REPOST: Graduating to Motherhood

Written by Sarah, a former graduate wife 

When I graduated from my dual MA program in history and public policy, I felt relieved.  All the hard work and sacrifice of three years of intense study was over and I had achieved a major life goal.  I also felt relieved for another reason; unlike many of my fellow students who were experiencing the stress of finding jobs in the midst of a recession, I knew exactly what I would be doing for the next few months.

Right at the end of my time in graduate school, I got pregnant.  To say this was “not the plan” would be misleading since I really didn’t have a plan.  I was married and we intended to start a family “sometime soon.”  Like many other women my age, I assumed that eventually I would have both a fulfilling career and a family, but I was always a little fuzzy on what would come first, whether I’d work on these things at the same time or stagger them.  So when it came time to look for that first job out of graduate school, I was relieved to have the immediate decision made for me.  In one month, I would give birth and there was no way that I could reasonably expect an employer to be interested in an 8-months pregnant graduate.

Still, I told everyone who asked (professors, friends, family), “I plan to stay home at first and see how I like it and then I will look for a job depending on how I adapt to being at home.”  I assumed that there was a good chance I would be bored and miserable staying home full-time and that I would long to get right out and “use” the degrees I had worked so hard to earn. I also didn’t see myself as the “staying at home type”, someone I envisioned as having always longed to be a mother and homemaker.  Since well before college, I had envisioned a career that would change the world.  I hoped I would eventually have some kind of important position where I made a significant impact in education, social justice, or politics.

Three years later, I am still a stay-at-home mom, now with a new baby and a toddler.  One of the biggest surprises of my life is that I enjoy staying at home.  For the first year, I struggled with serious identity confusion.  I loved being a mother, but where was the woman I had been, that all my friends and professors knew?  A lot of things hadn’t changed (my basic personality, the types of issues that interest me) but many things had.  Every time I considered a potential job, my dread would grow.  How could I leave my child at home to pursue an entry-level job that might or might not be fulfilling?  Finally, I accepted that my immediate dreams and priorities had changed.  For the first time since graduating from college, I knew exactly where I was needed most and it felt really good.

I still don’t love housework or all aspects of childcare and I certainly would never want to do those things for a job in anyone else’s home, but still, most days I feel challenged and yet completely sure of my calling.  For this season, I belong at home with my children.  I now see my life as made up of seasons in which I might focus on one dream or another.  I can envision a general calling for my whole life (the things that I am passionate about, my roles as wife and mother, my faith) and specific seasons when I respond by focusing on certain roles.

Initially, I had to let go of a serious feeling of obligation to myself, my spouse, my former professors, even to society, a feeling that I ought to use my degrees now that I had earned them.  I still have days where I worry about this gamble I’ve taken, trading in what should have been the early years of my career to focus on my family.   Will I look back in ten years and wish I had chosen differently?  To bolster my self-esteem, I seek out women who at one time took time out from their careers and who later became successful in their professions.  There are many more than most people realize.  Their examples give me hope that someday, when I’m ready, I too will make a successful transition into meaningful work outside the home.

The main way I cope with worries about the future is by celebrating how secure I feel in my identity and choices.  I used to think that once I was done with graduate school I would be the person I longed to be, the one who would change the world in some amazing professional role.  Now I see that by cultivating a secure personal identity, I continue to grow into someone prepared to make a significant impact at any time, whether in the home or outside it.

Have you had to let go of a dream for a season?  How has the process affected your identity? 

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Mama PhD

If you are a mama and you are working on a thesis, then you must check out this great little section called Mama PhD on the blog: Inside Higher Ed.  Well, even if you aren’t the student and even if you aren’t a momma, the topics and articles covered are really insightful and interesting.  I was particularly inspired by this one describing a life full of ‘works in progress’.  I can relate with so many ‘projects’ here and there, with some in full swing and some on the back-burner, and some that might never come to fruition.

