Grad School With Kids: Lessons From A Doctoral Mom


First and foremost, is it possible? Spoiler Alert: YES, YOU DEFINITELY CAN! Mothers can!

But how?!

Grad School With Kids: Lessons From A Doctoral MomThey say when you become a mom, your children will stop you from achieving your goals, I beg to differ. In my case, becoming a mom gave me even more inspiration to become a better me in every single aspect, one of which was furthering my education.

Here is a little backstory:

I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in December 2016, then began my master’s degree in January 2017 while engaged, working two full-time positions, and through the process of buying a home and planning my wedding.

I continued my master’s degree through the heartbreak of an infertility struggle and gave birth to my first baby a semester before graduation. In the last semester of my degree, I became a new teacher as I was learning to be a new mom too.

I started my doctoral degree when my third baby was only 2 months old and got pregnant again shortly after. Then I gave birth to baby #4 in the second year of my doctoral degree. As I enter my fourth year in the doctoral program, I am pregnant with baby#5.

Grad School With Kids: Lessons From A Doctoral Mom

As you can see… this mama may know a thing (or two) 😉 about navigating grad school with children, and I would love to share the wealth so you can learn from my experience.

Whether you have one baby or multiples like me, navigating grad school can be challenging, but not impossible. Here are some lessons this mama has learned:

Grad School With Kids: Lessons From A Doctoral MomMotherhood is a Motivation, Never an Excuse

I heard it many times while pursuing my master’s degree and when I decided to pursue my doctoral degree: “Who’s gonna take care of the kids?”, “You won’t be able to do this as a mom of so many”, “It’s impossible to focus on anything else once you’re a mom” this and many more sayings sounded more like excuses to me; as if motherhood was the excuse.

I chose to say, “I will do this for my kids,” instead of saying, “I won’t do this because I have kids,” and that viewpoint is what led me to see motherhood as a motivation rather than an excuse.

Some Sacrifices Will Need to be Made

Making sacrifices is not something that is new to moms; we already sacrifice a lot. And when it comes to pursuing a graduate degree, moms find that more sacrifices will need to be made. Each mama will choose differently, but the bottom of the line is that it will happen; you’ll sacrifice certain things.

When I was pursuing my master’s degree, I had to sacrifice a lot of family time and my experience as a first-time mom in order to finish my master’s degree and continue working as a teacher. When I started my doctoral degree (from experience), I decided that family time was a price that was too high to pay, so I chose to sacrifice my teaching career to be able to pursue my doctoral degree and not miss out on family time. I couldn’t miss seeing them grow up, but it came at a cost.

Grad School With Kids: Lessons From A Doctoral MomTime Management is Key

An obvious but important reminder! Staying organized is the key to success through grad school and is crucial when it comes to time management. I feel like such an organization junkie because I keep up with different calendars: monthly, weekly, and daily, but it works! Apart from the different calendars, I also have a daily to-do list.

Does it mean that I go strictly based on the calendars and to-do lists? Not necessarily. Often times I end the day with more than half of the to-do list checked off. But at least I have an outline of what needs to be achieved in what time frame, especially when it comes to homework and projects.

Do It For You: Remember Your Worth

Remember when I mentioned that sacrifices needed to be made? Well, let me tell you, the sacrifices are well worth it when you know that you are doing this for the right reason: FOR YOU. Graduate school can be challenging but rewarding, it is a time of learning and self-improvement.

My best advice is to never attempt graduate school (or college for that matter) to fit into a mold or to keep up with a trend. Moms are often made to feel that a degree will give us more worth but that is not true. Our motherhood makes us special and our worth is never measured in the amount of money we make or the amount of degrees we have! If you want to pursue a graduate degree, make sure that you do it for yourself.

Grad School With Kids: Lessons From A Doctoral MomNever Neglect Your Self Care

Us moms are always lectured on self-care, aren’t we? Seems like it’s a cliche, but it is “cliche” for a reason! It is very true. You can’t ever pour from an empty cup and this is especially true during grad school. There are many ways to indulge in self-care as a mom. Some of my favorites are getting out of the house without the kids, getting my nails done, getting my hair done, or getting a nice pedicure! Of course, self-care is not limited to beauty rituals; there are so many daily things that can be done at home, too – just never put it to the side, mama!

