Last year, Erin Stauder wrote a Leader Student’s Say column on her decision to go back to school for her doctorate in public policy and education. Now juggling school, work and family, Stauder shares insights on how to keep it all in balance.
As a full-time clinical faculty member, part-time PhD student, wife, and mother of two who enjoys working out and sharing a glass of wine with friends now and then, I often get asked: “How do you do it?”
The answer often includes a weird mumbled bunch of incoherent words. Then I try to change the subject or make an excuse to find more wine. I go through this avoidance routine because the answer probably seems super-boring to people not in the same proverbial boat. However, I can share a few specific things I do weekly to help keep me sane. Disclaimer: I often feel as if my life hangs in a delicate balance and one strong breeze might disrupt everything. I always look for new strategies. If you have some, email me—or comment below—please?!
- I maintain a strict laundry schedule. Laundry stresses me out. It’s weird. If I keep on top of my laundry, everything else seems OK. If you’re also trying to achieve balance in life, I recommend you select the chore causing you the most stress and make a plan of attack. Your plan might range from teaching someone else how to do the chore to deciding your time is better spent accomplishing something else and giving yourself permission to hire someone.
- I wake up two hours before my kids Monday through Friday. During these quiet hours, I unload the dishwasher, make lunches, fold a load of laundry (see #1) and finish at least an hour of schoolwork. This scheduled schoolwork time also rates high on my sanity list. It allows me quiet alone time to focus on classwork. Without this, I feel as if I squeeze my PhD work into an already full life. By giving this priority its own regularly scheduled time, I treat this opportunity with the respect it deserves. Find your time and stick to it.
- This one is the most important: I set goals for myself outside of my doctoral program. This semester created particular challenges for me. I worked extremely hard, but felt like I couldn’t control my own destiny. While I was struggling with these feelings, my husband unknowingly issued me a challenge. I made an off-hand comment that I could never do the open-water swim portion of a triathlon. “You could if you tried,” he immediately replied. Initially, it horrified me that he thought I needed one more thing on my plate. However, I found myself in the pool within a few weeks. The beauty of this goal? I completely control whether or not I complete it. My type-A personality appreciates this immensely. Thanks, Hon.
Overall, I find it important to reflect regularly on the fact that I’m extremely grateful to enjoy the opportunity of earning an advanced degree. I made this choice. All of this is my fault. So I guess I maintain more control than I thought.
Erin Stauder, MS, CCC-SLP, is a clinical faculty member in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at Loyola University Maryland. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 10, Issues in Higher Education. firstname.lastname@example.org