A Womb of One's Own

A Womb of One’s Own: A Master’s In What The Hell Did I Get Myself Into

Hell is nine credits and a four-month-old baby who refuses to nap.

I knew I was setting myself up for a challenging year when I decided to get pregnant as I started graduate school, but a semester of unending nausea and fatigue is nothing compared to a baby who will only sleep after 10 p.m. I’ve faced obstacles and hard times in my life before, but this has been the most difficult period, and I brought it all on myself.

Conceivably, having a child while in an online grad program was a great idea–I would be able to spend the first year with him and complete my degree. We’d save on child care, and then when it was a bit more affordable, I would enter the workforce, newly mastered in the library sciences, and Gabe would toddle off to daycare. I wasn’t very clear on the logistics of this scenario, but it seemed like a good idea.

Reality is vastly different. I am currently taking nine credits, which means I need at least four hours each day to study. Those four hours would ideally be during his naps; except he doesn’t nap at home. He naps in the car, he naps when I am at my new moms’ group, and he naps at Grandma’s house, but he doesn’t nap at home. Instead, I squeeze what studying I can in the time before he wakes up in the morning and after he goes to bed at night. I listen to podcasts of lectures when we’re out driving. If Gabe finds writing research studies to be shockingly easy when he reaches college, he’ll have the hours of go-to-sleep drives to thank for it. I can’t take notes, but I can listen to the lecture four times while running errands.

Parenting is a full-time job, one that doesn’t give time off. Unfortunately, so is being in graduate school, and these two positions are not always compatible. I’m studying research ethics and sleep training, literature review and brain development, scheduling group conferences and doctor visits. I can multi-task, but often, in doing so, I do worse jobs of both studying and caring for my child.

I’ve learned the hard way to lay down my pride and ask for help. I hate to do it, and I don’t have many people to ask, but I will ask anyone I trust with my child to watch him, even if it’s just for an hour. Once a week, I make the 70+ mile round trip to my mom, where she will play with her grandbaby while I study uninterrupted (except for nursing). On the weekends, I relax the no-TV rule, and he watches college football with his daddy (only the university I attend, though!). While some grad students have learned the fine art of attending functions for free food, I’ve learned the fine art of finagling free child care from friends and family.

There are days (weeks, even) that I think I can’t do it–I can’t parent and study and be a partner in my marriage and sleep. Every day, I wonder which of these I have to sacrifice in order to succeed at the other three. When putting the baby to bed is a three-hour crying ordeal (both myself and the kid), when I don’t understand a single part of my networking tech class, when I haven’t had time with just my husband (as my husband, not as my fellow parent) in weeks. Those days are the days where I start to search for the therapist’s number, but don’t have time to find it. Those days are bad days.

But there are days where the baby bounces in his jumper for an hour, when a grandma takes him on a long walk, when I understand the concept I’m studying and can talk about it enthusiastically, when he sleeps early so we can have a glass of wine and watch whatever’s built up on the DVR. Those are the days when I have time to find that number, but not the inclination.

Everyone says that life is about balance. I’ve been lucky enough that balancing (until recently) has come easily to me. I can only hope that this is the hard part, and I’ll learn the balancing act I need to pull off every day for the next year. Because once I finish balancing parenting and schooling, the next planned step is parenting and working (and maybe getting pregnant again!). And that’s when I’ll really need help.

By Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to

8 replies on “A Womb of One’s Own: A Master’s In What The Hell Did I Get Myself Into”

Hang in there, it WILL get easier. It’ll always be changing- just when you hit your stride, he’ll hit a milestone that will change the game, but it will get easier.

I work 20 hrs a week in an office (while my son’s in preschool) and on weeks that it’s need, I work another 10-20hrs remotely. Last week was one of the those weeks- I used free wi-fi at every library & playland in town, got up at 5:30 in the morning and stayed up til midnight at some point.

Don’t know if it’s an option for your or not, but we belong to a gym where our membership includes 2hrs of childcare a day (parents must stay on site). Last week, I used it 2x so I could work in their cafe. At $90 a month total, it’s the cheapest option for childcare around. (And if I finish early, I can go in the hot tub!)

“Parenting is a full-time job, one that doesn’t give time off.”
After seeing parenting being (unfortunately) referred to, in the past here at Persephone, as repugnant, tedious, boring and patriarchal, I am so glad to see someone refer to it as actual work.

Kudos to you!

Now if only we could get people to acknowledge the intrinsic value of the work of parenting AND the need of the workers for support…

Just out of my own curiosity, where has parenthood been referred to by those things? Sally j and ipo do a great job of covering parenting and on the other side, POM and ophelia have talked about the decision to remain childless whether out of choice or forced circumstance, but being critical of those who treat them like they are making a wrong decision, yet without blanketing all parents into that group. Again, I’m just curious b/c I haven’t really seen that on here ( though im willing to admit there might be something i dont know) and I think most people would agree that being a parent isnt a repugnant, tedious, boring and patriarchal thing.

I really wish I could remember the posts I have read where the work of parenting has been cast in a negative light so I could tell you.  I’ll have to go back through to see if I can find them for you.  I think the posts here on parenting (or not parenting) are great, but then, these types of posts aren’t the ones that usually contain the language I’m referring to.

I have read a few posts dealing with women’s issues totally outside the framework of parenting/reproduction that have referred to the work of parenting (not just being a parent) in a diminishingly offhand and dismissive manner, and I always found this upsetting when I came across it.  Also, (and I admit it might be because I’ve missed it) I have not seen the act of parenting (again, not just being a parent) so plainly recognized as work.  I was just happy to see someone put it into words, and doubly glad that it was someone whose contributions are so respected here (I know that sounds like I’m blowing sunshine, but I’m not).



I think you are totally badass and brave for doing what you are doing. I am currently in a PhD program and have so much respect for the women in my program with kids, grad school is a tough road regardless, and a family can make time management and studying even harder. My partner and I are currently talking about him moving here (he works in another province) and while I am thrilled at the possibility I am nervous about it from a time management aspect of living with someone else… I can’t imagine one of those someone elses being a little baby.

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