Should I try to be superwoman?
June 13, 2016 2:17 PM   Subscribe

I have an awesome career. I'm pregnant with my first. And I want to pursue a professional Master's part time. Is this too much? What have I not considered?

I finally geared up to apply this year ("just" need to finish writing my personal statement), so I don't want to lose the momentum and then wait another unknown number of years before starting the program. I'm excited at the idea of taking these classes for the content/work, and not just to further my work abilities.

I have to send in my application by the end of the month. If I'm accepted, I will have to take a course in the autumn term (during my 3rd trimester). I can do distance learning at my own pace, so I can do it when I have energy, but it is a rigorous program.

My husband is supportive but has concerns, since I tend to to be on the ambitious side when I take on projects.

Some things I have considered:

1. Money. Not really a problem, since my employer will pay for most of it.

2. New baby. After the first term, I can put my enrollment on hold until I'm ready to go back to class again. I'm due about 5 weeks after the end of the term, and the university will make allowances for medical issues, if I end up delivering extremely early or having complications.

3. General energy level. I'm generally pretty energetic, but last week was pretty bad (week 9). Now I'm back to pretty normal functioning again. My husband will be staying at home starting third trimester to do work on the house and to support me during my pregnancy (and then to take care of the baby).

"Worst" case scenario, I can take a "seminar" course to keep my enrollment, where I watch a bunch of videos and write reports on them.

What have I not considered?

Would you do this or not? (Please keep in mind that I really *want* to do this.)
posted by ethidda to Health & Fitness (47 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Is this too much?


What have I not considered?

If you find that this is not something you can do, are you going to give up your job, your degree, or your kid? It is highly likely you will have to do one of these, so I'd suggest picking now.

After the first term, I can put my enrollment on hold until I'm ready to go back to class again.

Most programs have an absolute maximum time to complete a degree (usually 5-7 years). Since masters' classes are quite difficult to transfer, if you start the program and do not complete the degree on-time, you will effectively have wasted all time spent in class.

Would you do this or not?

No. I completed a professional masters' program with a laid-back/low demands job and no kids around and I can't imagine how I would have done it if kids were around.
posted by saeculorum at 2:29 PM on June 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

As long as putting enrollment on hold for a bit is a feasible option (sounds like it is), I think it may be okay. I got my masters doing an online program and working full time (I have 2 young kids) and it was very rigorous but doable. There will be surprises about how your time disappears once you have a baby. Like, even with 2 young kids when I had to take 4 hours on a weekend to write a paper, my husband was on full-time kid duty. So you're really signing your husband up for extra one-on-one kid time when you get into the depths of the program. You might want to make sure he's 100% on board for that.

You may find it much harder to concentrate with a baby around, just because of the nature of newborns. Everything will be in disarray for a little bit until you find your groove. But writing a paper or studying might not be able to be done in nice solid chunks unless you guarantee alternate childcare while doing those things.

It's also a total crapshoot in some ways because you never know how your priorities might change after a baby. Baby's personality (super mellow? Great sleeper? Colicky?) will have a lot to do with your state of mind, too. Good luck!
posted by LKWorking at 2:30 PM on June 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would only start if I was completely okay with quitting if it was too much. My baby sleeps great and was an easy lovely baby, but I think he felt easy because I hacked almost every part of my life to make things as least difficult as possible ( I don't do difficult cooking, we have a cleaning professional, disposable nappies and jarred food from the shop, formula, strict about sleep) Starting a masters is like the opposite of that. I have 2 friends who set a high standard for how active they planned on being with a baby and all those plans went out the window...
posted by catspajammies at 2:40 PM on June 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think it might be fine, but you also sound like you are in denial about what's coming + it's a lot like getting dropped off of a cliff, no matter how much help you have...

You would probably be able to do the first course. Until your baby is about 10 months old, you may also be able to keep up IF sleep habits or nursing aren't a giant issue.

posted by jbenben at 2:45 PM on June 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

No. I completed a professional masters' program with a laid-back/low demands job and no kids around and I can't imagine how I would have done it if kids were around.

