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From the Diary of a Single-Mom Grad Student

The world is your oyster Temuge!
I was feeling rather guilty the other day about not being able to keep up with readings and schoolwork. Graduate school is one of the most demanding periods within the educational system. Being a full-time graduate student is busy duty and when you add full time motherhood to that, you will most likely switch to just survival mode at times.

Playing & Studying - not the most productive way to learn
#MultitaskingMommas

For me, I had the choice of leaving my son back home with my parents and his father if I really wanted to and make life a hundred times easier for myself, like some of the other students who did. But the main thing I wanted was for him to get the most benefit out of this experience that was given to me that will all be worth it in the long run. So this was the decision I made and I don’t regret it one single bit! Having said that, of course none of it would come without obstacles and difficulties to overcome.

The first problem I faced was the issue of housing. Boston is a city famously known for its many schools, colleges and universities. One in five person is a student or somehow affiliated with education. So each fall there is high demand for rooms and accommodation and if you are late in the game just like I was, then all you can do is pray something will show up. The main difficulty with me was the fact that I was to live with a kid. Generally, undergraduate students live in a dormitory and graduate students share 2-6 bedroom houses, each paying for their share of room. Our school had a dormitory with the capacity of 84 students, but did not allow students with families and spouses. When I was searching, the first issue I would raise is that I would be bringing my son. At that moment, you get that instant reaction where they give you “the face” and say “Errm, I’m sorry but it won’t work out”.

Grocery shopping - one happy kid
So after three weeks of struggling to find a place, my close Mongolian friend agreed to search a place to live with us. The hunt was over and we found a brand new beautiful duplex apartment in a city called Everett. The only difficulty is that it takes me 50 minutes to get to school one way. Sometimes (well almost all the time), I dread going to school. 20 minutes walk to the bus station – 15 minutes bus ride – 15 minutes walk – and by the time I get to school, I’m all demotivated to do anything let alone study. And there is no escaping through the snowstorm, wind and rain that happens very often in the Boston area! Sometimes I’m late and am inclined either to miss a class or take a taxi. And most often it would be the latter. $20 one-way! Every time I see students coming out of Blakely (our school’s dormitory), I sigh with envy. Every time there is strong windy snow blowing in my face on the way back home, I think to myself “There are people going through worse distances than me to get to school, so just suck it up Khongi!”

Social night - Schools don't prohibit from bringing children to campus,
But somehow deep down there's this shame and guilt of being the only one dragging along a kid to events and the annoying part of dealing with everyone's "Oh, you have a kid? How do handle all of this, I can't even take care of myself" BS.
Soon you'll stop giving shit about all of it and bring them
around everywhere, even dressing him up for
the annual Diplomat's Ball
And because I live far off, I don’t really bother joining the social activities that go on at and around school. But more than that, I’m occupied with mommy duty to have time for all of it. If there is an event, conference or activity that I really want to attend, then I make the effort to find someone to babysit him and if that doesn’t work out, I take him along with me. On the other hand, it turns out to be a really good experience for him. He gets to interact with people, which help him to maintain a certain attitude when he is around adults, especially those who are not of the same nationality. As you can see, partying isn’t one of the activities on my list, not that I regret it anyway.

I have had people ask me how I juggle all of it. So here is my daily routine that applies to almost everyday. We wake up around 7:30am and I take Temuge (my son) to school. Thank goodness he likes school! Usually elementary school is from 8:00am – 2:00pm. But when I have afternoon classes he goes to the after school program where he stays until 6:00pm. Those are the days when I finish class at 5:20pm and rush to the nearest bus, grab a taxi and get to his school. The reason I rush is because for every 1 minute that I am late after 6:00pm, they charge $2.00 per minute. That means $30 for 15 minutes.

His first school which was brand new and
really close to our apartment 
Columbus School - His second school because
we changed apartment in second year
His classmates from the first school. Temuge was the shortest
because he was one year younger than everyone


On the way home, we have a small conversation about what we did and how our day was. We get home, relax a bit and I start cooking dinner. I cook 3-4 times a week. Sometimes when I’m too tired to cook, we either order pizza, my housemate cooks or I just feed him with something simple. As a result of this rhythm, I have gained 3-4kgs since coming to the US. I rarely have time to workout and if I get some extra free time, I prefer studying or getting some rest.

