When we took this path, where one of us is working full time, and the other one stays at home with two little children under 3, while both are enrolled in some sorts of graduate programmes, we may have thought that we have it all figured out. After all, we have gone through one semester with both of us working full time and both were attending classes – and taking out one responsibility off the shoulder of one us, it could only get better…
…Or so I thought.
In reality, it is another round of juggling responsibilities and finding balance.
Now, two months into my second semester I have made some conclusions, and learnt some important points.
If you are a stay-at-home mom and a student, you may agree with some of my points here:
- Keep the priority right : I think this takes precedent over every rules I am listing here. It is fundamental to come back to this. Some of us take the road of grad school for as a license to advance in their careers. My purpose is different: I do this for the love of knowledge and the potential benefits it will give me to myself as an individual, my family, and hopefully the society. And right now, this agenda comes after (not directly after, though) spending time with the children – which is the major reason why I quit my job. This is a side thing I am doing – so if my husband just couldn’t get away from his office on time for me to go the my classes- which rarely happens – I won’t fuss over it. If the kids keeps tugging me begging for my attention, surely they will come first. I don’t mind this whole thing taking the backseat, really. Because Allah says ‘Be Mindful of Allaah and Allaah will protect you’, and just by fulfilling my responsibility at home as required by Him, I know Allah will take care of my studies.
- Days are for the kids, and nights are for the books : Multi-tasking is not doing me any good. In fact, research shows that it doesn’t do any good to anyone. There is no benefit in me worrying about the books/journal articles/notes I am yet to cross out from my reading list during the day, when my children are crying for my attention. I push those worries aside and focus on them (or trying hard to do so) during the day. I have attempted going the other way, and it only made me more impatient and more frustrated when my reading is interrupted. I do make some exceptions with this though, especially when I have deadlines to meet where I’d resort to Nick Jr 😛
- Focus, focus and focus : I try to make my studying less of an interference to my family life, despite acknowledging its benefits. When I was single, and was an undergraduate efficiency may not be as crucial as it is now – after all I had only myself to take care of, and if I slack now, sooner or later I’d be the only paying the price of having to stay up late etc. Now that both of us are parents, and both need to allocate some quiet times studying, we take turns: when one is studying somewhere else, the other one will be with the children. And the time slots are not that long, more often limited to 1-2 hours. And in this one or two hours I am forced to make the best of it – because if I am not, someone else is also paying the price.
- Keep everything else simple : Being at home, moreover with two little children is consuming, and it doesn’t help that we have this constant ‘mommy war’ out there. It is imperative that I always review my KPI whenever I see myself having the tendency to be overwhelmed by all the chores and things I thought I need to do. I am not here to become a domestic goddess or another Martha Stewart. I chose to be home so I could be with my children first and foremost, and that doesn’t entail slaving myself in the kitchen. I keep a generally less-than-strict cleanliness standard and try (very hard) to live with that (or maybe I should attempt to emulate the Japanese style ), and cook whenever I can whatever I could. What this constant reminding makes me is nothing more than a happy, content mother and wife, and one who has lots of extra energy for the late night revision.
- Family support is crucial : Other than my ever supportive husband, I have to give credits to my other family members who contribute to make this full-time-housewife-part-time-student venture a bearable one, if not joyful. My younger sister often lends her hands, so did our both sets of parents. My parents are planning to come over and help look after Isa and Khadijah during the January 2016 exam week, just the way my in-laws did last time. In all honesty, I think extended family support is crucial, whether you are a housewife, or in the same shoes as mine, or working full time. It is unfortunate that in this day and age child-raising involves only the parents of the nucleus family (which, other than sparing no time off for the parents, also deprives the children from beneficial experiences) , and we are not living closely to our extended relatives.
When my mother insisted long before, that if we girls we to study or further study, it is better that we do it while we were single, I didn’t think much about it. Now I know that it is not to say that doing otherwise is making it totally impossible, but the changes you do impact more than just one soul; more than yours only. There are responsibilities you just can’t delegate (who else can breastfeed Khadijah, for instance), and there are just too much collateral damages should things go south.
But again, a lot of people have gone through this situation and aced it, so I say – bring it on!