I don't want to tell you what to do, but this was my experience as well. I actually ended up leaving my low-pressure job for an even more low-pressure job because I needed the max amount of time for my degree/schoolwork.

If you know for a fact your program isn't that demanding, it miiiiight be possible to do without tearing your hair out.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:46 PM on June 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't see why not. Doing a course at home in your third trimester at your own pace doesn't sound like a really big deal to me. And if you can then take a year or two off while your baby is a baby, and go back once he or she is sleeping through the night or whenever you start to feel like things are under a modicum of control, then perfect! (Speaking as a full-time working mother of a two year old and a three year old.... Things get much easier after the infant months.)
posted by amro at 2:46 PM on June 13, 2016 [7 favorites]

If you don't think you'd have the energy to restart the application process next year, why do you think you'll have the energy to work on your Masters this year?

If your program has a Winter cohort I would recommend waiting for that to apply -- you'll still have all of your paperwork together and you'll have a much better picture of how much time and energy you really have.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:53 PM on June 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I did this! I got my masters degree in-person part-time while working full-time and delivering a baby during the program! Plus I already had one kid and moved twice during the program! Now I'm just bragging but I don't care. Things that helped: supportive partner, great program cohort, not insanely demanding job (I took a promotion during the 7 months and that did make things harder). You can do it, and I urge you to do so if somebody else is footing the bill. Plow through however you can; do not delay or push back on the schedule. Once you have your degree no one can take it away from you!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:55 PM on June 13, 2016 [16 favorites]

I would go ahead and do it. When you have a small baby who can't talk, doing school stuff is more on the "fun" side than the "work" side, at least in my experience.

The one caveat would be that if grades are super important, you might want to hold off. But if it's a "Cs get degrees" type situation -- 100% go for it.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:01 PM on June 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

A friend of mine -- one of the hardest workers I have ever met, and I have worked with Green Berets and SEALs -- had a kid during grad school (a top-tier professional program), and said it was the hardest thing she ever did and she would never try it again. She did not also have a job at the same time.
posted by Etrigan at 3:01 PM on June 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you find that this is not something you can do, are you going to give up your job, your degree, or your kid? It is highly likely you will have to do one of these, so I'd suggest picking now.

I find this super offensive and I'm very glad nobody in my program (faculty or student) insinuated that it's impossible for a child-bearer to also work and go to school. I wasn't the only woman in my program to have a baby, either; hell, my cousin had a baby during medical school. Anything is possible. OP, don't let anybody else tell you what you are capable of! You will never know until you try!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:09 PM on June 13, 2016 [22 favorites]

You may never know until you try, but if you make 3 serious commitments at the same time and you find that you've overcommitted and something has to go, you ought to have put some thought into how you are going to ease off on some of those commitments.
posted by Liesl at 3:23 PM on June 13, 2016 [11 favorites]

I find this super offensive and I'm very glad nobody in my program (faculty or student) insinuated that it's impossible for a child-bearer to also work and go to school.

I didn't say impossible. You're the first person to bring this up.

I did a very similar exercise (minus kids) when I started grad school as a planning exercise. I determined the priority of my personal activities with respect to my job. I made a determination how many fewer hours I could spend at work before my degree became a negative net reward exercise for me. I made budgetary decisions about how long I could pursue the program and still have it be viable. I discussed with my partner how much housework she could take up if needed.

I didn't need to take advantage of any of these back-up plans, but being able to answer the question allowed me to solidify my commitment to the program.
posted by saeculorum at 3:27 PM on June 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have a friend who got pregnant accidentally during her Masters. She now has half a degree and a baby. I don't think she's also working full time, at least not as the primary breadwinner in her family.

She has had a pretty hard time of it just with the baby and school, and I believe she had to defer some coursework and isn't quite as on track to finish the degree as she was before her pregnancy.

