Moms Make it Work: Jessica | SAHM, Husband in Grad School /Solo Parenting

Today for the Moms Make it Work series, we have Jessica posting as a Stay at Home Mom to her daughter. Jessica emailed me asking if she could write for the series, as a mom who often parents solo while her husband puts many of his hours into graduate school. Although Nate's Doctorate program was not quite as intense as Jessica's husband's program, her post reminded me a lot of that first year of Truman's life when Nate was still in school and I was working *almost* full time. Having a husband in school is definitely a different ballgame than 'just' working full-time. I remember that well. And then they are moving out of state---again, reminds me of our big move so many years ago (pre-kids, though). Anyway, this post is not about me but it just goes to show that although I am not a SAHM and Nate is no longer in school, I can still identify with almost every poster in some way--even though our situations are quite a bit different right now. Which is why I think this series is still so interesting, and look forward to reading each post. Enjoy!


Howdy! I’m Jessica, and I am from Texas. My husband is just finishing up his PhD in Aerospace Engineering and we have a 17-month old daughter. Our situation is a bit unusual as my husband is a full-time graduate student and I am a stay-at-home mom. “Make it Work” is a pretty great way to describe how we do it. I usually skim blog posts, but I read every entry for this series and find everyone’s journey so fascinating. If you are interested in following our story further, you can follow me on Instagram (rawrasaurz).

What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And where are you now? 

I was born and raised near Austin, TX. Growing up, my mom worked the first 3 years of my life and was a SAHM for the next 8 before going back to work and eventually working from home. I liked seeing her role as both a SAHM and a working mom, and I could always picture myself doing both.

I met my (now) husband my freshman year at Texas A&M University, and we both graduated 3 years later with our undergraduate degrees. My undergraduate degree was in Marketing, and I was not too thrilled with the job opportunities that the field offered at that time. I found the degree was very different than what I anticipated, but with only a few hours left, I figured I would finish it anyway. My husband stayed on to get his PhD, and I decided to pursue a Masters in Elementary Education at a different university where I graduated in December 2010. He had proposed in September 2010, and we scheduled our wedding for October 2011.  After we got married I moved in with him and, because of the timing, could not find a job as a teacher so I started a less-than-dream job just to bring in an income. 

I tried to keep looking for any teaching opportunities, but I had no connections in the local school district, and I had been hearing about a lot of people getting pink slips. Since we knew we only had 2.5 years left there and I always had interest in being a SAHM, I decided that it would be a good opportunity to start our family since I couldn’t really focus on a career of my own right now.

We were lucky that my husband’s PhD is fully funded by a fellowship that has covered all of our everyday living expenses. My entire salary I pulled for the year I was in my job went directly into savings, so we knew financially, it was more than a feasible option. We ended up having our daughter in December 2012, which was perfect timing since school was off and my husband could spend some time at home with us. It also helped that my husband’s advisor was understanding and let him have the time off.

While my husband’s fellowship sounds great, it does have a few catches. He has to work a minimum of 8 weeks for them every summer, and he has to work for them for the same number of years they paid for his schooling after he graduates. So, when our daughter was 5 months old and we didn’t want to pay an exorbitant amount for short-term housing to accommodate all of us, my daughter and I packed up and went to my parents’ house about 2 hours away while he went to Florida. When he came back, we were a happy family again, but it was crunch time for him to finish his dissertation, so he was working all week and weekends. When things started getting behind schedule for him in December, we went to stay with my parents again off and on for the next few months. This past March he finally defended, but he still had a lot of little things to do for graduation, so he went from working around the clock to working more regular hours. He also still goes in for a few hours every weekend to help other people on their research. 

The good news is in a few months, everything will change. We will be moving out-of-state (location to be determined), and he will start working full-time. I am excited to move out of this phase of our life but a bit worried about moving away from our “village”.

What are the best parts of your situations? What are the challenges?

