Being a WAHM, PhD Mom

There are parents out there who have multiple kids in their care full time, run a business from home, and seem to get cooking/cleaning/workouts/blogging and everything else done to boot. At least I think these parents exist… Maybe social media lies. Anyway, I don’t know how those superwomen (and super-parents of other genders) do it, even if they don’t look as polished and happy doing it when the camera is off and the Instagram is logged out.

I’m struggling with full time care of my almost 6-month old while balancing one measly distance education teaching assistantship. We have started eating more Kraft Dinner and delivery pizza than healthy home cooked meals. My house is a disaster. I kid you not -and this is something I wish I was kidding about – there has been a barfed-up cat hairball on the landing of my stairs for 5 days now. 

I’m staying on top of my paid work, but I’ve resorted to plopping Avery in the bumbo in front of some YouTube kids channel for half an hour while I marked papers. I mean, I have no problem with kids watching TV (I used to love it when the TV babysat me as a kid), but I can’t help feeling bad about it. She’s not even 6 months old. 

So here I am feeling bad about myself already, and then comes the pressure to get my PhD done. I’m on a 2-semester leave of absence from dissertation work. Everyone in my life knows this, and yet people can’t seem to stop reminding me that I need to get back to it. When my baby was 1 month old my dad started asking “so how’s the PhD coming along?” My mom always asks when I’m going to be able to start working on it again with a concerned look in her eye because apparently taking a leave is a sign that I’m not serious about it anymore and might quit after all I’ve poured into it so far. My wife talks about how she can’t wait for me to start making a steady income. This is fair – being the sole wage-earner in the family would be stressful… but so is trying to balance full-time childcare with finishing this damn PhD everyone keeps reminding me about!

I’m going back to “full time” studies in the summer. I don’t want to / can’t afford to put Avery in childcare this summer when she is only 7 months old (yes, we’re spoiled in Canada, getting accustomed to a 12 month parental leave – even though that doesn’t apply to students like myself). My wife luckily works much closer to home now and has been able to be home by 5 and help with bedtime, but in the evenings I’m too haggared to do a bunch of academic reading and writing. 

While I feel shitty about myself and wonder how others manage to balance work and family, the reality is that I’m doing it. And this summer I can plop Avery in the grass to watch the birds in the garden instead of the TV and I’m sure I’ll feel better about ignoring her then. It feels like I’m failing sometimes, but the important things are getting done. That hairball can biodegrade on my floor for all I care. 

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