How I conquered Graduate School as a New Single Mom

So many of you already know my story, but for those of you who are new to my blog, you can read the long version here.

The quick version of my story is that I married my high school sweetheart almost right out of high school. We divorced 14 years later when Jeff, my ex-husband, came out to me and everyone else as a gay man. At the time we divorced, our 2 kids were 10 and 7 years old and I had just started the first year of my 6-year doctoral program in clinical psychology.

Before starting graduate school, I was a stay-at-home mom, so my kids and I were used to a very laid-back schedule; therefore, the sudden change of becoming a single mom and a full-time student all at the same time could have been a recipe for disaster. In order to not let this happen, I had to get my act together – and quick!

Below, I will give you several tips that were lifesavers for me. Without them, I could not have met my 2 goals: being the best mom possible for my kids and completing my personal objective of becoming a child psychologist. I knew that “having it all” was an unrealistic goal – but I wanted to get as close to having it all as possible!


My Lifesavers

Create an awesome support system. I could not have managed a class schedule that changed from quarter to quarter or been able to see patients without the help of my support system. My support system included my sister and Jeff who both helped with childcare and driving my kids to and from school on the days that I had to be on campus early in the morning or during the afternoons.

Your support system should also include emotional support too. Both my family and my good friends provided the emotional support I needed to stay focused on my goals. Believe it or not, but Jeff has always been the biggest supporter of my career goals by helping me stay focused on the future. As a single mom, it is easy to feel selfish for pursuing personal goals, so having someone there to root you on when you feel like giving up means a lot.


Prioritize what’s important… Always keep a mental list of your most important goals in mind. This list might change from time to time, but by constantly having it in the forefront of your mind, you are better able to make decisions that coincide with your goals. I found that when I didn’t simply react to things, but, instead,  purposefully took the time to think through my decisions based upon my most important goals, I made better decisions for me and my kids in the long run.


…And let the little stuff go. Once you know your major priorities, it becomes easier to let the “little stuff” go. Give up on being perfect! Nobody’s perfect! Little stuff like having a spotless house or serving dinner at 6:00 on the dot every night really don’t matter as long as your kids are healthy and happy and you are moving forward with your life.


Routines! Routines! Routines! Morning, afternoon, and evening routines kept me sane and organized. I had routines for getting homework done, paying bills, making sure the laundry got done, and for going to bed with a clean kitchen every night – you name it and I had a routine for it!

Routines also gave my kids an understanding of their role in the family too. They knew exactly how they needed to contribute to the family system by doing their part to get ready for school in the morning, starting their homework, and going to bed on time every night. Even now, I notice that my kids still live by the routines even as they have gotten older.


Prioritize family over everything else. There were many times during my graduate school life that I had to choose between my kids and my career. I always chose my kids over my career and this decision has never hurt my career. Sure, I could have trained at more popular or well-known training sites or published more research articles like some of my peers, but ultimately I did what i could based around my family schedule and still met my goal of becoming a child psychologist. I have never regretted these decisions.


If I Can Do it, So Can You!


So now I want to hear from you. What challenges are you currently working hard to overcome? What is working for you and what is not? Tell me in the comment section below – we can be each other’s emotional support system as we pursue both our parenting and personal goals together.

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