On the other hand, I believe her husband is also a grad student and is now the one shouldering more of the financial burden and is prioritizing his schooling a little more while she parents their infant. So this all may depend what your support network is like. If you have a stay at home co-parent, I think this is absolutely doable. If you have a rock of financial support such that you can take time off of work if necessary, I think it's absolutely doable. If you're on your own, though, or your partner has an equal set of burdens, it may be harder.
posted by Sara C. at 3:30 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

My feeling is, if you think you can do it, go for it! You truly won't know how it feels to have a newborn until you have one, and so much depends on the personality of your kid (which clearly is unknowable at this point). Set yourself up for success (ensure supportive partner & work, understand your financial (and other) obligations and options for withdrawing/putting things on hold, etc.), and then do your best.

I think most people experience the worst pregnancy fatigue in the first trimester. By the third, you'll likely be physically more uncomfortable (e.g., stop kicking my ribs, baby!), but less tired (and nauseous), in my experience.

While the newborn stage can be tough, there are also advantages--they'll sleep a lot (hopefully), and you can do things like take on-line classes while breastfeeding or having a kid sleep on you. In some ways it may be easier than when the kid is a toddler--but now we are back to the specifics of your specific kid.

I think if you are feeling like you could do it, but are asking this question, that makes you a great candidate to do it. Go in with your eyes open, but stay positive and true to yourself!
posted by msbubbaclees at 3:30 PM on June 13, 2016

had a kid during grad school (a top-tier professional program)

This is key -- I would never do a grad program like, for example, the first year of law school in this situation if I could help it. (Although I know parents who have done something similar). I did take a time-intensive lab course while working full-time and single parenting, and it was hard work, but I would absolutely do it again.

Any professional program that will allow you the level of flexibility you're describing here is not likely to be the same kind of program that would make me back off from this plan. Not all graduate programs are alike.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:34 PM on June 13, 2016

No. I completed a professional masters' program with a laid-back/low demands job and no kids around and I can't imagine how I would have done it if kids were around.

Also, lol, my friends without kids alway say stuff like this. You just do it. It really doesn't have anything to do with what you did when you didn't have a kid. I don't know what else to tell you.

It's sort of like having temporarily able-bodied people tell you that they found something difficult so they are preeeettty sure that someone with a disability would find it impossible. But that's not how it works.

Not really something you can effectively speculate about unless you've actually had a kid/kids, IMO. Even then, it's very situation specific.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:39 PM on June 13, 2016 [12 favorites]

Also, lol, my friends without kids alway say stuff like this.

Not to be all "you wouldn't understand," but this is so true. When you're a parent, you will find that you are capable of waaaaaay more than you thought you were before kids.
posted by amro at 3:56 PM on June 13, 2016 [9 favorites]

I think it very much depends on the program, how willing your partner is to do it all on the parenting front for extended periods of time (how extended depends on answer to first question), and what your local support network is like. If you have a person (incl but ideally not limited to your partner) that you can hand a newborn to and say, "Here. Do not bother me for the next several hours." then I think you'll be okay (exhausted and stressed, but okay).

I found that getting work done at home was way easier with a 0-8 month old than 8+ months because little babies stay where you put them and don't need constant surveillance to keep them from killing themselves. But I had a very pleasant baby who was a reasonably good sleeper and who was content to sit in a bouncer and stare at a toy while I worked. Some babies literally cannot be put down, ever and there's the ones who don't sleep, ever and the ones who don't stop crying, ever. Babies are like a box of chocolates that way. They come out the way they are and you can't predict what you're going to get before they arrive land-side.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:57 PM on June 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Like Susan Sandberg would say: Don't leave before you leave.

I know women who have successfully done what you're planning, so it is definitely doable. And it seems like you've got a good support structure in place AND you've thought about exit strategies.

