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Being a dad and husband with two small kids; working during the day and going to graduate school at night. There is a breaking point.


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Part 1: The Schedule: The schedule rules everything. Have a schedule and stick to it. Embrace discipline. 

Wake up at 5am to phone alarm. Squeeze my spouses arm. I'm up and into my jogging clothes. a few minutes later I'm out the door hitting the hardball by 5:30a. This is my hour. My spouse is taking her hour on the exercise bike/work out room. We alternate and discuss the night before. I coast into the driveway after my run around 6:30. Kids are still asleep. They get up at 6:45a. I get ready, get the kids ready, breakfasts and such. Our 4yr old heads to day care and our 10mo stays home. I drop off the oldest on my way to work. Once I drop off the kid, I pop on my recorded lectures from class and listen as I drive into work. Same thing is repeated on the way home. During the week I pick 2 or 3 nights, depending on work load planning, where I have to do school work. That means after I put my daughter down to bed at 8pm, I spend the remainder of my evening doing school work vs spending time with my spouse, playing video games, chatting with friends, tweeting or texting. When I get home from work, we each take turns making dinner, and picking up the kiddo I go into kid duty mode. Whoever picks up the kids does not have to cook. We pre plan the week a bit. We are both good cooks. That has come from 1) taking classess  2) cooking. We each know how to cook some pretty decent and delicious meals in 30minutes or so. Dinner is on the table by 6:30p. Between 6:30p and 8pm that is our family time to do dishes and chores, and play with the kids. If it's my night to study, I go to my study area after putting the kids down. If not, we have a night to hang out. The weekends we have family time in the morning and after 3pm. The days are split up by naps. We may go to the zoo or hiking or something (we live in Arizona, which is awesome) to get out of the house. Then after lunch and nap time my spouse blocks me and gives me 3 hours. Noon-3pm every Saturday and Sunday. If the kids are napping well, she runs to the store. If not she stays home to keep them occupied. She gives me that time. That was part of the deal we talked about up front. She gives me 6 hours on the weekends plus 4-6 hours during the week. That's about 12 hours total dedicated time to do 20hrs worth of work. As a graduate student I feel like I could work forever and never catch up or turn the firehose off. But that is the schedule. I have to figure out how to make the most of those 12 hours. My reference manager is super organized and has been since day 1. I type fast. I write decently. I ask for help. Now, on average that is 12 hours. There are times where that number grows. I think I may have put in 20hrs one week. Not because of the work load but because I was lazy in the beginning and didn't use an outline. There are tactics to make the most of your time. Learn them and deploy them like a master.

Part 2: The Deal: The compact you must make with your significant other or those in your life closest to you.

This program takes time. I do not have a background of great academics. I currently have a 3.89 and that is a result, in part, of dedicating my work to my family and friends. If you are pursuing your doctorate you had better know why. I beam with pride when I get a good grade and I show it to my wife. Not to brag but to show her that the time she has given me; the time she has allowed me to focus on my craft, on my education, on my training has not been for nothing. I have used it wisely and have achieved high marks. I buy her the sweatshirts and hats to. They are earning this degree with you. Again, 12 hours on average per week (or any available time you had for doing other things). For me, I also have on-site visits 3 weeks a year. I had exams that coincided with big work projects and program releases. I had study groups that started while I was in the car on the way home and ended while I was tucking my kids in. Grad school will test every aspect of your life if you are working, have kids, and some type of relationship. It will show you where your weaknessess are. The time spent on class ebbs and flows week to week and depending on your class mix. I compared my own weekly alotment and found it to be on par. Higher than some and lower than some. I didn't know what to expect in the beginning. My spouse and I had many transparent conversations about every aspect of this program. From money, to time, to what am I studying, to what my course schedule was. We talked about it all. I told her that I didn't know what to expect at first. We have to feel it out. Give me a full 3 classess to get a baseline. I may be up late, moody, and dragging through a few days trying to be a good dad and husband as well as boss and employee.  Not only are you outlining this ordeal with your significant other but you also need to have an intimate conversation with your place of work. There are pro's and con's to taking workplace money for graduate school. I do not believe in it, never have. I would rather they valued my drive to better myself and add value to the company by putting me on special projects or hard to work business units...achiving sucess in these areas would bring on much more ROI than the Federal limit of $5,893 per year alloted, or thereabouts, for graduate school reimbursment. Also, if you do make a deal to take corporate funds to support your education, you may owe them your time after graduation as well. Again, not a bad thing if there are good opportunities for you and they see value in what you are doing. But if they do not and you are kind of stuck in your position and you want grad school to help you move, I would not take the offer.  My spouse needs to know everything about my program. My employer needs to know everything about my program. The debt of the program is mine to handle freely. 

Part 3: Insight

The work I put in still falls around 12-15hrs a week. Working from home a few days a week and at the office (I work in healthcare at a hospital) I mix work and school. If a meeting gets canceled I have taken that hour to get caught up on a lecture. Now the caviat is I still have to do good work - consistently. My thought is that if you are getting a doctorate, you know the threads you want to pull. Your work life is kinda mirroring what you are studying whether your boss minds or not.  You have to be up front with your employer. I am lucky and my boss was a big advocate for me to go after this degree. However, I no longer work at the same place I started at. My new boss couldn't care less and is proud of me as long as it doesn't interfere. So, you have to think about the deals you make and the expectations you set. 

Kids make it worth it. I wouldn't work so hard if it wasn't for my family. If It was just me eating pizza on a saturday night tyring to better myself to the point of exhaustion, I wouldn't do it. I am turning 39 and I have found my purpose driven goal in this world. I love public health I love what I do in quality and safety.  I don't have time to play games, outside of playing games with my family. I dedicate papers to them or try to tie in an aspec of their life with what I am doing to help make my work more real. 

Part 4: Priorities

Going to school is fun and I enjoy it. However, you have to make priorities in your life. if you don't have the ability to re order and prioritize your life to say no to a lot of things, you may not last. My life hasn't changed much pre or post Covid-19. When I mope my wife casually walks by and says...you asked for this remember. That is correct. Stop complaining. I needed to stop complaining. This is an opporunity. They didn't have to give it to me and they sure don't care if I decide not to earn it. There are other students and candidates running by me. They are giving you an opportunity. Take it or leave it. It starts our difficult. Duh, it's grad school and you are working and you have kids and you have a relationship and you have to have some self care....but who has time.  You can choose to make it more difficult or slightly more bearable. Get organized, stick to a schedule, communicate to those in your life you care about (including your boss).


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  • 3 weeks later...

Congratulations, your life isn’t easy! I’m also a dad starting grad school this year (fall). 
I have two kids, a son and a daughter, and my daughter is autistic. 

I’m an entrepreneur here in Brazil, but I’m quitting everything and moving with my family to the States. I know it won’t be easy, but this graduate program is one of my biggest dreams in life. 

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  • 1 month later...

Man I don't envy being in that position. I would guess it's nice to have your family live settled to some extent while in school, but the time management of being a husband and father while juggling everything else seems borderline impossible to me. I know it cost me a relationship staying dedicated to school and it was certainly a challenge keeping it going as long as I did. I would guess one benefit would be that your time management has to be pretty tight to handle all that, which could be helpful managing your time when all is said and done. Great post & thanks for sharing your insight. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

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