i've been eager to write this post for some time now, but afraid of sounding pompous. full disclaimer: i don't have this thing figured out and my life is not yet put together! i have vast room for improvement in my day to day living. this is simply a recounting of my personal survival guide. i hope that it may act as a note of encouragement to any mom who would like to continue, go back to, or begin a degree, new or old. this is for the moms who are afraid of failing (either yourself or your child), as was i. in fact if i hadn't been so invested already, i believe i may have backed out of starting my program. it can seem such an overwhelming task, but i've found simple ways that keep my nose above water each day, and my baby thriving. and so, i bring to you:
fake it 'till ya make it
my number one saving grace has been this life motto of mine. going thru the motions is all that gets me by most days. i don't expect perfection or even greatness from myself. i just require myself to show up.
lemme tell ya. waking up is the hardest part. rarely do i feel like making it to class. my program consists of 6-8 hour days, 4-5 days per week. an early morning wake up call, after a shoddy 4 hour night's sleep, for the 5th day in a row, is not pleasant. but i swear to you: waking up is the hardest part. giving myself adequate time to wake up always does wonders. the first few minutes after waking i know that i would rather die than go to class. the following 10 minutes are spent knowing that i would rather wait tables the rest of my life than go to class ever again. i bargain with myself. a lot. before i can convince my feet to get out from under the covers, i tell msyelf that i can go to class in my pjs. i can take a half day. i can nap when i get home. i don't have to do homework or study that night, i can binge on netflix instead. usually this still doesn't get me up, but a crying baby does.
so i get up. once i'm up, being smiled at by a handsome mini-me usually makes me feel good enough to get dressed. once i'm dressed, i usually feel much better about myself. when i feel good about myself, i jam out during my morning commute. when i pass the otherwise dragging 45 minutes of taking baby boy to grandma's before turning around to go to school by looking ridiculous dancing and singing in the car, i'm wide awake and in a great mood once i get to class. i see my friends. i stay the whole day. most days do require a nap after, but that boost is usually enough to want to finish homework or review a little during one of aidric's naps.
my second, unexpected saving grace: new friends. scratch that: my nursing family. i think i've been extra lucky with the quality of people i've met and connected with in my program (hi friends! i love y'all!) but even the most basic of school friendships you can make will help so much. being a part of our group chat with early morning "i don't wnat to get out bed" texts, the late night "crap i forgot this is due tomorrow, did you guys remember?!" texts, and not wanting to miss gossip hour over lunch keep me going. on the days i consider not going to class, i think about not wanting them to judge me (because they care). on the days i do miss, they send me their notes. it is also such a relief to know that on the days i do have to walk in late, or score less than i hoped on a test, i have people who know what was going on and truly care about my struggles and my success. they do not think i am a slacker, or write me off as likely to fail. their successes are my successes, too. we are all in it together, and work together to keep us all going. so go getcha self some class friends and watch your motivation rise to match theirs.
don't try to study perfectly
i realized quickly that i personally couldn't study effectively every day while also being home with my son. even while he is napping, i feel too anxious to focus knowing he will wake up at any moment. or scattered from a messy home. or just tired. so i came up with a 2-part system for myself; quick and dirty day-to-day studying, and power study sessions typically once a unit and before test days.
power studying: this is when i do the bulk of my work and set myself up to study with thereafter. i arrange for someone to watch aidric, and i go to starbucks. i pore over every chapter within the unit and highlight what is relevant. i plug only that information into flashcards i format into questions and answers. i memorize lab values and other basic pieces of information. i practice my flashcards, making note of my weakest areas and tossing out any i don't miss. one of these study days is typically a 4-6 hour block on a saturday.
quick and dirty: i don't review every night. i do what i can, when i can. i prioritize what i review. i start with the content most widely relevant and study my weaknesses. sometimes (most of the time) going over flashcards happens while watching netflix. my study breaks are sometimes longer than the periods i study for. but i know it's all ok. every little bit is productive.
*this method may not work for others. but the main point is to know yourself and set yourself up for success. i know my learning style, and i know what prevents me from studying effectively. i don't waste my time or energy fighting my nature. you may not have anxiety that prevents you from studying well during naps and can skip the long study days, or you might learn better listening to lectures in the car than reading for several hours straight. the key is to not waste your time with what others are doing or think you should be doing. it's about doing what's most effective for you, and cutting out whatever hinders you. sometimes a nap or a stress reliever is really the best thing you can do for yourself.
be a mom first
when all else fails, i give tlc to my little one. we read a book together, i record his giggles, i style him for his monthly photoshoot. i stay home if i'm worried he isn't feeling well, i go in late and leave early for his doctor appointments. i prioritize his care, and i don't sacrifice the fun, enriching parts of motherhood for school. to miss out on his babyhood or to feel like i'm failing as his mama would not only be not worth a degree, but would make it impossible to focus on studying.
the kid is alright
while being the best mama i can is my highest priority, i also keep myself as far away from mom guilt as i can. i know there may be some who would be appalled that i went back to school with a 1 week old, or at the hours i spend away from him. but i know that he is well taken care of and greatly loved. he is healthy, happy, and hitting all of his milestones. i am fortunate that if he is not with me, he is with his dad or grandma. i know that he sleeps a large percentage of the time i'm gone. i know it's temporary. i know i will be capable of providing so much more for him with a completed degree. and most of all, i know that i am setting the example of the type of man i am hoping to raise. for those reasons, i am secure in my decision and i sleep soundly at night.
well, for a few hours, anyway.