“But a project can also bring satisfaction, enjoyment, accomplishment in the process of working on it, in ways that others may not appreciate because there is no final product to show.  As long as the process is still appealing and interesting to me, these projects will stay on my list, not dismissed as failures – and I hope to return to enjoying them again (and again).  And maybe finishing some.”

Check out the full list of Mama PhD articles on the site and enjoy exploring and connecting!

Graduating to Motherhood

Written by Sarah, a former graduate wife 

When I graduated from my dual MA program in history and public policy, I felt relieved.  All the hard work and sacrifice of three years of intense study was over and I had achieved a major life goal.  I also felt relieved for another reason; unlike many of my fellow students who were experiencing the stress of finding jobs in the midst of a recession, I knew exactly what I would be doing for the next few months.

Right at the end of my time in graduate school, I got pregnant.  To say this was “not the plan” would be misleading since I really didn’t have a plan.  I was married and we intended to start a family “sometime soon.”  Like many other women my age, I assumed that eventually I would have both a fulfilling career and a family, but I was always a little fuzzy on what would come first, whether I’d work on these things at the same time or stagger them.  So when it came time to look for that first job out of graduate school, I was relieved to have the immediate decision made for me.  In one month, I would give birth and there was no way that I could reasonably expect an employer to be interested in an 8-months pregnant graduate.

Still, I told everyone who asked (professors, friends, family), “I plan to stay home at first and see how I like it and then I will look for a job depending on how I adapt to being at home.”  I assumed that there was a good chance I would be bored and miserable staying home full-time and that I would long to get right out and “use” the degrees I had worked so hard to earn. I also didn’t see myself as the “staying at home type”, someone I envisioned as having always longed to be a mother and homemaker.  Since well before college, I had envisioned a career that would change the world.  I hoped I would eventually have some kind of important position where I made a significant impact in education, social justice, or politics.

Three years later, I am still a stay-at-home mom, now with a new baby and a toddler.  One of the biggest surprises of my life is that I enjoy staying at home.  For the first year, I struggled with serious identity confusion.  I loved being a mother, but where was the woman I had been, that all my friends and professors knew?  A lot of things hadn’t changed (my basic personality, the types of issues that interest me) but many things had.  Every time I considered a potential job, my dread would grow.  How could I leave my child at home to pursue an entry-level job that might or might not be fulfilling?  Finally, I accepted that my immediate dreams and priorities had changed.  For the first time since graduating from college, I knew exactly where I was needed most and it felt really good.

I still don’t love housework or all aspects of childcare and I certainly would never want to do those things for a job in anyone else’s home, but still, most days I feel challenged and yet completely sure of my calling.  For this season, I belong at home with my children.  I now see my life as made up of seasons in which I might focus on one dream or another.  I can envision a general calling for my whole life (the things that I am passionate about, my roles as wife and mother, my faith) and specific seasons when I respond by focusing on certain roles.

Initially, I had to let go of a serious feeling of obligation to myself, my spouse, my former professors, even to society, a feeling that I ought to use my degrees now that I had earned them.  I still have days where I worry about this gamble I’ve taken, trading in what should have been the early years of my career to focus on my family.   Will I look back in ten years and wish I had chosen differently?  To bolster my self-esteem, I seek out women who at one time took time out from their careers and who later became successful in their professions.  There are many more than most people realize.  Their examples give me hope that someday, when I’m ready, I too will make a successful transition into meaningful work outside the home.

The main way I cope with worries about the future is by celebrating how secure I feel in my identity and choices.  I used to think that once I was done with graduate school I would be the person I longed to be, the one who would change the world in some amazing professional role.  Now I see that by cultivating a secure personal identity, I continue to grow into someone prepared to make a significant impact at any time, whether in the home or outside it.

Have you had to let go of a dream for a season?  How has the process affected your identity? 

Monday’s Food for Thought: The Parent Trap….or Not?

This fascinating piece published in the Guardian last year, takes you on an interesting thought journey exploring the realities of trying to ‘work’ after having children.

