I have officially finished off my first semester as a PhD student and a mama! As many of you know, I am in the middle of a doctoral program in Social Policy. I spent the first year of the program pregnant, leaving halfway through the second semester and taking maternity leave. I finished those classes independently with professors over the summer but it wasn’t until this past semester that I had a full course load, was also working part time, and a full-time mama! I am the type of person that LOVES to keep busy, but I really didn’t know what busy meant before becoming a mom. With all of my new responsibilities combined with the sleep deprivation, a lot of my old habits and quasi-organizational methods didn’t cut it.
For example, pre-baby I could write something down and think on it and somehow I would magically remember without more reminders of what I needed to do and when. This in no way, shape, or form works for me now! Sometimes it feels like I need a million reminders and a little elf that dances around chiming symbols to remember to do things. Other times, you can plan and plan but things don’t necessarily work out because life happens! There were several times I had to take my daughter to class with me because my childcare options had fallen through.
I am still growing but I have learned a few things that are very helpful. Here are some tips that kept me sane this past semester!
1. Get on a schedule.
If you are already on a schedule, you are AMAZING! I have been a fly by the seat of my pants type of person for most of my life. I love love love having a to-do list so most of the time I would have my list of things to do and they would somehow get done in their jumbled format. Sounds pretty wild – I blame it on the laid-back culture, and “Island/CP time” I grew up around – but it worked for me for a long time. Now with the baby, my class schedule, my fiancé’s work schedule, doctor’s appointments, homework, cooking, cleaning, etc. – the only way things will get done is if we are organized and stick to our schedule.
After I started falling behind on things at school and having those heart-sinking oh my god that was today?! moments, my friend suggested I checked out the app Wunderlist and let me tell you, it’s been a lifesaver. As I said, I love to do lists but this takes it to another level. You can organize your to-do lists into categories, create reminders, and there is a very satisfying “ding!” once you mark a task as done. This has been so helpful in getting organized! My fiancé and I also share a google calendar and pretty much dump all of our things – with lots of reminders and alarms! – on to there. I’ve learned that as soon as something is scheduled I need to put it right in my calendar otherwise that piece of information will go flying into a black hole in my mind, never to be remembered again. Now, I have everything in my calendar from appointments to bills to the times need to pump.
2. Be patient with yourself.
I was SO frustrated in the beginning, especially with my lack of brain power. As I said, I was pretty much flying the plane as I was building it for most of my life and it worked for me. As a nerd, I’ve relied on my brain so heavily for everything and I loved being able to remember things so well and just put things into action. As my sleep increases, things are getting more clear but my brain is nowhere near as reliable as it used to be – and that’s ok! There are so many things that have changed since having a baby but it’s really been about being patient and rolling with the punches. In this time, I’ve had to learn to say no – a lifelong struggle, really – to so many people. Sometimes, it’s not even that I feel like I “can’t” have it all, I just don’t want to. Not everything is a priority, and sometimes I have to just say no because it means I can have a glass of wine alone and catch up on crappy TV after spending the entire week studying, working, cleaning, and being with people and that is totally OK. These past almost 10 months have been about finding a new normal after having our world turned upside down in the most beautiful way. It’s challenging at times but having patience with myself has made it easier!
3. Lean on your tribe for support.
I was just watching one of those Facebook videos yesterday saying that women with close friendships are healthier and happier as they age – they cited a Harvard study so I feel like it’s pretty legit. It doesn’t surprise me that being connected with the ones you love and care about has great health benefits! I have some peeps on speed text, I barely call people because who even has time to talk on the phone anymore but can we make speed text a thing? Aka those you text with your meltdown and they text you right back with affirmations? Anyway, it’s great to have those people that you know you can count on to tell you how amazing you are, grab a drink and relax with (maybe while the baby is napping), or help you get your thoughts and/or life organized when you need it. This last finals period, it was great to be able to send a late night struggle-text or funny meme knowing that everyone else was in the same place and we could support one another. It was definitely the hardest exams period I have gone through but with my fiancé’s support with the baby – he also supplied me with a lot of delicious food – and the moral support of my friends, I made it through!
What do you all think?
How do you stay organized? Do you use any of these techniques?
What tips do you have for other mamas that are trying to find a balance?
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