How I Earned a Master's Degree Despite the Chaos

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The number one most searched term on the site last week by far was concerning my graduation. I received several inquiries. How on earth did you do that? So I'd like to tackle giving a sufficient answer.

I chose to go back to school a week before we found out I was pregnant with Isla. This meant I would be attempting to complete school while staying at home with two 11 month olds, being pregnant, giving birth in the middle of what should be my last semester, and then caring for three kids under 20 months.

I'll start off by identifying a few key contributors to my success and then get into the nitty gritty use of time stuff.

The first key contribution is actually the fact that I completed most of my degree four years ago when I initially enrolled. If you want to read about why I dropped out & how I came to the decision to return, read here. As such, when I came back I only had to complete four classes and a comprehensive examination. This was a lot, I'm not going to lie, but it is not nearly as much as completing an entire master's program.

The next key contributor is that I had the full support of my family. Ryan was the one who brought up the idea of me going back to school, and he was willing to do anything to help me achieve this goal.

The final key contributor is that I made use of an "intensive course" offering, where basically I attended in person class for one 40 hour week, and then the class was over save some assignments to do when I got back. Outside of that class, the rest of my classes were attended to online.

Now how did I actually find the time to work on school?

- I read during each nap time and before bed until I fell asleep. I always get anemic during pregnancy so I fell asleep pretty quickly a lot of the time, but my perseverance is what saved me. I also bought most of books using the kindle app so I could read from my phone whenever I had a few minutes.

-Whenever I had an assignment due I would "trade shifts" with Ryan until the assignment was completed. This basically means Ryan would come home from his LONG work day (during the school year he works two jobs) and take care of C & A completely and do bedtimes while I either worked in our home office or at a coffee shop. I would usually go to a coffee shop so I could concentrate better, but at times the Braxton Hicks would get so uncomfortable so quickly that I would prefer writing while laying down in bed. Now I hate to say "trading shifts" because I know that neither of us are babysitters to our own kids, but I say it because that's what it often felt like. We were ships passing in the night. There were plenty of nights I put off school work because we needed family time desperately, but for the most part I tried to make a short term sacrifice for this greater goal.

-I would listen to my lectures like they were my favorite podcasts. (Not even close to the same enjoyment, lol) I'm serious though. I would hook up my phone to our bose speaker and have the lecture going while I cooked dinner, or while the girls did some independent play. I would put the lectures on my car speaker as I drove to playdates or the zoo. I would even play them on the speaker while I took a shower or two just because I was running out of times I could listen to them. 

-I often would stay up very late to finish schoolwork. Most nights I stayed up until 1 and sometimes even 3am, which wouldn't have been bad as a single college student, but with a family it was pretty rough.

-I gave up a lot to accomplish this goal. The time had to come from somewhere. I had to sacrifice hobbies that I loved including this blog and spending as much time with the people I love in order to make it work.

-When Isla was born, I took some time off to heal and get used to having another baby but then I was back at it. Isla really likes to be held and doesn't enjoy not being held, so I would work after the twins' went to bed and try to type with one hand while I held Isla. Ryan also spent a lot of time trying to hold her for me, but she was nursing crazy at the beginning so it was usually just easier for me to hold her.

So that's how it worked. There were plenty of tears and hardships along the way but it was well worth it. Don't forget to read more about why I left in the first place and my motivations to go back.

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