Best of all, I get to spend every day with my daughter and watch her grow and learn. My husband’s schedule, while demanding, has been fairly flexible.  If I really need him for something, he can come home and do it. Having my parents nearby has also made things much easier for us.

It has been really hard putting his work above all else, and I have gotten very frustrated at the time he has to put in and the pace at which his research has progressed. I am very happy to be past his deadline and closing that intense period of our lives. I think overall, as hard as it was for me to feel very alone at times, the most challenging thing was the fact that my husband wasn’t able to experience a lot of firsts with our daughter. 

Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?

Not really. The long days can really get to me sometimes, especially on days that my daughter is really fussy. I never know what time my husband will be home, and it usually ends up being an hour or two after what he estimates. For the times that I was at my parents’ house, the majority of the responsibilities fell on me. The worst was dealing with all the night wakeups. It isn’t all bad, just not how I pictured it. I’m amazed by how much more exhausted one 17-month old can make me than a classroom of 20 4-year olds.

Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?

No, but I wouldn’t change our decision to start a family when we did. I had always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but I also saw myself as a working mom. I could never decide for sure what hat I wanted to wear, but with the lack of career opportunities, being a SAHM kind of became the default choice. I never imagined being a SAHM while my husband was still a student. I imagined we would own our own house by the time we became parents and a multitude of other things.

Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years? Or is this current set up staying put for the long haul? 

We hope to have 1-2 more kids in the next few years. I plan to be a SAHM until my second is in Kindergarten. This should coincide with the time my husband’s obligation for working in his job should be up. If we decide to try to relocate at that time, I would ideally get our family settled in our new location and look for work then. I still would love to be a teacher, but I am open to other options as well. One option I have thought would be a good fit for me is spending ~5 years in early childcare and then teaching Early Childcare Education at a college level part-time. 


Tips on how you make your situation work for you:

Flexibility and letting things slide. If the house doesn’t get cleaned, it doesn’t get cleaned. If we are having a rough day, we might have a bit more TV time than I would like. I think it has also been important that I try not to do it all on my own. If my husband is too busy, I can go to my parents to give me a break. If I really feel like I need my husband to come home, he will come home for an hour for my daughter’s bedtime to help me get to the end, and then go back up to the lab and work until midnight. 

How do you handle mommy guilt?

I honestly am not lamented by mommy guilt. The only thing that sometimes bothers me is that my daughter doesn’t get a whole lot of interaction with other children. I am pretty confident in the choices I make and don’t stress over the little things. I know there is no perfect way to accomplish anything in motherhood.

Advice for new moms struggling to decide if staying at home is the right choice?

I don’t think you can know if it is right for you until you try it. Some weeks are really rough and evaluating your self-worth as a contributing member of society can be difficult. Sometimes you feel like you accomplish very little in the day-to-day, but when you look back, you will have a lifetime of memories.

How do meals work in your family? Meal planning? How often do you grocery shop? Who is in charge of this task in your family??

 Our week-to-week differs so drastically, there is no set way we do it. I always do the grocery shopping and usually only go once a week. I hate eating out, so we do make most meals at home, but they are in no way complex or impressive. Some weeks, I will have a plan in place; other weeks, I just buy whatever meat is on sale and throw something together. Occasionally, my husband will get a cooking bug and make a few meals in a row.

How do you keep your house clean? Power cleaning after bedtime? Staying out of the house as much as possible? Cleaning while kids are awake? Purging often? Cleaning schedule?

My husband is the cleaner of the family. He typically does the dishes, vacuuming, and cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. I do the dusting, organizing, and laundry. We both constantly pick up toys. Most cleaning is done after our daughter goes to sleep so that she doesn’t follow us around undoing it all.

   {Thanks, Jessica! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}

1 comment:

  1. OMG! SO great to see Aggies on here!!! Thanks for sharing and this made my day!!
    -Katy - Fightin' Texas Aggie class of '05! [and grad school '08 too!]


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