You won't know if you can do this or not until you try. And if you try, and it doesn't work out, you'll have gotten valuable information about what it will take to make it work later on.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:58 PM on June 13, 2016 [9 favorites]

I finished my undergrad while working almost full time, with a toddler. Not quite the same, but you know you. My concern is not so much about your energy level, but what will happen if you get hit with post-partum depression. There is no way to accurately predict what you will be like after the baby comes. You could feel great. You could be utterly exhausted every second of the day. You could get PPD. I think that if you do this, you need to be prepared to really, truly take care of YOU, up to dropping the program if necessary. If you're okay with that, then go for it.
posted by Ruki at 4:02 PM on June 13, 2016 [9 favorites]

I think as long as you are OK with adjusting to the unexpected, which will invariably happen when you have a new baby, then go for it. But really, I feel like it's so hard to predict what you will feel like when that baby comes.

Things that may happen: You realize you just want to be in school, but not your job( is this possible?)... Or perhaps your husband figures out a way to stay home so you can do school PLUS work. Or your family has enough money for a nanny, plus perhaps a house cleaner?

Or maybe your baby is super chill, and you can take him/her to class or something. Or your baby is very high maintenance and colicky and nothing seems do-able for 6 months to a year. I don't know, you sounds pretty ambitious and excited, and that will carry you!

Do know that, as cliche as it sounds though, you can't get your baby's baby days/childhood back. That does not mean you should just stay-at-home and revel in the wonder of every little thing your child does (SO BORING!!), but it IS an incredible time of life, especially when they are getting past the 6 month mark. I have a one-year-old now, and while I was pretty wiped out and restless the first half of the year, now I am truly excited to spend lots of time with her, and do lots of mom things. (I have other things I do too, & am applying to grad school & it's pretty great having a lot of flexibility. But I didn't have an awesome career to begin with, so I am not missing that.)

Do you have child care you trust available? That first year, get as much help as humanly possible with right caregiver(s). Then, it's totally possible you could just forge ahead.

Good luck!!
posted by Rocket26 at 4:04 PM on June 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Not a parent at all, I think my only concern would be a nitpicking one. If for some reason you have a complicated pregnancy is there any chance something could happen with school where your employer might not pay for things? Everyone else has covered other things. I'd also make sure you're planning with your spouse for this to be a TEAM US decision since you being superwoman could possibly leave your spouse with a level of work he doesn't think he could handle and maybe he's not superwoman? But if you guys as a team think that this makes sense and, between you, have the energy to make this happen, I'd try it but, as others have said maybe talk through some scenario planning in case there are complicated (but predictable) scenarios that come up.
posted by jessamyn at 4:06 PM on June 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think you are grossly underestimating how high the mental, physical, and emotional toll that having a kid can levy. Note, I say "can" not "will".

It can be done, and is done, as many posters attest. However, you just don't know how your kid will be, how you will be etc. Even assuming good health from all parties, things can be very very hard, and that's not a failing in you, your partner, your child.

My partner and I struggled with our first and even with our second what you propose would be out of the question for us. Its easy to dismiss parents who struggle as somehow not doing it right, but when you're in the trenches and you realise you're doing everything you can and its still not going right, it can be pretty tough.

So I say go for it, good luck to you. But be prepared to quit, to find it incredibly hard, to find it not worth it in the end, to fail - and to be okay with that, 100%, to be prepared to change and adapt your expectations and desires in peace and with no resentment and without feeling a failure. Parenting is a private thing, don't let anyone tell you how you should feel about it or what you should be doing. But prepare for hardness, make some plans and priorities. Good luck!
posted by smoke at 4:07 PM on June 13, 2016 [9 favorites]

Well, I'm a I don't see anything wrong with going forward with the application to the Masters program and maybe even starting and seeing how things go. I would have a very frank and open conversation with your partner about the challenges and how you both see the juggle of work and parenthood affecting you. Make sure to listen closely to your partner's hopes and fears and really take them in. Then discuss strategies.

One thing that worked well for us was for me to read the pregnancy and birthing books and have my partner focus on baby care books. I would point things out to him that I wanted him to know about labor and those things that would be supportive but when baby finally arrived, he had lots of methods to explore for diapering, feeding, sleeping. It was great because I was wiped out from laboring plus c-section. And I think it colored our first months with new baby in a really positive way. Today, he's a very active and engaged parent. And you'll need that for what you're planning to do which will be very challenging but you won't really know where or how until those challenges hit. Supportive and capable partner is your biggest and best chance of success.