Then my son plays around for a few hours and I put him to bed around 9pm. I pretend to sleep with him and most of the time I fall asleep myself. Imagine what it feels like to get myself back up! Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. If I managed to tug myself out of bed, then 10-1am is considered to be my “study time” - the time, which I dedicate to myself to do whatever I want. Whether it is reading or enjoying a 2-hour long bath.



"Study time" - still learning English vocabulary
(all over the wall behind me)
Getting a nap wherever/whenever you can is vital


            The above-mentioned routine starts all over again with the rising of each sun. Do I get tired? -Yes. Do I manage to do enough studying? -No.  But for me, there is nothing better than being in the presence of your loved ones. Especially if that person loving you is the most beautiful thing you have. Every weekday morning I dress him up in bed and he asks to sleep for a few more minutes. But once he’s up, he is full of energy and says the cutest things, which melts my heart. He says things like “Today I will draw you something nice mommy”, “When I grow up, I will be a big boss and take you around with my car so we don’t have to walk”, “Have a good day at school mommy”. No energy drink, or shots of coffee can replace these words to get me through the day. At certain times I do feel guilty that I can’t dedicate enough time to play and do fun activities with him. But one thing I know for sure is that deep down he understands how much effort mommy makes for us to be together and as a result he cooperates very well when everything is dependent on us.

Sorting his school work before moving away
The paper flower he made for Mother's Day
Celebrating his 100th day of Pre-School
My Valentine's Gift
It has only been three months since he came and he has already learnt his A-Zs, can count to 100 and is already conversing in sentences. This is the result of the sacrifices I made and a huge investment in building a solid foundation for his education and way of thinking. In case I didn’t mention, he is 1 year younger than his classmates.

Temuge's reading improved within a year:


For me I consider this the quality of life – to be around the ones you love, to stand up and fight for whatever it takes to make that happen and to enjoy every given moment in the moment, for it will not last forever! Every time I look back a few years along the line I know I will think to myself “Thank god I did that!”

It’s all about living without regrets.

  
Prologue
The above post was written on April 8, 2013 when I was in my second semester at the Fletcher School. Somehow I never had the chance/time to post it, but looking back, it feels much more precious reading it again now, almost 7 years later!

Graduating from one of the top schools in International Relations
- YEAAAY WE DID IT! (Crying inside)
Since then, we successfully made it through grad school, some semesters together, some apart. Temuge learnt English well and has this funny American accent. He's continuing to learn English and it's one of his favorite subjects at school. During our time in the US we did our best to make the most of it and traveled to the west coast visiting friends in New York, San Francisco and L.A. (added some photos below to reminisce on the good times we had). The sad part is Temuge doesn't remember much of our travels or the people he met. I don't blame him because he was only 4-6. But I did make sure every memory was captured on film, mostly to remind him, but also to prove that I'm not lying! We returned home after graduation and started a new life in Mongolia. All the memories seem like yesterday but it's been almost a decade. Once in a while I like to browse through my albums to travel back in time and feel the feels...

Travel partner for life!
Considering my experiences and challenges through this journey of a lifetime, I would like to give some advice to you single/married/separated women who are considering to continue your studies in whichever country: IT WON'T BE EASY!
  • You need to polish your time management skills to the utmost precision
  • Get all the help and support you can from friends and family
  • Do the calculations and make sure you can handle the journey financially
  • Thoroughly research the place you're going to: daycare, kindergarten, school, healthcare, education system, social benefits, rent, tax and anything that might affect you and your children
  • Discuss with your family whether now is the right time to do it or whether it can wait until your children are a bit older (that's when public schools are free and less burden
  • Be willing to accept the sacrifices and get rid of the guilt
  • Believe in yourself that you can do it and just GO FOR IT! If not you, then who???
If you have any other questions on the above topic, feel free to contact me at: khongoro@gmail.com. I have loads of stories and advices to share... 

Temuge loved playing with my friends

Who else to support than the Boston Celtics -
LET'S GO CELTICS!!!

I've spent every single new year's eve with him
for the 11 years of his life





Christmas 2013
















His favorite place in the whole wide world

First time in LA
Universal Studios LA
Doing touristy things

Botanic Gardens LA

Foggy San Francisco
Sightseeing in SF
Stanford University
After basketball session with fellow Mongolians

New York, New York

Tasting the rain of NY


Visiting museums while when we can
Lego man - in our beautiful duplex long way from campus


America, the land of the free

Boston Commons (park) - Aunt Haifa, my roommate from Fulbright Orientation came to visit











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Khongorzul Bat-Ireedui: From the Diary of a Single-Mom Grad Student
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