Being a graduate student requires a lot of commitment. You need to efficiently manage your time for studying, attending classes, and working on assignments. But imagine this: besides having to meet your responsibilities as a student, you also have to nurture your baby, maintain your relationship with your spouse, and find some time to take care of yourself. Super tiring and overwhelming, aren’t they? These are what Kania, a Law student at UC Berkeley, has to do literally every day. In this article, she tells her story of being a wife, mother, and student at the same time during her graduate study.
As a woman, who is afraid of not being able to pursue your dreams and losing yourself after your marriage and having a baby? I think most of the women are, including me in the past. But, is that really true?
My husband, Aditya, and I are graduate students at the University of California Berkeley Law (UC Berkeley). We applied on a different batch but ended up studying in the same year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Previously, we never imagined and prepared to do our study with a baby. But, the good news came up in 2020, and today we are studying law with our daughter.
Three Roles at a Time
Being a wife to another student, a mother to a one-year-old baby, and a student at the law school is never an easy job. At first, I doubted myself I could make it. I was surrounded by postpartum anxiety prior to my departure and adaptation to a new role as a law school student. In the first couple of weeks, I found it hard to balance networking, studying, taking care of the house cores, nurturing the baby, and finding the me-time. I almost gave up. For those expecting the same situation as mine, let me tell you, it is okay to worry in a changing circumstance, but please seek help!
Thankfully, UC Berkeley has tons of self-help tools for students, especially student parents like us. Psychologists and therapists are accessible and free for the students. I reached out to one of the student parent’s therapists. I didn’t realize that a hardship through a changing environment was really a problem until she helped me to address them. Here, seeking help from professionals is not taboo and not a shame. In fact, it helped me a lot to know myself even better in my new role. In a world full of opportunities as well as responsibilities, I now know that I should prioritize. As a mother, I let go of most of the things that are not on my priority list.
Being a Wife
Being distant with friends and acquaintances in Indonesia turns my husband to be my only teammate. We try to improve our communication to prevent “explosion” in our daily life. We have to distribute tasks evenly to lighten the burden. Moreover, we take classes with different schedules each semester, allowing us to manage our time and take care of our baby. We prepared the meal for half of the week twice, during the weekend and on Wednesday. However, we always prepared the baby food the night before to keep it fresh.
Being a Mother
Despite my busy schedule, I always try to be fully present for my daughter. First, I trained her to have an expected schedule every day. This schedule is beneficial to meet and anticipate her and our needs. Second, I practice meditation and mindfulness for 15 minutes before I change each role. It helps me to be more present, especially in dealing with a toddler after a long class duration. It is not fancy; I simply pick a random meditation guide from Spotify lists and start listening. Alternatively, I can always choose to do meditation by walking on the grass with bare feet on my way back home. Finally, I did social media fasting and instead chose to sign up for national and international e-newspaper. I found it very useful to shape my life into more positive ones as a mother.
Being a Student
Studying in a diverse environment trained me to have a more open-minded mindset. It is common to meet a graduate student who just changed her career in her late forty or even doing the degree with her daughter. Here, age is not a burden for people to take a risk and start their lives again. Furthermore, I also found a student parents community at the law school. Sharing my thought with a mind-alike student will be very helpful to get insights. Additionally, I take full advantage of the campus facilities. I finished most of my assignments at the library in order to fully present at home. Here, the library is open until midnight.
Facilities for a Family in UC Berkeley
Being a student parent with a baby at UC Berkeley is an excellent experience for us as a family. The University offers so many supports. First, the law school gives a student mother extra time for the exam for breastfeeding. Second, the University also provides cheaper housing at its own compound compared to the off-housing rate. But the University family housing is only eligible if you have a child. Third, they also provide the student parents with food and free diapers every week. There are so many food assistances around the campus for international students. Last but not least, California State also has a free vaccine program where international students are eligible to apply. There are tons of programs for families who reside in Berkeley. However, not all University in the United States has the same accommodation for student parents. If you are a parent, maybe you should consider UC Berkeley as an option to pursue your degree. UC Berkeley is one of the most family-friendly campuses in the United States.
Finally, despite all the sleepless nights and occasional mental breakdowns, being a student parent at UC Berkeley, especially a student mother, is a rewarding and elevating experience. It changed my perspective on how a woman can be productive and capable even after marriage and a baby in a positive and supporting environment. I hope that every mother who is still in doubt about pursuing higher education abroad will eventually find their opportunity in their own right time.