One little thing that you just sort of tossed in there...partner is taking a couple months off to do house projects? I urge you not to throw a remodel into your birth plan. Just sayin'. These things have a way of taking so much longer than you think. Please don't try to bring a human into the world while finishing up a first term of school while balancing a workload while your partner is trying to put the goddamn bathroom/kitchen/laundry back together. Anything that gets torn down in your house, make a plan that it's still torn down when baby comes.
posted by amanda at 4:09 PM on June 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you find that this is not something you can do, are you going to give up your job, your degree, or your kid? It is highly likely you will have to do one of these, so I'd suggest picking now.

As a "prepare for the worst, hope for the best" type of person, I think this is an excellent point to be meditating on. You may be fine but there are a number of not unrealistic situations that could force you to make this decision. Obviously the kid is here to stay, but what about work and school? At least think through your contingency plans.

If I were you I'd apply and defer admission for a year, or just wait until next year if that's not an option. Grad school is hard enough on its own, and there are too many unknowns for my taste. Could you do it? Sure, plenty of people have. But there are a lot of potential issues that could derail you in this first year so if you're going to go for it have backup plans and backup plans for your backup plans so you have the best chance for success.
posted by fox problems at 4:12 PM on June 13, 2016

Not to be all "you wouldn't understand," but this is so true. When you're a parent, you will find that you are capable of waaaaaay more than you thought you were before kids.

That's the official narrative, but I've witnessed far too many cases where that isn't what happened. And the suffering (and shame) can be immense.

Don't make it a leap of faith. Find out what parenting is going to be to you personally before making long term plans.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:15 PM on June 13, 2016 [7 favorites]

Not knowing how you will feel about something in the future isn't a big enough deal to me to not do something i want to do. We take this gamble all the time; getting married, moving countries, whatever. Life throws you unexpected things all the time. How do you deal with that stuff? You know if you're good at it or not.

I did my bachelors while running a business and had 3 babies in 3.5 years. My studies were a mix of distance and face to face. My work hours were also flexible. My partner was very supportive and money was fine. I lived very close to my university.

I also worked very late most nights. I also left my toddlers with the tv a lot. Having more than one of them meant they played with each other so I could be a little more hands off than I imagine I would have been with just the one. Several times I pulled all-nighters. I asked for extensions regularly. Our house is always messy. I don't care. I still had time for a social life.

My personal philosophy is that time will go whether do this kind of stuff or not. What you lose somewhere, you gain somewhere else. Know where you're okay letting things go and where you will have to ask yourself to dig really deep and push on.

And yeah, lol, my friends without kids alway say stuff like this. You just do it.. When we had our first child, my husband and I fit so much more into every day we used to regularly ask ourselves "what the fuck did we used to do with all our time?" The answer was that we used to watch every Law & Order. I was fine losing that!

Do it. Good luck!
posted by stellathon at 4:26 PM on June 13, 2016 [7 favorites]

I think you should go for it, because honestly it's not like you'd be deferring for one year, you'd be deferring for at least 2+ years and maybe longer if you have another kid. If you want this Master's in the next decade, you'll have to do it with a young kid. And if your company is paying for it and you're able to take one class at a time, I think it's doable. Do check the requirements for completion within a specific time frame though.

You will need to get used to doing things in spurts, and also working when you're very tired and would rather be doing pretty much anything else. Like, no procrastinating and then sitting down and writing for six hours to get a paper done (my preferred method). You will need to lean on your husband for child-wrangling to allow you to get some work done and you may also need to get a babysitter for times when you've got stuff to do. As long as you're both on board with this, it's doable. I did a yearlong research fellowship on top of a full-time job as an academic physician starting when my kid was about 8 months old. It was definitely less work than a master's and mostly focused on developing a particular project, but it really wasn't a big deal to add it on for me since at that point he was sleeping through the night and I just worked in the evenings after he was in bed. I do think it would have been a lot of trouble to do it during the immediate postpartum period/my maternity leave, because I had one of those un-putdownable kids and between that and the sleep deprivation I was just exhausted all the time. So maybe knocking out the first class, skipping the next term and picking it back up in the summer would be reasonable.

