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Top 21 Things I Learned Surviving My First Year as a Working Mama PhD Student

by Kimberly on May 16, 2012 · 3 comments

It is done! As of last week, I have survived my first year as a working mama PhD student!

There were growing pains, time management pains, lots to celebrate, and–of course–lots of learning both inside and outside the classroom.

Beyond narrative research, biopsychology, systematic reviews, and music therapy supervision…what did I learn this year? Here’s a brief list of the top 21 things I learned as a working mama PhD student:

  1. Have frequent meetings with a supportive mentor.
  2. You don’t have to read and deeply understand every single word of every single article or book.
  3. You will have to miss some family events. Just don’t miss them all.
  4. Have special things you do with your kids that “only mommy” does.
  5. You need to let go of things: having the dishes done every night, having a perfectly picked-up house, sticking religiously to your weekly blog post schedule…
  6. This is a family degree. Everyone is sacrificing.
  7. Take care of yourself physically. Don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy diet and a regular exercise regimen.
  8. Know and use lots of healthy coping techniques.
  9. Know and use some unhealthy coping techniques, too.
  10. Give yourself the occasional treat. The occasional mani-pedi or afternoon movie can go a long way.
  11. Sometimes you have to buckle down and get the work done.
  12. Being organized makes a big difference.
  13. This degree is not about the grade. It’s about the learning.
  14. Indulge in the occasional “college” experience–even if it happens on Mondays at 3pm.
  15. You cannot write a paper last-minute. It’s a multi-step process that includes the initial drafts, re-writes, and edits.
  16. You’ll be doing a lot of reading, a lot of writing…and very little test-taking.
  17. Everything will take a little longer to complete. Adjust your deadlines accordingly.
  18. You won’t be able to do all the extra hobby-like activities you enjoy. Just don’t drop all of them.
  19. Plan your vacation early. It’ll give you something to look forward to.
  20. Be there for as many bedtimes and morning wake-ups as possible.
  21. Every once in awhile, put the book down, turn the computer off, stash your phone in your purse, and take the night off.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Kalas May 17, 2012 at 7:22 am

Kimberly, Congratulations to you on finishing your first year!! I LOVE this blog post! I wish I had this to refer to when I was in the process of working while getting my master’s degree. I agree with all of these, but especially #13 – it’s not about the grade anymore, it’s about aquiring new information and putting that into practice with our clients. That was my favorite part about grad school. Thanks so much for sharing!!
Amy 🙂

Megan Resig May 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm

I have to say – this post was really inspiring! Going back for my PhD is a dream of mine and the thought of doing one with a little kiddo on board seems incredibly daunting! Love your thoughts on balancing motherhood and professional development!

Megan Resig´s last blog post ..Music Therapy Survivor!

Kimberly June 1, 2012 at 11:58 am

Thank you Amy and Megan! It’s a continual balancing act and–at times–struggle. But worth it for sure, regardless of the path you take 🙂 ~Kimberly

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