Q: Can I have it all?

Another great anonymous question from one of my students…

Q: Is it reasonable to think I can do grad school/kids/job all at the same time?

To be honest, I haven’t done exactly that. I did one grad degree when I was single with no kids (advisable!) and the other one (an MFA) when I had a three year old (and I had a baby halfway through the MFA program), but I didn’t work full time then, just part-time as a contractor. I found that challenging but doable (partly because I had enough support at the time to pull that off. More about that below).

I do have friends, though, who’ve done MFAs while working full time and raising young kids. They were extremely busy during those two years and seemed to be able to do it because they had all or some of the following: 1) A true partner who truly does half the work of keeping the family going and will at times do more without resentment; 2) A job in which you work some or all of the time from home and therefore have more flexibility to manage the three arenas of your life; 3) hired help with the kids and house; 4) a willingness to let other parts of their life go for a while.

Low-residency MFAs do seem to work better than traditional MFA programs if you have a family and full-time work. On the Poets and Writers website, you can access a full list of MFA programs and search for low-residency programs. I also like this list (although it includes some non-CW degrees). I have heard good things from students/others who’ve attended these low-res Creative Writing MFA programs: Goddard, Pacific University, Warren Wilson, Bennington.

It’s important to look at advantages and disadvantages when answering these questions for oneself and to understand that a lot of times other people’s privilege isn’t visible to the naked eye. Sometimes we don’t see the family money motoring away making a creative life possible or the spouse who does most of the child raising, just as we don’t see the invisible struggles many face. So ask yourself: How much support do I have to take on grad school right now? Can I/we survive if I work less hours for pay? Do I have savings I could draw from? Will I have help with my kids? Something I always tell myself is “I’m only as good as my support.” We can have it all, but only if we have some form of help..childcare, house cleaning, cash, carpooling, understanding….something.

 

 

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One Response to Q: Can I have it all?

  1. Jeanne Verville says:

    I went to law school full time when I was 41 and had sole custody of two girls, ages 8 and 12. I could do it because tuition and books were only $1,000 a semester (not likely today). I could live on the small amount of child support and $300 extra a month I got. I worked part time but not a lot. My kids rose to the occasion by suddenly starting to help without being asked and didn’t complain about my meals of chicken, tacos and sloppy joes until it was almost over. On the other hand, my older daughter did a lot of acting out, which took a lot of emotional energy. My ex was unhelpful to the max. Looking back I don’t know how I did it, but I did and it changed my life in profound ways. I did the best I could as a student but, unlike other women I know, did not abandon my girls to be on law review or be as good a student as I could have been. I swore I would still be there for my girls and largely was.
    Good luck if you try it.
    Jeanne

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