Loughborough PhD Social & Support Network

#BLOG Being a Wife, a Mother and a PhD student

By Yasmin Jaaron (Abu Al Hla)

Being a Wife, a Mother and a PhD student was a manageable responsibility, well, at least that’s what I thought before Covid-19; however, being quarantined for a long period of time is getting challenging! But still we can control it!

Being a Wife, a Mother and a PhD student

Although living in this unprecedented situation where family members are altogether all the time is such a nice feeling, it is different when it is not a holiday. Working/studying from home, parenting and home schooling can be very exhausting if new lifestyle changes are not being considered.

My experience during the lockdown has changed the way I was usually managing my daily responsibilities markedly. Starting the day not in that rush I used to be in; dropping my kids to school and having a nice walk to the campus; chatting with my colleagues before starting working from my convenient workstation; is being a missing part of my day.  

My supportive husband and I have started the quarantine by setting a day structure to be able to do our three main jobs together: parenting our twins, home schooling, and accomplishing our works. Day by day, this was getting harder, to be active all day is not an easy mission on the long term. Unfortunately, my energy was reduced and I was getting exhausted without being able to have a rest throughout the day. Ultimately, I realised that living as we were in the normal circumstances before COVID-19 is not being easy, and so, I needed to re-adapt myself!

One beneficial session I attended before the lockdown; introduced by the Doctoral College during the wellbeing week was “Self-Care for a Better Happier You!” presented by Natalie Steel; “How we think and respond to everyday situations has a direct impact on our level of happiness”. One important skill I still remember is our ability to control our minds as we are as human beings in the fullness of our own company. Our MINDs!

And so, I have started to think wisely about how I could control my feelings towards the BIG responsibility I am dealing with, to be a good mother for little six-years old twin boys, and a successful PhD student heading to my first year annual review. For all parents in the same boat, here there are my new experience recommendations after getting better outcomes:

1. Be Realistic with your Goals:

Reducing my normal working hours was necessary, which is also supported by the university policy for those who have caring responsibility “to do whatever you can do”. Still, it is extremely important to use your time very prudently. Making a new work/life balance is a very critical starting point for a self-satisfying progress. At the beginning, someone might think this would affect productivity, however, day by day, feeling the relief about working effectively even for less time is much better than stuck in that circle;  feeling guilty about not being able to focus on work for a full working day as usual.

2. Train yourself to focus in Noisiness:

As working in a quiet office is no longer possible, you need to increase your endurance and flexibility. During the last two weeks, I was training myself to be able to focus in a noisy distracting working environment – either my children’s loud sound, or TV-cartoon fuss; these are things not always under-control. Also, it is necessary to keep in mind our children are also struggling and missing their friends and school, and living the new strange life routine, and this is not easy for them to adapt too.

3. Look after your INSIDE:

Do Meditation/Yoga: I found it not only a relaxing exercise to do in your spare time, but also ESSENTIAL for your resilience! It will teach you a new skill in controlling your body parts, starting with basic inhalation and exhalation exercises until developing yourself into controlling specific parts of your body, such as normalising your breath and clearing your mind.  This in turn will help in relaxing your muscles and improving your cognitive skills to focus on your work comfortably.

4. Look after your OUTSIDE:

ME TIME: Specialising a ME time is no longer a pampering interest. It is very important for you to look after yourself to be able to give care to others. Either enjoying your daily skin routine, a Sunday extra one; or having an early morning walk either on your own listening to prayers or your favourite music, or with your family jogging around your block would be a good start for your day. Activating your blood circulation will activate your mind to better focus on your research.

5. Look after everyone’s TUMMY:

Providing a healthy meal for your family and your self is very important. Make sure you are doing your best to prepare healthy meals and snacks and always remember to cook with love!! For a well organised home cooking menu, I usually prepare my cooking list on the weekends and sort out all necessary ingredients and shopping items. This will give you a piece of mind of what your family needs every day all week. I usually start the day by a multi-filling healthy dish that energise bodies and keep everyone full until the main dish time. I add healthy antioxidant smoothies as a healthy snack in the mid-day to my daily list as well.

That was my entire experience since Covid-19 changed our lives. I believe that other mothers/fathers are finding it difficult to cope with. I have been inspired by a blog that was published in the university newsletter by Lynsey Heap, Publications Officer about her experience in working from home and parenting. And so, I want to inspire other PhD students in the same boat. And always remember, everything will be alright, it is a matter of time! However, we need to adapt and learn to use this time well and wisely.

With Best Wishes!

Yasmin Jaaron (Abu Al Hla)

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