I imagine most students in graduate school don’t figure the added complexity of having a family in their daily routine.
When I was an undergraduate in 2014-2016, I didn’t have any children. Fast forward to me a year in PA school, I have 3 children under the age of 5. Comparing my life to back then, I was still a nervous wreck about school. I wish I had lived a little more, or took advantage of some of the freedoms I took for granted. Nowadays, just getting out of the house with the kids is a logistical challenge. As a result, I stay pretty local. My priorities are different now too. I know they’re relying on me to pass every test, even if they don’t know it. It’s a real motivator for me, and adds another layer of meaning in my life. On test weeks, my daughter hangs outside my office and wants to play. “Not now, sweetie, Dad has to work.” I can hear the disappointment in her voice. I tell her we’ll get ice cream if I pass my test on Friday. We’ve made it a tradition ever since.
I try to cut corners when I can. Hold the baby when I’m watching recorded lectures. Look over notes when the kids are in bed falling asleep. Other days there’s no getting around the responsibility. Diapers need changing and we’re out of milk. Baby won’t stop fussing and the kids haven’t eaten dinner yet. Another test day comes and I’m still here. A lot of my colleagues ask, “How do you do it?” I really don’t know how to answer that. The best guess I have is that we all have more time than we realize. There’s times when I regret not making it to family events or missing opportunities when I was a childless undergraduate. “I have to study” or “I’m busy” was always my refrain. I could have made time, and I’m sure I would have been fine. One lesson that’s taught me is that I don’t want that to be that sort of father moving forward. We’re always going to have responsibilities keeping us from our families and loved ones. Even if it’s just 10 minutes playing outside with the kids, it means the world to them.