If you aren't a very efficient person (I'm not) going into the process, you will probably need to develop some skills for doing work in chunks, and you will also need to really keep your eyes on the prize in order to keep your motivation up.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 4:41 PM on June 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Also check, some workplaces will give you study leave. Especially for a course that's work related enough that they're paying.
posted by stellathon at 4:42 PM on June 13, 2016

Also, one more thing I was thinking of is your husband. Sounds like he is awesome and on board, (which is great), but he will need support as well, in many, many different forms as the primary care giver. Maybe ya'll have already negotiated this, but I would want him to have things in place for him if you decide to forge ahead, so he's not stuck with a little baby 24/7 while probably also nurturing you and doing tons of emotional labor while you are forging ahead. Does he want to go back to work at some point, too? What are his needs in all this?

The other thing of course that popped in my head is breast-feeding. I don't know why, but it's something that's important for a lot of women, or at least a decision. It's a lot of work (and so is pumping) so you may just want to ask yourself if that's something you care about.
posted by Rocket26 at 4:48 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

My daughter was in a graduate program at a top school when she got pregnant. It was twins, there was high anxiety, and she had to drop most of classes for one semester and take a semester off after the delivery. She finished her degree 18 months late. So, all's well that ends well, but the are likely bumps in the road.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:14 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Having finished a part-time MS while working full-time, and having also had a baby since then, I wouldn't sign up for this workload, no. But it really depends on how much time you work, and how hardcore the master's program is. My program was a full-time in-person technical degree program that allowed people to enroll in the classes remotely and watch them on video, which meant professors typically assumed that students had zero responsibilities outside of school. As such, the workload was occasionally up to 30 hours a week for the "tough" classes. This on top of a 50+ hour a week job would not have allowed me to also be caring for a newborn. I would have taken a leave of absence from school (and given my life since then, I probably wouldn't have my MS). And of course your kid is a big wildcard. My current baby is the exact opposite of a high-needs baby. If there were master's programs I wanted to complete, this maternity leave might have been a highly productive one for me.

My positive pregnancy test with kid #1 was on the same day as the last final exam of my degree program. I suspected I was pregnant for about a week before that but I just did. not. want. to. know.
posted by town of cats at 5:37 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is there a house remodel involved too? That part jumped out at me as well. I've been the partner in this situation, so I sympathize with your husband. You said he has reservations and I would be really sure you don't dismiss them. I think you could start the program, but be very aware that your husband is taking responsibility for full-time parenting, and now evenings and weekends too. He's going to need support, and you need to have a plan for how he'll get that. Good luck!
posted by areaperson at 6:03 PM on June 13, 2016

I had a very demanding job during my last pregnancy. I agree with those above who say that you should have a plan for easing up/giving up on at least one of your commitments if necessary. With pregnancy #2, I was able to keep up with work, including being at the office until 3 a.m. and up again at 6 a.m. to take care of kid #1... until I woke up bleeding and had to rush to the hospital. (I was close enough to full term, everything turned out OK in the end.)

Prioritize your health. Now is not the time to see how far you can push yourself. Give it a try if you're up for it, and maybe everything will work out great, but have a backup plan.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:10 PM on June 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

My experience has been that in case of a health emergency, education programs find ways to be flexible that they may not announce in general. My most recent program said the most hard line cut and dried things, but when someone was diagnosed with cancer, they permitted a deferral.

