At the beginning of November, I binged big time on Microsoft Word and wore new dents into my keyboard while writing my preliminary exams. In our doctoral program, you generally do two years of coursework, then prepare for qualifying exams (in our department, prelims) – a three question (with multiple layers) take home exam that lasts for one week. That gives you the go ahead to start planning your research, and then you can do the research and write a dissertation. Easy peasy, right? (ha)
I have to say, getting my master’s when I was single was a hell of a lot easier than managing the three small people living in our house. I am lucky that my department is really family-friendly, because at the tender age of 7 months old, Will has already attended his first doctoral seminar with me.
He and I have nursed in the doctoral lab (see top image!), traipsed around FSU together, attended meetings together. He starts full time care in the spring, as I need to buckle down and he’s getting too big to come along with me anymore. I angsted BIG TIME about what he was going to do when I took my prelims, because ever since his lip tie was fixed, he was pretty much only wanting to be on the breast and displayed great disdain for the bottle. Luckily, he remembered from day to day and figured it out. But the worry going in – ahhh, I never had these issues when I did this higher education thing the first time around!
They say it takes a village to raise a child – well, I am here to tell you it takes a village to raise a mother too, especially this Mama PhD wannabe. I could not do this alone! For my seven days of writing until my fingerprints wore off, this is what I needed:
First, you cry, and then cry some more.
The first night of prelims, I poured out all of my angst into a blubbering mess where I wailed to Josh that I wasn’t ready to take this exam*, that I was a fake, fraud, and lame for even trying, that I wasn’t prepared as well as I should be, and why am I even thinking of getting a doctorate? What was I thinking? I cried and cried, and Josh comforted me as husbands are supposed to. I didn’t believe him at all. Off to fail these exams for sure!
*mind you, none of the questions were unreasonable. It was a very good exam and I enjoyed writing it!
Then, you break out the booze.
Melissa texted me a couple of days in. “Are you in? Thinking of swinging by for 2 seconds.” She stopped by not too long after we wrestled the kids down to sleep and before I got to work again and showed up with two pouches of frozen beverages – a peach (I think!) daiquiri and a bahama mama. I popped those bad boys in the fridge and marveled at my good fortune for a friend who believes that as my words flow from my fingers, they should be replaced with frozen adult slurpies! I did the appropriate thing and waited to savor them for after the exam was submitted electronically. And lo, for they were good.
Friends don’t let you down…
Lauren and Dan joined forces and watched Matthew and Lindsey while Josh took Will grocery shopping. Lauren brought her two over to Dan’s and the result was I’m sure a very loud adventure. Thank you so much for watching the kiddos! I am glad you all made it out alive.
What is love?
When my friends learned that I was about to head into a weeklong take-home written exam, they all stepped up! Leslee, our doula/friend/sitter, offered to take Will for more hours to give both me and Josh some more time. One of my classmates, whose daughter attends the same theatre class that my oldest son attends, offered to pick him up and drop him off at home so I didn’t have to run out and get him. And above all else, Josh, my husband who is also a PhD candidate in English Literature, took over at home. I didn’t have to worry about food, washing dishes, or bedtime with the older kids. He took care of it all. Thank you, hubs!
End of the road
At the start of my prelims, I logged out of Facebook, and disengaged from everything except Twitter (I am weak, after all). I missed everyone like crazy and came back to tons of happy messages wishing me well. That Thursday night before I submitted my exams, though – I tell ya, I was so numb from all the typing that all I could do was sit there and LOL and smiley face my way out of the academic haze. All in all, 66 pages. I still have most of my fingerprints intact, so a win?
YES, A WIN!
I PASSED! I PASSED! I PASSED!