Friday, November 23, 2012

"I don't know how you do it!"

If I had to list the most common question that I get after mentioning that I'm in pharmacy school and own a small child, it would be that.

Exactly what "it" is beyond "be in professional school and have a small child at home" I'm not sure, and that's a post for another time.

There are several answers to that question, and at least one friend who's starting med school with a 14 month old next year was really curious, so you're all (3 or 4 of you) stuck getting the answer.

1. I don't. I have an amazing spouse who picks up the slack in parenting, cooking, and house cleaning.  I do the laundry and sometimes the dishes and grocery shopping, but that's about it.  It's wicked hard to be the primary parent while the co-parent is in professional school and some classmates have more success at making this work than others.  Sometimes the parent in school just doesn't sleep (see those who work full time in addition to school... sheesh. I am not nearly smart enough to sleep that little and be successful at school and survive at work) or have free time.

Aside: when I describe my study/school routine to people, they are either shocked and in disbelief at how much I study and go to school, or just disbelieve that it's possible.  I study less than I hear med students do in most weeks, and I think that's for the best, but my grades aren't super shiny (see repeating that class I failed... whoops...).  It's a lot of time and I'm glad to put in the time because I want to be prepared to make as few mistakes as possible so I don't hurt people.

2. In the "I don't" vein, a lot of things slide.  Most laundry never gets folded. It gets chucked into drawers in heaps (I do fold t-shirts so they fit in the drawer).  There are always dirty dishes.  There's always a basket of laundry waiting to be put away.  We try but usually fail at planning meals a week at a time.  We get take-out too often, especially during weeks where I have lots of exams.  We have on occasion recruited my semi-retired mother to come stay for a week or 10 days around finals so someone else can help mind the kid and cook and clean because I study 18+ hours a day and while not studying, my brain is kind of mush and only useful to regurgitate stuff that will be on the exam (so no conversation attempts then please).

3. We ask for help.  Our faith community has a list of people willing to provide childcare, and the kid will go hang out with other adults at least one night a week starting soon so I can study and the spouse can deep clean.  If someone ever utters the words, "If there's any way I can help..." I make a note in my spreadsheet and I contact them for crock pot meals or childcare or rides to wherever I need to go if the spouse has the car.  When we were in a bind for baby food, we recruited three people to help make some and freeze it for us.

4. My Little Pony, Bobby's World, and Voltron.  The kid is a well-practiced TV zombie and she can spend up to two hours watching it with little adult attention needed.  Is this my favorite? No.  Does it mean that in an emergency I get a couple more hours to study? Yes.  Other favorite TV shows from when she was smaller: Fraggle Rock (awesome because a DVD can be set to play 4 episodes in a row and then adults can sneak off to the office to study), Super Hero Squad, Garfield and Friends, and Caillou.

5. I actually leave the house to study.  If I'm home, I will be interrupted, no matter how well-meaning the spouse and kid are.  If I need to be uninterrupted, I have to leave, and I do.  According to the academic success types at school, it's a bad idea to study at a coffee shop, noisy public library, or other random and noisy public place.  If I didn't study in such noisy places, I'd get very little night or weekend studying done.  I find that restaurants are a decent place to study as well because as a person alone, I get stuck somewhere in the far back where it's pretty quiet.  I just have to remember to ask for a pitcher of water because I will get forgotten about, and that's fine by me.  Studying at school during the day is a great strategy too.  Go early before class, stay late after class, study during breaks between classes.

6. When it's time to be home, it's time to be home and the books go away.  Really.  I schedule free time into my week (and there's about 10 hours of it right now but it turns into more like 20 overall with cleaning/meal prep time too) and I make an effort to be school-free and involved in family time when it's on the schedule.  This means I have to stick to the rest of my schedule so I'm not worrying about whatever I'm not doing during that time.

7. Excellent childcare, 5 days a week.  Somehow this often surprises people... but I'm not sure why.  It's not like small children can sit through a boring lecture any better than me (although once the kid went to chemistry class when she was a few months old and napped the whole time, which was awesome).  I am thrilled that the kid gets to spend time with other kids her age and a caring adult who really likes hanging out with the preschool set and she is thrilled to get to play all day and do art projects and all that jazz.

8. You just get through whatever life hands you.  I didn't plan out this whole "school and small children" combo deal.  I did decide that I was going to stay in school so I didn't kick myself later for not finishing it now.  We decided together that we could make me in school and a family work, and we were too chicken to wait to have children (good decision in light of secondary infertility suck-fest), so we just made it work.  If (heaven forbid) something happens and I'm suddenly a single parent, because I'm in school, I know that I'll have a job soon that will pay the bills and that I could live in lousy on-campus housing in the meantime.  If I were a stay-at-home mom, I wouldn't have that security of knowing I had a career waiting (almost) for me.  If we'd waited to have the kid, we probably wouldn't have been any more successful, and life would be profoundly different and this would be a primary infertility blog for a long time, since school is spendy and so are infertility treatments.

1 comment:

  1. I hear ALL of this, though usually when people ask me how I did it, I just look at them blankly and say, "I don't know. I just did." It is much easier to no longer be in school, though I do miss the flexibility a little. (It's mandski, btw. I commenting from my old blogger account.)