So I think that if you have medical professionals you trust to write the kind of letter you need, in case of (puh puh puh) complications during pregnancy, post part depression, or baby's health issues, that might change the scenario (not being able to defer until after one semester). It depends on the program but I just wanted to put it out there as a possibility (that you might be able to discreetly gather some more intel about).
posted by Salamandrous at 6:42 PM on June 13, 2016

I would do this in a heartbeat. Your future child is lucky to have a mom who is inquisitive, ambitious, and a lifelong learner.
posted by telegraph at 6:57 PM on June 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

So many variables! I had an easy pregnancy and a tough newborn, so I'm sure I could have done this, but definitely would have needed at least a year off. So many people have totally different experiences, though! I wouldn't chance it unless you're really, totally OK with giving something up (school? work?) if it all becomes too much.
posted by marmago at 7:09 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree with fox problems: go for it, and have backup plans, and backup plans for the backup plans. So many critical factors--the kid's personality and sleep habits, his/her health and yours, the support you receive from your partner, family, and faculty--are unpredictable and mostly out of your hands. I tried something similar, and ended up dropping out of the graduate program when my kid was a few weeks old, but starting a demanding job in a new field when she was seven months old. In retrospect, I'm glad about both. The graduate program was not challenging and just not worth missing time with my daughter when she really needed me. The job is awesome, challenging, and worth the time investment, and it came along when my kid was five months older and a lot less demanding.

The ability to put your enrollment on hold is essential. In my case, things changed so quickly and dramatically during my kid's first year that stuff that was absolutely impossible for the first few months--and I mean stuff like maintaining a basic personal hygiene routine, not doing thesis research--became manageable once she started eating solids and sleeping better. If you end up with an easy, healthy baby and supportive partner and are able to plow through, awesome; if you need to step back and focus on the kid and on just...surviving...for a few months or a year, you can. Good luck!
posted by xylothek at 7:38 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think it also depends on what you want to get out of the course. Yes, I had a couple of friends who started graduate degrees when they had tiny babies, and they completed them. But they were mentally only half there during the course and they definitely got less out of it than the rest of us. Luckily it was a professional degree where passing is everything but they both said to me that if they could choose again they wouldn't have combined it with children at that stage.
posted by kadia_a at 10:57 PM on June 13, 2016

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is that you might not *want* to do all those things once the baby arrives. In my circle, there are a few women with a lot of professional success and commitments who wish they could scale back on work so they could spend more time with their kid. I'm not saying you will feel that way, but it is a possibility that you should be aware of.

Another thing is childcare. In my own experience, I had a really hard time finding good childcare, and that had a huge impact on my work. Do you have a plan in place? Will you need someone to watch your child outside normal business hours? Can you afford that?

The last thing is your relationship. The first year of having a kid is a huge strain on a relationship, even without an extra graduate program. I work in the evenings after my daughter goes to sleep, and I struggle to balance that need with finding time to take care of my marriage.
posted by ohisee at 11:37 PM on June 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would wait until you have the baby and are adjusted.

I have 3. Some babies are born knowing how to feed well, sleep well and grow fine. My middle baby was this way. I could easily have done a masters around her, she was sooooo easy. Unfortunately both her siblings are on the autism spectrum and they were the sort of babies you read about in the paper after a tragedy - they never slept (i mean never, i had psychosis), had terrible colic (as in bled-into-the-whites-of-their-eyes-from-screaming terrible) and failed to hit developmental milestones, which led to near constant appointments with therapists and doctors and experts, which are ongoing now post-diagnosis.

You are obviously unlikely to have my experience, BUT the shift having a kid brings really is unimaginable until you've one it. And i might well be totally fine and doable, but i would wait and make sure first before making any decisions.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 12:59 AM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would sign up to be you in this scenario, but I would not sign up to be your husband. I would be interested to hear what his concerns are. If I were him, I would not necessarily be concerned that you are taking on too much, but concerned that *I* will be left with too much when you are unavailable.
posted by bimbam at 2:15 AM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I say go for it.

I worked full time and did a part time executive masters program and didn't find it overwhelming. One of my classmates was pregnant and had her first child during our first year, then got pregnant with twins in our 2nd year and still graduated in the top 10%.

