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  • Mom, PhD

Week 1: Survival Mode

Going back to school as a mom is a monumental change of pace. I didn’t expect it to be so jarring. The first week was hard, both physically and emotionally. When I walked into school without a baby strapped onto me or not pushing a stroller, I felt like something was missing. I had an eerie sensation, what I call Phantom Baby Syndrome. I didn't feel whole without my son by my side. It was uncomfortable but other parents told me it would pass, that this distance would actually be liberating. I’m still adjusting.


Passing through Sather Gate at UC Berkeley

I was in tears almost every day before I left for school. I can’t even pinpoint why I was crying, my eyes would just well up with tears all of a sudden. I’d sob for 30 seconds and then collect myself, check my makeup, and continue with what I was doing. I think it was the shock of starting something so new and different and the downside of the adrenaline rush I got when I was on campus. What goes up must come down.


Despite all the intense emotion, I am thoroughly enjoying being back in academia. I am taking three classes, two in the architecture department and one in the rhetoric department. My cohort and I are figuring out ways to make it through the many pages of the often dense readings (usually 100+ pages a week). While I may be a professional writer, and read and write for a living, reading academic texts can be difficult. But I always say that victory lies in the challenge.


In moments of stillness, I can hear the negative dialogue in my head: “I can’t do this.” But I know I can and will. My decision to go back to school will be a good one for my family. How wonderful it will be for my son to grow up seeing his mom studying and striving. My boy is also growing up and it's time for us to pursue some separate goals. Going back to school is both for me, for my career and personal growth, but it’s also for my family. We're all in this together.

Mom with Stroller

©2020 by Minhae Shim Roth