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PhD Candidate, Motherhood

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

When did you start the program, fellow mother? My first day of class was October 19, 1987. It was really easy to get in! The application didn’t take long, and I got my acceptance in less than 4 weeks. I knew I’d signed up for an extended curriculum, but I thought it’d be max 18 years. I decided to double major in June of 1991. It’s been 32 years now, and I’m still in school.

As in all educational programs, the classes got increasingly more subtle and in-depth as the years progressed. It seemed so hard in the early years, but when I hit the 600-level teenage years, I laughed at myself for how tough I thought those 200-level toddler classes were.

So many bad grades! Thank goodness for curving and grade forgiveness because without them I would have failed out long ago. I studied hard, but I never felt prepared. If I had a nickel for every test I took when I was over-tired, poorly hydrated, and stressed out, I’d be able to leave the kids a million-dollar legacy.

Some of the classes were a breeze. Two decades of babysitting prior to becoming a mom gave me an edge in “Theory of Imaginative Play”; a natural love of cooking made “Quantity Food Production” – a required course for every semester, including Maymester, Summer I, and Summer II – easy. I’ve enjoyed straight A’s in “Microeconomic Theory and Practice” (nickname “Shopping”) through 800-level classes. I’m even doing well in “Departure and Change in Conventional Social Settings,” but that’s only because the kids and I "cheat" by texting daily and visiting often.

Selected entries from my unofficial transcript:

  • Photovisual Communications. Grade: F. Three over-sized plastic bins of photos, negatives, floppy disks, and CDs that are un-sorted, not scrapbooked, and totally neglected sit in a forgotten closet.

  • Televised Entertainment of the 80’s, 90’s and Early 00’s. Grade: D. If I lived alone there would be no TV in my house.  I didn’t completely fail thanks to the dedicated efforts of my only colleague – I’ll call him “Daddy” – at this campus (who is actually on a different track). Daddy got straight A’s in this class by years of logging far too many hours with the children on multiple sofas in the two classrooms equipped with TVs, soda, and candy.

  • Pay, Rewards, and Motivation. Grade: A. Before I had my own children, I looked down on parents who resorted to bribes, asserting that I’d never rely on that kind of discipline. In a surprise turn of events, I earned A’s every semester.

  • Facilitative Communication. Grade: B. The 200-level classes, when the kids listened and thought I was smart, were easy A’s, but the difficulty ratcheted up during the teenage years. Now that the kids are adults, I’m back to acing this class most of the time.

  • Management of Risk and Insurance. Grade: A. The syllabus for this class was never published ahead of time, so I didn’t know what to study or what would be tested. The tests were far-ranging and included health, safety, law enforcement, legal, and other challenges that I was able to handle with the assistance of the aforementioned Daddy and helpful colleagues at other campuses.

  • Helicopter Parenting. Grade: A+. My chopper is state-of-the art and rarely in the hangar. It wasn’t a necessary class a century ago, but I see its relevance in our increasingly confusing and creepy world. Colleagues in similar doctoral programs at other colleges seem to see the necessity of this class, so I’m empowered to continue.

The Motherhood Doctoral program has an extensive lab component, and my initial thesis was very experimental and controversial. I encountered an element of wariness from my colleagues at other schools who questioned the validity of my methods. I doubted my approach too at times but pressed on thanks to the writings of learned eccentrics in the field. My GPA so far seems to reflect the soundness of my initial theories.

This motherhood program has been the best one I have ever taken part in, and I’m not looking forward to its end. Wouldn’t you agree that they’d better not cue “Pomp and Circumstance” until we’re gone? This is a degree that can only be conferred posthumously.

I hope we graduate with honors!


Kathryn Hauer, a Certified Financial Planner ™, adjunct professor, and financial literacy educator has written numerous articles and several books, including the “11-Step, DIY, Comprehensive Financial Plan Workbook” and “Financial Advice for Blue Collar America.” She works to help clients and readers understand and act on complex financial information to keep them and their money safe. She functions as a strong advocate and guiding light for her clients as they move through murky and unfamiliar financial and career worlds. Read more on her website.

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