“There’s a belief that to do great work you need tranquility and control, that the pram (stroller) is cluttering up the hallway; life needs to be neat and tidy. This isn’t the case. Tranquility and control provide the best conditions for completing the work you imagined. But surely the real trick is to produce the work that you never imagined. The great creative moments in our history are almost all stories of distraction and daydreaming – Archimedes in the bath, Einstein dreaming of riding a sunbeam – of alert minds open to the grace of chaos.”

This gives me much ‘food for thought’ as I am trying to navitgate my own way in this crazy path of ‘working’ with children.  It also speaks greatly to my grad school husband who is daily trying to figure out how to be the best student and also father.  I hope it leaves you with some inspiration if you have children, or are considering them, and also with a good laugh.

“I remember reading that when the writer Tracey Chevalier had her first baby, someone told her that “every baby costs one book”; she said something to the effect that that seemed fair enough. But we should turn Connolly’s equation upside-down and say that maybe what’s in the pram – breathing, vulnerable life, hope, a present responsibility – is actually more important than good art. It might make us produce less art, but maybe it would be art with the future at its heart.”

Wow…Well said.

-M.C.

Great Expectations

It’s been a loooooooonnnnnnnggggg couple of weeks in our house.

Life hasn’t been easy, and we’ve been faced with some huge decisions that will ultimately effect the way our family currently operates. I wrote in a previous post that I was excited to start a new chapter.

Did I write that? On the internet? For everyone to see? Um, rewind please.

What I meant to write was this: “I’m so excited to start a new chapter, and I want the new chapter to be easier and better than the previous one, okay?”

Of course, I know and understand that life doesn’t work that way. Ever. You plan and plan and plan and plan and plan and then it rains on your wedding day, or you have 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife, and it all becomes a bit too ironic. (Did ANYONE break into Alanis Morrisette there? Please tell me I’m not the only one)!

One of those big decisions being thought out is my current work situation. I work full time. To be honest, on most days, I dislike it. Immensely. This is not how I imagined my life at age 34. If I reach deeply into the recesses of my tired Mommy brain, remembering at the tender age of 16, what I thought my life would look like at the very old age of 34 (and, in bullet points, no less), it would have read something like this:

  • Happily married, to a successful handsome husband
  • 3 kids running around (and I had them all before I turned 30, maintaining every chance of keeping a toned body)
  • House. Check. Decorated. Check. 2 car garage. Check. Vacations. Check.
  • Fabulous stay at home Mom, making other PTA moms jealous with my amazing baking skillz

My current life looks nothing like the above (with the exception of the happily married, to a successful handsome husband part). Most of my expectations have been shattered, on more than one occasion, and for most of the time, after the fact, I am glad they were.

But (you knew there would be a but!)….there is one expectation that I can’t let go of, that constantly nags at me:  I am not my son’s primary care giver. Which is fancy speak for ‘I wish I were a stay-at-home Mom.’

I am not bitter. I am not angry. I am not resentful. Although, I will admit that in the past, I have let those emotions take my heart hostage, and I’ve said some very mean and hateful things to the man who brought me on this journey. I knew this graduate wife journey would be difficult, but I never imagined the level of sacrifice it would take from me for my husband to pursue his dreams. Our lives seem to have a big ‘pause’ button written across most areas. I know it’s hard for me, but I know it’s equally as hard for my husband, as he watches me go off to work in service and support to our family, fully knowing that I’d rather be home taking care of our son.

On the positive side, in the last 7 years, I’ve been able to work for some amazing companies, connecting with some of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met. I’ve grown in ways that I wouldn’t have had it not been for those experiences, and for that, I’m thankful. I know that even though this isn’t my first choice for my life, it’s absolutely what I’m supposed to be doing right now.

This morning, as I was trying to move myself and a very excitable toddler out the door to start our day, my husband stopped me and said, “Thank you for all you do to support our family, and for sacrificing your dreams to make it all happen. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it and how much I love you for it.”

I still have so much to learn about sacrificial love.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve had to make in your graduate wife journey?

