Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Interview with a Seminary Momma

Hello, hello! Haven't blogged in a LONG time. Basically, I'm burnt out on writing and have lost all connection with myself in the midst of the spring busy term and the woes of motherhood :) I recently received a request to answer some questions about the inside scope on being a Seminary Mom. Thought others might be interested in hearing my take. So here we go:

The basics: Name, age (if you want), where you are in your seminary journey, kids and ages while you were in seminary, any other basic info
Eve, 26, I'm halfway through my seminary degree- 29 of about 60 credits completed. I am going for a Masters of Arts in Christian Education (though I started as a Youth Ministry degree). I have one child who is 2 and a half (was 1 and a half when I started).

Questions:Why did you decide to go to seminary?
This was not something I had planned on doing. My husband was here and finished a degree and I, through various means, received a call from the Lord to pursue seminary, specifically focusing on youth. It was hard to stay here after my husband had finished his degree and we thought we were moving closer to family, but it became obvious we were to stay put for a few more years.

What was the greatest challenge of going to seminary while being a mom?
First, I'd say mother guilt. Feeling like I do not have the time or energy to give both quality time to my child and to my school work and to my marriage (Time in solitude with the Lord is rarely an option). This includes feeling like I am neglecting my child when homework, papers, classes are an urgent priority. A challenge coinciding with this is finding good childcare around a changing and random class and study schedule. And, in the midst of discerning a ministry call, I feel an extra weight of trying to balance my vocation as a mother. I feel anxious and stressed about how I will be able to balance the two in the future.

What has be the greatest joy of your seminary journey?
The greatest joy has been being a part of a worshipping community that is seeking after the will of God. Rather than feeling totally isolated as a stay-at-home mom as I did previously, I feel a part of something a little larger than my home. I have been reminded that my identity is not solely in changing diapers or pleasing the whims of my toddler. I must say that it has been nice to have a playmate when I come home who could care less about my ability to grasp theology, write papers, or add into class dicussion. I am loved for my simple existence and presence when I come home to little arms.

Any unique stories from your seminary experience that resulted because of your stage in life?
At a small gathering for professors and classmates in the same degree program as myself, one of my professors offered to take my daughter on a trampoline shortly after a meal. Trying to entertain my daughter, my professor bounced so high that she flew off the trampoline and landed on her tailbone. A week later, I received an email from my prof. letting me know how sore she still was...It's fun to see your professor make fool of themselves sometimes to get laughter out of your little one.

Advice do you have for moms who might be considering going to seminary?
Don't take on too many credits at one time. Spread it out- this may mean attending more january and summer term classes, but it is worth the daily quality time that is left over for spending with your child. Also, studying at home (unless they are down for the night) is nearly impossible. Even when I've pretended to leave, my daughter has found me and demanded I play. I would also say to make sure you get involved with a group of mothers in the community (even if they are just spouses). Having that support system is SO helpful. At the same time, make friends with single seminary women. It is nice to talk faith and theology with women who don't have mommy responsibilities overtaking their minds. It helps you recall and articulate some of your underlying thoughts and dreams that can be clouded by daily tasks.

What advice do you have for student who are in the class with a mom?
Don't mess around with group projects if there is a mommy in the group. She has limited time for joking and messing around. Single males seem quite unaware of this fact. Delegate tasks and keep up your end of the bargain- mommies have enough responsibilty watching over their kids and don't need to oversee anyone else. Also, if you are single student, offer childcare so the mom can either go on a date or get an extra nap in. Us moms never get to sleep in you know!
How did you balance school and family (and work if applicable)?
Keep a tight schedule. Take life in four hour chunks. Be where you are when you are there. If you're in the library, be all there. If you're with your child, be all theirs. Make sure you schedule in your marriage. It sucks to have to budget every minute of your day away, but it is the only way to keep from feeling overtaken. At the same time, you have to know that you cannot control every minute. Your child may refuse to get into their carseat in the 30 seconds you have allotted or the prof may keep you over 5 mins when you have a babysitter waiting at home. Be gracious and receive grace when offered. Ask for help! Take a Sabbath, no matter what.
Any regrets about the decisions you made regarding seminary?
At times, I wish I had done seminary before children. It would be so much easier- I'd have better focus, more energy, and more time to devote to learning and to my personal needs. Yet, I don't know that I would be mature enough or spiritually formed enough to truly gain the blessings of seminary if I had not gone through the various stages of motherhood that have brought me to my knees before God crying out for help and sustenance.
At times, I also regret that I did not attend a seminary closer to our families. It would be so nice to have the extra assistance and care in times when I am utterly drained.
If your kids were old enough, how did they feel about you going to seminary?
I'm not sure. I think my daughter would wish that I was on my computer less and able to play more. I can tell, especially in the thick of the term, that she misses me. Someday I think she will admire my courage and endurance in following my call to ministry, but may always be sad at the time I had to sacrifice with her. In the end, I think I am more grateful for my time with her and make it of greater quality than I otherwise would have.

What are you plans after seminary (or) what do you do now that you've graduated?
No idea. I think I might try for another baby in the transition time. My husband has a PhD to pursue, so it may be more schooling for us. I hope to get involved with ministry, at least, part time. I also hope to be a coach at some point.
What question should I have asked you, but didn't (and what is the answer)?
What sacrifices have been made for you to be in seminary?
-My husband has to take on extra childcare responsibility, though he already works fulltime. So, he gets less time to himself and has to put up with my demands, whines, and worries because of the tight schedule I have to keep.
-Money. We are not only paying for school, but I can't find the time for a sufficient job while doing school and motherhood.
-We have not been able to invest as much time as our marriage needs. Keeping up with bills, meeting our childs needs, and getting my schoolwork done often put our marriage on the back burning and leaves us feeling more isolated than we need to.
-Grandparents do not get to see my daughter much. We live at quite a distance and have little time for traveling and visiting during the terms.
-Stability. It is hard to buy a home, establish a social network, or get involved in a church or local community when you are unsure as to how long you will be around.
-Sleep. Children certainly cause all parents to lose sleep. As a studying mom, though, her nap times are not an opportunity for me to rest, but for me to get more done.

Felt like I repeated myself on most of those questions...It was interesting to think about, though. I realized some intricasies of my life as a mom who studies on behalf of a call that I was not fully aware of. So, any of you want to babysit!?