.  This is most of the people with whom I have a passing acquaintance that have not had experience as a graduate student.  My life is hard, and I have to engage Olympic-level time management skills in order to get everything done on time.  Yes, I created the situation, but I don’t need you patting me on the head and assuming that I’m being overly dramatic.  I allow it from my husband on occasion, but he rubs my feet and you get no such leeway.  

Guilt.  This is probably the worst enemy.  Every minute of my day is suffused with guilt.  If I’m playing with D, I should be working.  If I’m working, I should be doing laundry.  If I’m doing laundry, I should be at a meeting.  If I’m at a meeting, I should be playing with D.  There are always things I should be doing, which makes it very hard to appreciate the moments as I’m actually in them.  I love my family, and I want to spend every waking moment working toward their happiness.  

But I have to be happy too, and making everyone call me Dr. Rae will do it quite nicely.

*This is the polite Southern way to verbally square-up on someone.

(c)Herding Turtles 2009 - 2013


  1. You rock. In 4 years, I managed (barely) a masters degree WHILE my husband was in medical school and, oh, yeah, we had 3 babies. And that's not even with me having to complete a thesis (let alone dissertation)--just some professor-guided research. I give you super duper props for doing it. I have a good many friends who have completed or are finishing up their Ph.D.s with kiddos, and I know it is no small feat. Keep on keepin' on, momma!!!

  2. Keep it up! You can do it! I am part way through my Masters with three children under four, a husband, a house, and back to work full time this coming Christmas. I agree that it does take "Olympic-level time management skills" to get it all done, but we only do what we can and then we have to get up and carry on. Keep your head up! PS~ consider hiring a cleaner!

  3. You go girl! I finished my master's degree with a toddler and a preschooler and a full time special ed teaching gig. It was an adventure filled with no sleep, lots of paperwork, and babysitter hunting. Don't feel guilty. If we spent as much time building each other up as we do tearing each other the world would be so much better. Until then hold your head high.

  4. I'm going to add household members who keep interrupting every 20 minutes while you're working.

  5. Yes. Yes. Yes. I relate to each and every one of these thoughts; why is it that married-with-children men don't get the side-eye, by the way? Keep going; it is worth it in the end!

  6. I LOVE the domestic enemies series, and this one is just as awesome as the others. Thanks for letting me know what I have to look forward to!! :)

  7. High five for all that you do! Seriously, that's awesome. While I'm not in grad school, I am going back to school for nursing (though nursing school is a year away) while mothering 2 kids, 4 and 6. My son goes to preschool for 3 hours a day, so I get to try to do whatever schoolwork I can while being Mom, and it's not like I can go hide in my room when my husband gets home from work, because he's an online student, and has to do his class stuff at nights.

    It's tough, but keep it up! One of my greatest memories (as I was in high school) was of my mom going back to school to get her degree. When I started college, we'd have lunch on campus once a week to catch up. When I had to take time off school because of money (and kid) issues, I didn't give up on my dream, because I remember my Mom going back, and I knew it was never too late.

  8. Work, school, and family life! It's a balancing act and you're rocking it! :) <3

  9. Yes!!!!
    I would like to add: The advisors, with families of their own, who act like your family and time aren't as important or valuable as theirs.
    From one (drop-out) grad-student to another, you ROCK!!!!

  10. Go, go, go!! I had to put off starting grad school one semester because I discovered I would be delivering about exam time (oops). Instead I started when my younger was 4 months old and my older was 4 years old. It took me awhile, but I finally got through. I had a wildly supportive spouse and an amazing group of friends to help me out along the way. Having my daughters attend my graduation was an awesome capstone. You can do it!!

  11. Preach it, sister! I, too, have been in college for 10 plus years during which I have given birth twice (girls, 9 and 4) and am finally about to graduate with my masters in mental health counseling. Domestic enemies indeed.

  12. All very true! I'm 6 months away from graduting after 7 long years of hard work living a life of being a single mommy/accountant/student all at one time. And then I get asked why I dont date more!

  13. This is all very true and definitely applies to the corporate world too! Thank you for the post. Feeling much more motivated now! Viva la Mommies!

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