In the fall of 2013, I decided to leap, and I have not looked back! I was seven months pregnant with my youngest child when I decided to pursue a Ph.D. After teaching K-12 for almost 10 years as both a general and special education teacher I knew I needed a change. However, I did not know exactly what that change would look like (and it continues to evolve) but I knew I wanted to make an impact in special education on a larger scale. I also knew that I wanted to train future teachers. It would not be until later in my doctorate journey that I would realize that I also enjoyed conducting research and developed a love/hate relationship with writing (I love writing but hate editing). Along my journey, there were a lot of bumps and hurdles in the road, but I overcame them and learned a few things in the process.
Dr. Mom: 5 Steps to getting your Ph.D. and Stilling Maintaining Super Mom Status
1. Unapologetically Commit: To do this you need to make a "tunnel vision" decision to pursue your degree no matter what comes your way. Through my journey, I endured a lot challenges including the loss of loved ones, committee members jumping ship, and even the birth of a child. There were also some financial hardships and other battles but I just kept believing, "where there is a will there is a way". Although there were times that I had to take a break, I never gave up. As mothers, we are faced with so many responsibilities that our goals often take a back seat. Do not let this happen to you! Unapologetically commit and keep it moving.
2. Put together a Dream Team: It is absolutely a must to recruit a support system when pursuing any degree but especially mothers who are pursuing a terminal degree. This starts with (sometimes difficult) conversations with your loved ones who have your back no matter what. Tell them your goals and why this goal is so important to you. Gently let them know their role in this goal and confirm their participation. This is not the time to let your pride get in the way of goals. Do not be afraid to ask for help because - You Will Need It!
3. Develop a Routine: Managing your day to day will be difficult but it can be doable with a daily plan/routine. This is includes mapping out your work, study, parenting schedule. Who will pick up the kids from school? Who will help them with their homework? If the only answer is, you... then ask yourself "how will you do this"? Meal prepping on Sunday's is always a good suggestion because that means no matter who is preparing the meals all they will need to do is warm the meals up, right?
4. Develop a Financial Plan: Financing your degree and maintaining your current lifestyle will be the million-dollar question you will need to ask and answer before you start your journey. There are many grants and scholarship opportunities both public and private that may be able to assist you. For me, I was able to obtain private funding to pursue my doctorate as well as teaching opportunities. I also worked as a private special education consultant and online EdTPA scorer.
5. Positive Vibes Only: This is a trendy saying nowadays, but it is vital to the success of your academic journey. Set boundaries for negative people or delete them from your life entirely. I cannot stress this enough. Surrounding yourself with positive people will be vital to your success. Know that misery truly does love company and people will try to kill your dreams before you even get started.
6. Bonus Tip: Find a mentor (or two or three). Mentors can be anyone that you value but try to find a mentor that has the degree or similar degree that you are pursuing. They can give you advice and feedback to help you get through the tough times. My mentors were faculty, retired faculty, as well as administrators is in the education field.
These are just a few tips to help you get started. The most important key is to start with a plan, stay positive, and never give up no matter what!