I got my doctorate while raising my 3 and 5-year-old kids. Here are 5 ways I juggled it all and stayed sane.

I got my doctorate while raising my 3 and 5-year-old kids. Here are 5 ways I juggled it all and stayed sane.
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Nadine Robinson with her kids and her in her graduation gown
The author raised her kids while getting her doctorate.

  • I juggled my doctorate studies , a part-time job, and parenting alone for years.
  • I cut out alcohol, prioritized parenting, and tried to remain positive during the process.
  • In the end, I got my degree and survived the chaos. 

From 2009 to 2013, my life felt like a three-ring circus.

I was working on my doctorate in business administration, raising my 3- and 5-year-old kids, and working part-time. I was doing it all as a newly separated mother, trying to navigate living and parenting alone.

Mornings were a panic as I tried to get the kids fed, dressed, and off to school with a healthy lunch. I was often running on less than five hours of sleep.

I made their bedtime early and non-negotiable. Once the kids were asleep, I had from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. to clean up the dinner dishes, make lunches, tidy the house, do laundry, and do my doctoral work. It was an online doctorate, so aside from the lectures, I had multiple articles to read for each class and discussion posts to answer. I spent 40 to 60 hours a week completing my classwork and homework.

It was a lot to juggle, but I did it. These 5 strategies helped me stay sane in the chaos.

My parenting duties always took precedent

I wasn’t going to win any mom of the year awards, but if my kids were clean, fed, and not bleeding, it was a win in my books.

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Still, I found genuine ways to connect with my kids — like a short board game or an elaborate blanket fort. I didn’t take my kids to as many activities as I would have liked, but I focused on the lifesaving ones, like swim lessons. I figured the rest could wait.

I’d sometimes forgo sleeping for a night to finish my doctoral work if they needed more time with me.

During breaks for the doctoral program, we’d go camping or visit family. The kids looked forward to these times without my nose stuck in a book. I’d always involved them in vacation planning, and one year, my daughter said she wanted to go to Mount Rushmore. So that’s what we did. She would hopefully remember that trip more than she would remember the hectic pace of the months before that.

When in doubt, I distracted myself by doing something else

With a house to clean, food to cook, kids to raise, and my ongoing doctorate, there was always something to do. Sometimes, I felt paralyzed because I didn’t know where to start. So, if I found myself fading, I would change tasks to something else that I “had” to do. I call this productive procrastination.

Don’t want to read any more discourse analysis articles? Do the dishes. Don’t want to write a literature review? Pick up the LEGOS that will act as painful land mines on the 3 a.m. trip to the bathroom.

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I avoided alcohol during the week

A couple of drinks while I was supposed to be focused on my doctoral work often led to bad decisions, which led to a couple more drinks, which then led me to take the night off, thinking that I’d have time to do the work the next day. Drinking as a coping mechanism had become a habit. Life was hard, and alcohol numbed the self-critical voices in my head.

I decided to avoid alcohol and caffeine during the week because I didn’t have time for artificial highs or lows. After a difficult month of stopping cold turkey, not drinking became a better habit.

I found small moments to prioritize physical health

There was no way I had time for the gym, but there were things I could do to stay healthy. I did what I called “three for me,” which was a one-minute wall-sit, a one-minute plank, and one minute of sit-ups.

There is no day that you can’t find three minutes for yourself. I read journal articles during the three minutes, which was one of my few successful multi-tasks.

I also developed a five-day meal plan for healthy, fast, different meals for each night of the week. We ate dinner at the table to talk about our days and connect. I also used weekends to decompress and take a family walk — where we could all get some much-needed vitamin D and reground ourselves in nature.

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I reminded myself of my ‘why’

I had chosen to do this, and an end was in sight. In one low moment — after a cry about how exhausted and overwhelmed I felt — I found an online therapist whose video said that my brain would listen to whatever I told it. She encourages people to say: “I’ve chosen to do this. I’m delighted to do this,” even when they aren’t. When I was feeling particularly whiny, and that advice wasn’t cutting it, I’d think like Nike and say out loud: “Just do it.”

I also reminded myself of my “why.” My “why” would be staring at the mirror or sitting across from me at the breakfast table. I had to remember that I was doing my doctorate to get a job that paid more, would give me more purpose, and would give me more time with my kids.

Dr. Nadine Robinson holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from Athabasca University. She is a part-time professor at Sault College, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Follow her @theinkran.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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