Rely On Your Village

Who is your village? It can be your partner, your parents, your sister/brother, your church, or even your friends. It is especially important for moms in grad school like myself to rely on their village to avoid school burnout on top of the mom burnout we already experience often.

I am blessed to be able to rely on my partner for so much. He takes care of the kids while I do homework and when I go to school too. My parents have also been such a tremendous help! I know I can count on them when I need them, for example, on date nights! It’s been crucial for me to keep the relationship with my husband alive, and they come in to care for the kids when mom and dad need their time alone (my husband is in college as well, so he sure needs our outings as much as I do).

Grad School With Kids: Lessons From A Doctoral MomTake a Break When You Need It

As a mom, I always feel like I am falling behind. Especially when I see classmates who are closer to graduation than me. Some of them are able to take more classes during a semester and are able to attend summer school too. I had to learn to stop comparing myself to them. My journey is not their journey. My graduate degrees are not a race; it goes back to keeping in mind that I am doing this for myself.

When you need to take a break, never hesitate. I personally have had to drop a couple of classes in the past to keep my sanity and trust me, as moms, our sanity is sacred. Protect yourself, your health, and your peace. Take those breaks when you need them.

» » »  RECOMMENDED READ: It’s OK to Get Help: Postpartum Depression with 2 Under 2« « «

Grad School With Kids: Lessons From A Doctoral MomLearn to Ask for Help

Admitting that you need help is NEVER a weakness, it is actually a sign of strength! Moms wear way too many hats already; you add graduate school on top of that, and it can be a recipe for disaster if you don’t learn to get help when you need it. There have been afternoons where I just can’t get the laundry done, or I have to order takeout because there was too much on my plate. I’ve had to learn to ask my village for help during those days.

Finals week, especially, is a very stressful week, and it also happens to occur during the worst busy times! The fall semester finals week occurs in the middle of the Christmas hassle and the spring semester finals week occurs in the middle of all my family’s birthdays and celebrations. When I need it, I have learned to ask for help.

You will NEVER have it figured out, You’ll Just Shift

This one is the best advice I could give to ANY mom. Not just regarding grad school, but overall, moms never have it figured out; we just shift with the times! Have you ever heard the motto “Just Keep Swimming, Just Keep Swimming” (did you just sing that too?!) haha.

Because it’s true! Times always change. Seasons come and go… for good and for bad, it will never be the same all the time. One semester will be harder than all the others. Some will flow easily, and there also may be some semesters that will seem easier, but you may be extra busy with the motherhood load. Adapting to change and trusting God has been my life savers.

Grad School With Kids: Lessons From A Doctoral MomGetting hooded for my master’s degree and walking down the stage at the commencement ceremony was such an amazing experience. Especially when I met my family after commencement and my baby boy was waiting for me. What an experience I can’t wait to experience again once I finish my doctoral degree!

Grad school with kids comes with so many challenges but it is such a rewarding experience, too! I’ve become a better mom and scholar through my program of study, and I know you can too, mama! I believe in you! Mija, Yes You Can!

And remember, you’re doing great!


The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of El Paso Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.



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Alejandra Salgado-Hernandez
Ale is a proud Latina born and raised in the Sun City. She is a proud mom, wife, educator, and scholar. As a first-generation college student, she holds a Bachelor's Degree in Math and Science Education, and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and is currently working on her Doctorate degree at UTEP. Ale met the love of her life (and best friend) in high school; they have been together since 2010 and happily married since 2017. After a struggle with infertility, God blessed them with 4 beautiful babies born back-to-back; their not-so-little family is her pride and joy. Her life purpose is to pave the way for her family, raise her children with love, and embrace their culture in a God-loving home. Ale is also passionate about inspiring and supporting new moms - she loves sharing her experience and the struggles she has overcome in motherhood while connecting with her friends and followers. Apart from sharing wisdom and support, she also finds purpose in donating her breastmilk as an approved donor at the Mother’s Milk Bank for NICU babies. She is excited to be part of the amazing ladies in the El Paso mom team and looking forward to sharing and learning too.


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