One of my sisters visited me several years ago, and I took her around to a fun filled day of soccer, football, lacrosse, and baseball games! As she was sipping her Starbucks coffee and we were at our third game of the day, she looked at me and said, “So your life really is over when you have kids.” (Love you sis!)
I had to laugh at her comment (or question?) because I never thought of my life as “over.” 🙂 There are so many places I can go with this, but since I’m on a college kick right now, that’s where I’m going. I’ve had friends ask me time and time again, “How do you go to school with your kids?” I’m definitely not the “perfect” example of balancing personal goals and family, but I’m not sure there is a “perfect” example. First, I want to say that I thought it was very important for me to not stop living after I had kids. This may sound odd, but I never felt that my life after having kids should be lived only through being a mother. I was a mother, wife, but number one….I was me. I didn’t want to lose myself with my life being torn into pieces known as roles (mother, wife, housekeeper, cook, job role, etc.). I still needed my own individual goals and ambitions. For me, it was continuing on with an education. Other parents may have different goals, but you can’t tell me that your only goal is to be a mother or father. I don’t believe it. Personally, I believe as parents, we need to set goals for ourselves and work them around our family. When we are working on something for “me,” I think it makes us happier individuals. Having children is a sacrifice (A good one and definitely worth it.). We give so much to our children and spouse. What is left for ourselves? We can sustain this only for a short time before we lose ourselves. Then, we are unhappy, and this unhappiness carries over into our marriage and parenting.
Here are some tips of how I balanced my personal goal of getting my PhD and family life:
- Dedicate time for the goal: I set dedicated time aside for school. Often it was 9 pm-2 am. This stinks, but I had to get homework done, and I didn’t want to miss my kid’s activities.
- Limit the extras: I used to blog and watch several more TV shows, but when I started my PhD, I was VERY selective in what I did with any “extra” time. I had two TV shows I watched regularly. These shows didn’t air year round (thank goodness). I stopped blogging, was rarely on social media, and limited time on the internet. I’m not saying hide in a bubble, but trust me, this time is short. You might have to put some things aside while achieving goals and return to them later.
- Dedicate time for your family: I made sure I was at most of my kid’s sporting events on Saturdays. I learned where the local libraries were because I would have to sneak to a library in between games at times.
- Talk to your spouse: It can be difficult balancing too much at once. Talk to your spouse regularly to make sure you are not putting too much on his/her plate. If you don’t have a spouse, balancing becomes more difficult. I was a single mother with my oldest son. I had one year of nursing school left. I was determined to finish because my BSN was going to provide my son and I a better future. Even single, it can be done!
- Get a close friend: I became friends with a person in my PhD program. It was wonderful! We knew what each other were going through. This really helped to not feel alone. We took turns having good and bad days. Thank goodness we never had bad days on the same days! Find a friend or friends who are aiming for the same goals. You can help push each other.
- Use the car: I seem to be in the car a lot taking my children everywhere. I often use the car ride to listen to school lectures, spiritual messages, teach my children songs (good ones of course :), listen to books, etc.
- Prioritize: Put the things that are most important to you first, and the rest will get done (spiritual walk, family, etc.).
This list is not perfect, but I hope you remember that having children is a blessing and very rewarding, but it is important to not “lose” yourself. Take time aside for your goals and ambitions. Your children will watch your example, and you will be happier because of it.
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