-Mandy

Taking Time for YOU

Written by Bria – a current graduate wife

Time…there’s that word I know, and dread, so well! Do you find yourself asking, “How will I have the time today to nurture my child, talk to my husband, keep in touch with all my family and friends that live so far away, pray, exercise, cook/eat healthy, read, shop, clean, do laundry, make my house look and feel cozy and inviting, do things that I enjoy (hobbies that refresh me) or even take a shower?”  Whew! Sometimes I can hardly find the time to just sit and breathe, let alone try to find the balance to living a healthy lifestyle.  However, I am passionate about it and am striving to reach it each day. I have recently rediscovered the beauty and importance of “taking time for you” and want to share some of my thoughts with other graduate wives out there.

Have you ever felt like you were in a constant race and could never reach the finish line? I have recently been feeling this way and realized I needed to figure out how to get some much-needed time for me.  I am a stay at home mom and love it so much, however my little guy is a very rambunctious, extremely active, never stop…BOY!  I have realized the importance of finding a nanny/babysitter and taking advantage of any opportunity I can to get away for a few hours each week on my own.  As I first started doing this, thoughts of guilt and selfishness ran through my head because my son is/was incredibly attached to me. It took a while, but the time apart each week is really best for both of us.  It refreshes me and it teaches him to be independent.

I used to have this “control freak-I can do it all” attitude, but I’ve realized how unhealthy that is for my family and me.  I have to be honest and admit that I can’t do it all.  I’ve been able to monitor my own emotions and well- being and take a break every once and awhile.  I don’t have to be super mom and wife! Once a week, or whenever you can, I encourage you to get totally alone to exercise, shop, cook, paint, read or whatever will rejuvenate and refresh you.

Even without kids, if you are working full-time while supporting your husband in grad school, I know personally how incredibly taxing and exhausting this can be. I brought in the income for three years, commuted in good old southern California traffic, and encouraged and supported my husband emotionally through it all.  Even though I know time together is sometimes tight when you are working and your husband is up late studying, I encourage you to still try to carve out some time for yourself each week.  The benefits from nurturing yourself will far exceed the few hours spent apart from your spouse.  It really is almost impossible to be an encourager if you yourself are not feeling peaceful and encouraged.

Whether it means getting a babysitter or missing out on ‘evening time’ with your husband once in a while, taking “time for you” is crucial to the graduate wife journey.  I am by no means an expert, just another wife on this extraordinary journey and I’d love to hear more of what has worked for you.  I look forward to more posts in the future on the ever-challenging topic of living a healthy lifestyle in the shoes of a graduate wife.

Have you found it difficult to find time for you?  If you have found time to do this, has it greatly impacted your marriage, role of supporter, motherhood?  What rejuvenates you and how do you spend your time alone?


A Graduate Degree in Suffering

Written by Katherine – a former graduate wife
 
Just over 3 years ago, our lives were the normal but fabulous, “the world is our oyster” lives of a
broke graduate law student and his wife.  With a precious 6 month old baby boy, living in married
housing on Pepperdine’s Malibu campus with a view of the Pacific Ocean, tons of friends and pursuing our dreams, we thought life was perfect.  Then, our world was turned completely upside down. 

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I wrote this on April 22nd of this year (“Katherine Lived Day”).
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My husband, Jay wrote this around that time on his blog
(a beautiful memoir of our married student housing).
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This has all been very hard.  I am still in rehab today.  My husband has had to be both mommy and daddy, both husband and wife.  My mother is an almost full-time caregiver to my son.  I cannot drive and can only barely walk.  Read this and this about the hardest time from my ordeal.
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Interestingly enough so many cool things have come out of this, and we are extremely grateful for each and every blessing.  One of the biggest blessings has been this I get to do the work I feel I was created to do–to speak about Hope.  We cling to that hope every single day.  We may not ever understand why this happened to us, but we know and trust the God who does know–and that is enough.
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Thankfully, we are done with formal schooling of any kind and are enjoying real life, 
though if there were an honorary degree in
“Surviving and Thriving After Suffering and Trials”
we just might be awarded it…