When graduate students think about balancing work and family, the first thing that comes to mind is often “Help!” In addition to academic relationships with professors, advisors, committees, and classmates, some students have to still make time for their spouses and children! To foster these academic relationships and to further their academic success, graduate students often neglect their interpersonal relationships with their families and friends. However, interpersonal relationships are just as, if not more important, than are academic relationships; academic relationships come and go, but interpersonal relationships with family and friends will last long after professors, advisors, committees, and classmates have forgotten graduate students’ names. Therefore, graduate students should plan to invest some of their precious time during graduate school to balancing work and family by maintaining their interpersonal relationships so that they will have a social support structure before, during, and after graduate school. There are two main strategies for maintaining healthy relationships with family and friends during graduate school: don’t procrastinate and do communicate:
When you are swamped, you may be tempted to reschedule a lunch date with your mom or to ignore your friend’s texts and calls to go to a movie, assuming that these people will understand and will always be there for you. You don’t procrastinate in these relationships to be malicious, but you assume that you will have more time after graduate school to make up missed time with friends and family. However, this is probably not the case because after graduate school you might find balancing work and family even more difficult to achieve. Therefore, you should take advantage of every opportunity you have to spend with your family and friends. For example, instead of rescheduling your lunch date with your mother because you have an upcoming exam that you need to study for, you could ask your mother to help you study while you are eating lunch together. If you absolutely must cancel prescheduled time with friends or family, try to figure out a way to make up the missed time. For example, you may occasionally have to miss your child’s soccer games, but you can make up for missed time by doing your grading and reading assignments with your child while your child is doing his or her homework.
Your family and friends won’t know what you need and when you need it unless you communicate with them. No, your family and friends probably will not understand the minutia of all the theories that you are learning during graduate school, but your family will understand when you are most available and what they can do to help you if you keep them informed. One good way to communicate back and forth with family and friends is to use a dry erase board placed in an easy-to-access location (to communicate with family and friends who don’t live with you, you can use an online message board instead of a dry erase board). You, your family, and your friends can all use the dry erase board to share schedules, reminders, and to-do lists. You can also use a dry erase board to complement one another, to tell each other about your moods (happy, sad, anxious, lonely), to play games, and even to develop secret codes, all of which will help you with balancing work and family.