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

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