Managing Priorities as a Student-Mom
Becoming a mom has been easily the best decision I ever made, but being dedicated to my daughter couldn’t be my excuse not to attain my pre-mom goals and aspirations. At this very moment, I am sitting in a classroom at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, multitasking by typing this post and listening to my professor lecture about IRIS Kidney Disease Staging; but how did I end up here?
I lead a busy life and that is my truth. I don’t know that there’s ever such a thing as “too” busy to me, because I always find myself feeling like I’m too busy for all my current commitments, yet when the opportunity presents itself, I always end up doing more! It’s a blessing and a curse, because, yes, I’m in a chronic stage of exhaustion, but it gives me, like, a sense of fulfillment. I’m sure that I can attribute most of this to the foundation my mother laid for me as a child. My sister and I had our own schedules starting very early, and I am doing the same for my daughter, Lariah!
I’m currently pursuing my Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and I sometimes feel like I fall short of my cohorts because I’m not involved at school. Apparently, having a child and being a vet school student is unheard of; so, nobody can seem to comprehend how I’m at all functional or successful in my studies. *insert eyeroll* Moms can do anything that they put their minds to! Just because nobody chooses to go to vet school while trying to raise a family doesn’t mean that it’s not possible! I hope that seeing my smiling face is a constant reminder to them and everyone that having children is not a hindrance, but motivation!
Anyway, most people are understanding of my decision to not be involved outside of my requirements, but I feel like they attribute my lack of interest in clubs and what not to the fact that I’m a “new mom.” Yes, that is certainly a contributing factor, but ultimately, that’s not it! Being in school instead of being at home with my sweet beloved caused me to feel an immense amount of guilt, but I know that by going to school and obtaining my doctorate, I’ll be able to provide a better life for all of us. So I had to make a lot of compromises to give myself my best chance.
Being in vet school IS a full-time job; I am literally in class from 8am- 5pm, Monday to Friday, with an hour off for lunch. My daughter does not go to daycare, for many reasons, but the two biggies for me were nursing and optimizing time with her. She was with me all day, every day for the first 10 months of her life, and despite many efforts, she never took a bottle, so for me to feel comfortable and focus while in class, I needed to be able to check-in on her whenever and be able to get to her if I had a break. And that’s exactly what we do. We intentionally purchased a house with a super-short commute to school for me so that I could come home during my lunches & nurse. We moved my sister into our house as our live-in baby sitter. As Lariah settled into her time away from mommy, we started reintroducing activities that she used to participate in before the big move! We started with just Kindermusik once a week, and as she got accustomed to attending with and without mommy, we added more activities. Lariah’s current schedule is as follows: Mondays- Gymnastics @ 6:15pm. Wednesdays- Book reading at 10:30am & Ballet @ 4:15pm. Thursdays- Kindermusik @ 9:30. She sometimes has gymnastics on Fridays @ 9:45am and goes to our local Children’s Museum at least twice a week for a minimum of an hour each time. I personally take her to gymnastics and ballet, but my sister and husband handle the other two activities.
How do I have time for this? I don’t, but it’s important to me, so if that means leaving a lab early, or skipping a class or two, that’s just what I’ll do. Being a vet is important to me, but so is being a mom! I’m not willing to sacrifice all my time and energy to become a veterinarian if it’s at my daughter’s expense. When I get out of class, I go home and pick up my daughter and we either go right back to school to study or I’ll study at home. If it can’t be done with my toddler and it’s after 5pm, it just won’t be done. It’s as simple as that. I had to learn to draw the line at what I was willing to sacrifice; time with my daughter just wasn’t one of those things.
People always say, “we don’t know how you do it!” Compromise: that’s how I do it. More time with my family means less sleep and less studying. My daughter is usually up until 12-1am every day and will sleep in until 11 or 12 on the days that she doesn’t have activities. This gives my sister time to do her own thing, my husband time to do some work at home, AND it doesn’t count as time away from me because she doesn’t know that I’m not there! Usually I eat in class so that I can focus on her when I come home for lunch. My top two lunch priorities are breastfeeding her and playing with her. Usually when I go back to class for the 2nd half of my day, her day is just beginning.
It’s unconventional, but it works for us, and that’s what makes it beautiful. I can’t get this customized childcare schedule and mommy visitation time at a daycare. I never appreciated how important having peace of mind was to me until having it depended on making sure my child was happy. I get questions all the time about when I’m going to wean her, put her in day care, or potty train her. None of those things really matter to me in the grand scheme of things.
Society puts a lot of pressure on parents to follow this black and white outline of parenting basics, but that couldn’t possibly work for us with where we are in life right now! My motto is, “She will when she’s ready.” Our babies are only babies once, and while I also want to continue my education so that I can become the best version of myself, having to find the balance between my home and school life has given me a newfound appreciation for time management in addition to a reorganization of what I thought were non-negotiable priorities. Mom-student-wife life is different, but I like that I have the freedom to tailor it to meet my needs and make the impossible possible!