I'm out of school now, but I am currently working full time at a very demanding job and am pregnant with multiples myself... It's tiring, but it's fine. Certainly grad school + my previous job were less taxing than the current job, so I feel confident I could have pulled it all off at the same time if I needed to.
posted by antimony at 7:15 AM on June 14, 2016

I had a baby when I was about half-way done my ph.d. (a rigorous full-time program), he was 2 years old when I finished. I had no pregnancy complications, a relatively easy birth and recovery, no breastfeeding issues. I went back to the program when he was 13 weeks old, I pumped, and his grandparents watched him (me and his dad both worked 9-5 hours). It was hard (we didn't sleep train and he wasn't an "easy" baby) but if I had waited I don't think it would have been easier...toddlers are demanding and keep you on your feet all day, babies at least take naps. I found it nearly impossible to get work done when I was home with my son (that's pretty much still true and my son is 5 although now I can cook and clean when he's awake). Another woman in my lab dropped out after having a baby, she took 8 months off and didn't have as much support as I did (no family nearby and she was alone with the baby a lot). That happened a few times in my department (moms dropping out after having kids), but just as many don't. I know a mom who had preemie twins (doing great now as toddlers), and she finished her masters of education while her husband did the heavy lifting (but she wasn't working full-time).

Your energy should be pretty good through the rest of your pregnancy now (if you're feeling good at 9 weeks...I was low energy longer than that). The very end of the pregnancy (like weeks 36+) you might find you give no fucks about your responsibilities anymore and just want to nest so try to get things wrapped up as much as possible. Similarly the first couple of months after having my son I wanted nothing to do with my work, I was on a high from the birth and breastfeeding. I got a huge amount of work done during my pregnancy because I knew it needed to be done and I did feel this sense of mental sharpness which was wonderful for my work. I regret not resting more because I do think it can take a toll that isn't apparent until you've been pushing yourself for a couple of years, your body is making another human and you need to rest and eat well and enjoy time with your husband. During my ph.d. I had periods where I really resented missing time with my son, but he slept a lot while I was gone and overall I did spend a good chunk of time with him. If he hadn't been with family I don't think I could have handled leaving him unless I had gotten a full-time nanny, which wasn't in our budget.

If your husband is fully supportive of you and prepared to step in during bad sleep nights/weeks/illnesses, and this will be a temporary increased workload I think you can do it. If it'll mean a higher salary and better work-life balance by the time your kid is 2-3 years old it's a no-brainer, but you may have no life outside of work, school and baby/husband for a few years. You want to line up as much help as possible for your sake and your husband's. Freezer packed with healthy ready-made food, everything (clothes, house, other commitments) as low maintenance as possible.
posted by lafemma at 7:35 AM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've just come off about a year with more commitments than anyone around me believed one person could carry, and I did them all. Full time work, challenging master's course with As, board of directors at a nonprofit, and a major role helping that nonprofit find a new executive. How? Simple: By neglecting my family, friends, relationship, career, and health.

So... my advice would be that it's not necessarily a bad idea, and it's not impossible at all, but that there are tradeoffs. Think about the other things you value spending time on too. Where do those go? How long can those be on hold for before you've really done damage to something? Can you save some 10% of your bandwidth for those things and maybe rotate among them?
posted by Lady Li at 6:27 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks all, for your perspective. I have decided to apply and take it easy (i.e. drop it) if it doesn't work out. I know people who took 6-7 years to finish the program, so there's no rush to finish it. My energy had actually dipped a bit since posting the question, but I remain an optimist.

My husband is fully supportive. Yes, there's a renovation project currently going on, but that should be finished by the time classes start. (This is not our first reno project so we have a pretty realistic estimate.) Also, he will stop working so he will be focused entirely on the reno project, then taking care of the kid(s) and supporting me. My husband is hoping that he will never have to go back to a formal career, though he may do some projects he's more personally interested in that would bring in side income (probably when kid(s) is/are older).
posted by ethidda at 3:40 PM on July 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

« Older Fiction about people failing and then succeeding?   |   Revised southwest trip for inexperienced... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.