Amazing Moms: Getting a Graduate Degree When you Still Have Babies at Home

Amazing Moms: Getting a Graduate Degree When you Still Have Babies at HomeThere is a common phenomenon that occurs when you have a child: You are forgotten. Not just with the people who stop by, the people who call, with only questions about how the baby is doing, how the baby is growing—you also forget yourself. Days pass without even a shower, and when was the last time you ate a meal sitting down with the appropriate utensils? Your world revolves around this tiny human, and your basic needs are put on the back burner.

The martyrdom of motherhood has long been revered, though in the communication age, we are exposed to alternatives to this model. It is possible, it turns out, to give your heart to motherhood, and also maintain your individual self. Dr. Emily Owen is an example of this, as someone who experienced the life-changing experience of welcoming two daughters into the world, while simultaneously pursuing a graduate degree in Art History. “I set getting a PhD as a goal when I was seventeen and I knew I would kick myself if I didn’t get it done—I knew I would regret it.”

Balancing parenting and studying was difficult, and Dr. Owen said she still feels she is recovering. She looks back on the picture of her with her oldest daughter after Dr. Owen’s hooding, though, and is grateful for the example it sets for her girls. “I hope they go to grad school,” Dr. Owen said, noting that she hopes they are able to achieve independence with the opportunities a graduate education can provide.

For those who are contemplating going back to school during motherhood, Dr. Owen has some tips for making the seemingly impossible more doable:

  • “When you are with your kids, be with your kids.” Dr. Owen notes that this can be difficult with the balancing of studying and all of the other responsibilities that come with being a student, but maintaining focus and mindfulness on what is currently in front of you allows for efficiency and decreases burnout.
  • “Cultivate a village—have great friends to talk to, friends to fill in and help you with your kids in crisis periods.” Support keeps you going when filling two full-time roles feels overwhelming. Dr. Owen also found advisors who were also parents, which allowed for greater mentorship in her dual roles.
  • Self care. “Lots of bodywork—rolfing/chiropractic care, energy work, walking, good food” were what helped Dr. Owen manage some of the stress of parenting as a student.
  • Choose carefully. “Pick a field of study that provides you immediate job opportunities after graduation,” Dr. Owen suggested, as well as picking a program that provides full funding for its students to minimize debt.

Most importantly, Dr. Owen wants any moms out there contemplating working toward “having it all” that they don’t need to actually do it all by themselves. “Ask for help as needed,” she advised, making it official—getting support is just what the doctor ordered.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Tags: academics, dual roles, education, going back to school, self care

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