A Mom in Grad School: How I Survived the 2nd Semester

So at the end of last semester I wrote a post about what really helped me be successful during my first semester of grad school.

Want to know what helped me finish my second semester?

Crying. A fair amount of crying

Okay, maybe it didn’t help me, but was more of a byproduct of this semester. This semester was nuuuuuts. Even with continuing what I was doing before and improving in the areas I wanted to, it was hard.

Right off the bat I knew this semester was going to be very busy and I worked to keep up. I was doing pretty well, but then five weeks into the semester my grandma died. Losing her was so hard. And then the ensuing family drama that came along with her death. I’ll spare you all the details, but it was rough.

And you better believe it affected my school work. I skipped way too many readings, I’m positive I was the weak link in a group project, and I just couldn’t focus very well when I tried to study. My classes were awesome and I got a lot of clarity on my thesis, but I felt burned out before we were even halfway done with the semester. It feels like a miracle that I got everything submitted on time.

My grades aren’t posted yet, but I think they’ve actually ended up being really good. Not sure I’ll swing a 4.0 again, but it’ll be close.

Today, I wanted to share what helped me (barely) survive a crazy second semester of grad school. (“Barely” truly being the operative word here.)

How I barely survived my second semester of grad school as a working mom #workingmom

Accept lower standards at home

I’m not a neat freak by any means, but I don’t want to live in a pigsty either. I hate going to bed with a dirty kitchen because it makes the morning a lot more hectic when I’m trying to make the girls breakfast and my lunch when there’s stuff all over the counters or no clean pan for the eggs. I don’t love how quickly my bedroom gets cluttered or that I still don’t have it completely organized from when we moved in a year ago.

But, sometimes you have to set different priorities at different points in life. We went a little longer than normal with dishes in the sink and dirty counters. Vacuumed less. Piled papers a little more on my dresser. And that’s ok. Sometimes school needs you to ignore cleaning. Luckily my husband made dinner every weeknight because we can’t ignore feeding the tiny humans.

Talk about the stress

Even if you don’t want to bum people out with how stressed you are, make sure you have someone you can talk to. Letting it fester all semester isn’t doing you any favors. I had a couple good friends I texted about the drama going on in my life when I felt particularly overwhelmed by it all. I tried to be realistic and open on Instagram, to not make it seem like working-schooling mom life was a magically beautiful experience. It’s great, but hard. And I wrote in my journal. Allowing myself to talk (or write) through the stress was helpful and once I had it out of my system, it felt like a physical relief.

Lunch walks

There was a huge difference in my days once it got warm enough to go on walks during my lunch break. It’s like vitamin D is important or something…

But really, having several months of cold, dark weather while trying to keep up with a ton of school work is not awesome. Once it hit 45 degrees, I was taking walks outside. Even a 10 minute walk helped. And during this last week when I really needed to focus on finals, I still went on walks. I think moving my body and being outside are precursors to being able to focus. And being happy.

Self-efficacy

Okay, this is the one I think did the most good in helping me survive this semester. For one class I worked on a project studying the relationship with media use and parenting, and the domain I studied was parental self-efficacy beliefs. I had no idea what self-efficacy was, but learned that it’s our belief in our ability to do something. Super simple concept, but as I began researching I realized that it’s kind of a big deal.

I was engrossed in the research and realized that our belief in what we can do is critical to our success, whether it’s parenting, school, leadership–anything. I found myself giving little pep talks in my brain all the time to keep me going. And surprisingly, it helped a lot. I became so convinced of its importance that it is now going to be a component of my thesis.

Henry Ford said, ‘Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” It doesn’t mean that thing will always be easy (spoiler: it won’t), but your belief that you can do something is important. I didn’t gain a lot of hard skills during my undergrad, so in my various jobs I’ve had a mantra: “I can learn anything.” It has helped a lot, which is probably why learning about efficacy has rung true for me so strongly. Now, I tell myself that in terms of managing my career, my family, and school–“I can do this!” It’s cheesy, but people eat cheese and it totally helped.

My second semester of grad school as full-time employee and mom is over and I survived! Not every semester will be like this–Oh, heavens, please don’t let every semester be like this! I don’t think any of the things that helped me barely survive are life-changing. But when my family life was going crazy and I couldn’t put in my best at school, there were things that helped. And by continuing to implement them as necessary (planning on working out some better systems to avoid survival mode over summer break), I know I can work through other stressful times during this adventure.

Daffodils on my lunch walk. #selfcare

Lunch walks are good for the soul. And now that school is out I get to spend even more time outside!

How about you–how have you been surviving your challenges lately?

 

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