A common question I get asked is “how do you stay motivated during pregnancy”? Often new grad school moms are reaching out because they have just become pregnant but are either distracted by pregnancy or too exhausted to work the same amount of hours. I get it. I experienced both. My first trimester (and even longer – up until about 20 weeks), it was hard for me to even get out of bed. I experienced pretty bad nausea, vomiting and exhaustion. Luckily, that eventually went away but when it did my mind was focused on my babe and I was distracted very easily. Now at 38 weeks, awaiting my baby’s arrival, I am experiencing a mixture of both exhaustion (from lack of sleep, because pregnancy is hard) and distraction (because my life is about to drastically change!).
I wanted to share three things that actually helped me stay motivated. These things might seem like the opposite of being more productive. But in fact, they helped me stay motivated and focused when I was able to put in the time to work.
Scheduled time to think/read/dream about baby and pregnancy
As a first time mom, I knew nothing about what I was going to experience in pregnancy, let alone what it entails to take care of a baby. And as a researcher, all I wanted to do was to read and learn all the things. I had monkey mind and so when I sat down to write, it was really hard to stay focused. What helped was to actually schedule time out of my day to dig into these books and information. I found that if I knew I had a set time to explore and dream, it would be easier for me to return back to my work when my thoughts went elsewhere. And if I was working and I did get distracted, I would write down that thought/question in my notes section on my computer to check back later. Scheduling this time didn’t help me from getting distracted, but it helped me to return back to my work faster when I did get distracted.
Reduced my hours (and was kind to myself about it)
As I mentioned, my first trimester was rough. There was actually no physical way I would have been able to work the same amount of hours. My body just wouldn’t let me. Some days I would only get 1-2 hours of work done, and others it was a write off. But I did what I could, when I could. It was a really challenging time for me. In the second trimester I was able to pick up my regular pace and tried to make up for the time lost, because I had the energy and was motivated to do that. Similarly, into the third trimester I maintained regular work hours. However, with the move and now coming into my last weeks, my hours have reduced again. The point here is, your motivation during pregnancy might ebb and flow and that is okay. Listen to your body and do what you can. Don’t push yourself – you are already doing a lot of work by making that baby of yours!
Rested and took days off when I needed to (and tried not to feel guilty about it)
I think that last point bears repeating – your body is making a baby and is using more of your energy to do so. Your body and your baby are more important than your work. I found that when I set my ego aside and actually listened to my body, took that nap, or day off, I was able to feel more motivated to get back to my work, knowing I took time and prioritized my health. It should always be a priority, pregnant or not.
Everyone’s experience of pregnancy is of course so different. Someone might not experience any challenging symptoms and therefore their schedule may stay the same. Whereas another might be on bedrest for their entire pregnancy. This is what mine looked like and these are the things that helped me. Any grad school mamas out that, share below any strategies that helped you stay motivated during pregnancy.
Until next time,
P.S Don’t forget to use #ScholarCulture #ScholarSquad to keep me updated on your experiences as grad students.