Figure Out What's Next

Trying to Master Life as a Master's Student and Mom

back to school career change gina plaitakis Nov 23, 2009
mother and daughter

by Gina Plaitakis

photo by Rodnae

It's the end-of-the-semester craze. I now realize just how nice my life as a mom was before I started graduate school.

It’s the end-of-the-semester craze. I now realize just how nice my life was before going back to school for my master’s. I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. For six years I didn’t have bosses or professors telling me what to do and I didn’t have to answer to co-op mentor teachers or supervisors or anyone else for that matter. I was the Lady of the House, I called the shots, I ran the show. Now of course, I am still Lady of the House, but that job has taken a far back seat to my new position as graduate student. Being Lady of the House has been reduced to just trying to get dinner on the table, the bills paid on time and my kid to school with clean hair and clothes. All the things I enjoyed are gone. I no longer have time to work out at the gym or have lunch with my friends, (the other Ladies of the House). The saddest thing is that I don’t even have time to volunteer at my child’s school. (I know you are all pulling out the violins at this point). But why has this changed? Because getting a master’s is a lot of work and no one ever told me that. I knew there was work involved but I never thought it was this much. I guess I’ve been out of the workforce for so long that I forgot what it was like. I know that most of the working class in America is working their tails off, and I did too as an art director but that was before I became a mother. My hat goes off to all the working moms out there, I don’t know how you do it and keep your sanity.

Over the past 3 months, I have had homework every week; I’ve spent countless hours reading and writing papers, creating lesson plans, making art for lesson plans, researching historical artworks for the “historical connections' in my lesson plans, rewriting the lesson plans for my co-op teacher—not to mention the hours I lay awake at night having panic attacks not knowing what to do. Going back to school has brought up all kinds of old fears, emotions, insecurities, angst and baggage that I didn’t realize were still there. Some assignments have even brought me to tears. The scariest thing for me (and I know this may sound pathetic to some) has been to make art and have it critiqued by the class. I’ve thought of just quitting and going back to my old simple life of motherhood, (forgive me moms, I only have one child and I know it’s not easy for mothers of two and more). I complain to my husband and friends but they’ll hear none of it. My friends keep telling me, “Don’t give up now, you are so close.' My husband tells me, “Are you effin’ kidding me?' I know I’m close, I’ve busted my butt all semester and have gotten all A’s on my assignments so far but these last few weeks are killing me. The amount of work we have to do for the end of the semester has tripled compared to the rest of the semester. Suddenly, I have multiple deadlines all due simultaneously. What’s worse, this is just the first semester. It’s supposed to get even harder the second semester.

I know I’m venting here so I’ll leave on a more positive note. The good side to all of this is that I’m cleaning out old emotional baggage that has been stifling my creativity for years; I’m making art again for myself which I haven’t done in a very long time, and I’m challenging myself beyond what I thought I was ever capable of. Those are major steps and had I not done this program, I may never have been able to break through those walls on my own. I’m certainly not done yet but I can already begin to feel a new Gina emerging with a new sense of purpose; in the end I know I’ll be a wiser, more confident person. What really keeps me going is that I know I’ll be a better role model for my daughter—not a quitter, but a warrior who faces her deepest fears head on. Even my husband feels his creativity renewing by the fact that I’m exploring mine. And at the end of this long dark tunnel, I’ll emerge as an art teacher, which seems to be a pretty nice job from what I’ve observed even this first semester. Now, back to work!


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