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Juggling a Master's Degree or PhD and Motherhood? Here’s What You Need to Know

By Kent State Admissions Team on October 19, 2021

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PHD and motherhood

To say that motherhood is challenging would be a huge understatement.

For all the moms who have thought about graduate school, but are worried about finding a balance between career aspirations and their everyday work and family responsibilities, you are not alone. 

Here are some helpful tips related to juggling a master's degree or a Ph.D. and motherhood.

Download our resource: Everything Moms Need to Know About Going to Grad School!

Identify what's motivating you to go back to school for a graduate degree.

Taking on graduate-level work when you have a busy home life, a demanding professional life or both is a big decision. It’s important that you take the time to identify why you want to go back to school and what you’re passionate about. 

Maybe you want to make a career change; maybe you took a break from your career and now, you're looking to jump back into the workforce; or maybe you never stopped working but you're looking to move up in your current career.

Whatever your reason, identify it and use as motivation when you're juggling a master's degree or a doctoral degree and motherhood. 

Make a solid plan for balancing a master's degree or a Ph.D. and motherhood.

Developing a plan for balancing a master's degree or a doctoral degree and motherhood may seem obvious, but succeeding at both requires you to develop a solid plan before jumping into a graduate degree program.

Taking on graduate school while working and caring for a family is not for the faint of heart. If you are committed to completing your degree, you will have to make some tough choices about how you spend your time. Set and communicate boundaries with your family — when you'll need to set aside time to attend classes, do homework and study. Once you've communicated your plan for completing a graduate degree, stick to your plan with intention.

Take some practical advice from moms who successfully balanced their Ph.D. and motherhood.

This mom successfully juggled her Ph.D. and motherhood, and she also happens to be Kent State’s very own, Lana Whitehead, Interim Associate Vice President of Admissions:

"I kept my books, notes and laptop with me almost everywhere I went. If I was sitting in the parking lot waiting for one of the kids to get out of practice, I would highlight my reading assignment. If I had a half hour before the game started, I would start writing my paper.  Half time of the game meant 15 minutes with my note cards. I never missed one of the kid’s games, concerts or important events, but I took advantage of every minute of waiting time I had in my day and reclaimed it as productive time for me. I became a master of efficiency and time management as a matter of survival.

Moms are good at making sacrifices for their families, but sometimes we allow ourselves to be overworked because we try to do it all. Solicit others for help with the daily chores. Be efficient in order to be effective. Take a break when you need it!"

Here's some insight into how another mom managed a Ph.D. and motherhood, Megan Odell-Scott:

"Balancing a graduate degree and being a new mother has not been an easy transition.

After the birth of my daughter, I began pursuing my degree part time. Although the time dedicated to my degree was considered part time by the university, my dedication and commitment remained full time as I balanced full-time caregiving with my coursework, comprehensive exams, service commitments and teaching. I worked on weekends and during school hours once my child began attending kindergarten."

Choose the graduate degree that's going to help you reach your career goals.

It’s crucial to choose the right graduate degree.

Ask yourself: will the program actually help you to achieve whatever it is that got you interested in grad school in the first place? Keep your primary motivation at the front of your mind as you start sifting through your options. Even if the name of the degree sounds helpful and like what you’re looking for, make sure the coursework required for completion is targeted and relevant to your interests and needs.

It’s good to assess your strengths and weaknesses at this stage: figure out if you are looking for a program that will reinforce and strengthen skills you already have or if you need courses that will build you in entirely new directions.

You don’t want to work your way through a degree and find out it’s not actually what you were looking for or expected, so do your homework on the front end!

Pro Tip: If you need to take the GRE or GMAT in order to be admitted to your program of interest, check out this blog post: 7 Tips for Busy Moms Studying for the GRE or GMAT.

Lean on your professors and communicate with them honestly.

Your professors are a huge part of what makes your graduate experience rewarding. It’s good to look for programs where faculty seem engaged and interested in the success of their students.

Here are some questions to think about:

  • Are they available for frequent office hours?
  • Do they offer several ways to get in touch?
  • Do they like to get to know their students?
  • Do they have contacts and networks in your field that they can help you tap into?
  • Are they focused on helping you complete the program even if you aren’t able to do it in the expected time frame?

You don’t want to walk into a graduate program expecting special treatment or favors, and you certainly don’t want to make a habit of making excuses, but life can throw curve balls, especially when you’re juggling work or family responsibilities.

It helps if you know that your professors are on your team, focused on supporting you and have the connections to help you move your career forward. These are good things to think about as you pick a program.

Thinking about juggling a graduate degree and motherhood? Connect with us at Kent State!

If you’re thinking about taking the next step and pursuing a graduate degree, you might be worried about balancing your time and responsibilities. As a mother, you are uniquely qualified to overcome difficult challenges.

At Kent State, we’re dedicated to helping you find joy and success during and after graduate school. If you have specific questions about any of our programs, we invite you to request more information today.




Thinking about juggling a master's degree or a Ph.D. and motherhood?

Check out our resource — Everything Moms Need to Know About Going to Grad School.

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Kent State Admissions Team on October 19, 2021

To say that motherhood is challenging would be a huge understatement.

For all the moms who have thought about graduate school, but are worried about finding a balance between career aspirations...

Reply to Kent State Admissions Team