I am an African American, female Clinical Social Worker from Long Beach, CA. I am happily married with two small children. I am a business owner and a doctoral candidate in the Doctorate of Social Work program at USC. My identity makes people curious about me. Maybe they are in a similar position. Maybe they aspire to have a similar identity as me. The bold ones slide in my dm’s, shoot me an email, or ask to schedule time to gather information. Unfortunately, because of my level of responsibility, I am not in a position to let people “pick my brain”, with no intention of utilizing my services. I have to reserve my time for scheduled appointments, my family, my friends, personal relationships, school, and of course, self care. As a solution, here are the answers to the top three questions that seem to land in my dm’s.
How do I do it all as a wife and a mother?
First off, I put my mask on first, meaning I make sure my mental and physical health is taken care of before I even attempt to take care of someone else. If I don’t do some very basic things to make sure I am in fighting trim, I am useless . I wake up early and try to meet my trainer, Lance Branchman at the gym twice a week. I work towards eating healthy, staying in contact with friends, and communicating about my stress rather than bottling it up. I use my Little Black Book to organize my time and map out goals. I am aware of what my self care techniques are and I make sure to implement them. This prevents me from snapping at my family and enables me to think clearly throughout the day.
I keep my family as my primary focus, even though I am sure, in all of my efforts, they do not always see it that way. I don’t take weekend or evening appointments so I can be home to help take care of them. I plan my work schedule around family events and important days. Being in a doctorate program requires that I carve out time to complete homework and write papers. It’s not uncommon for me to get my kids dressed for school, see clients in the morning, come back home to cook dinner, go back to my office for class from 5-7pm, and stay in my office until 2am working on papers. Some days, I even come home to eat dinner with my family and wait until after bath and bedtime to go back to my office at 10pm. I make the most of our time together when I am present. For example, every morning, I host a “dance party” in the bathroom for my children while we’re brushing our teeth and getting dressed. We also have mantras that we say together, which includes who they are how mommy feels about them. I work to keep open lines of communication with my husband. At least once a quarter, we go away, just the two of us without the children. In between those trips, we make an effort to sit and talk and have grown up social time with friends. The grandparents are very supportive which gives us some respite. Their house is completely kid friendly and since my children know where all the good snacks are over there, they are happy to go see Grammy and Papa.
In all of that, I still drop the ball. I forget to grab lunches. I fall asleep without checking in with my husband. I go days without talking to my mother. There’s nothing glamorous about my life right now. To be completely transparent, it’s downright overwhelming at times. In terms of how I do it, I plan ahead as much as possible, I forgive myself when things don’t get done, I pray- a lot! I try my best to have a routine that includes talking to my husband, eating good food to fuel me, drinking water, going to bed, and exercising. I think the key is being okay with things not being perfect. You have to release some “priorities” in order to make room for growth and life change. My house is sanitary, but not always spotless. I could either spend my free time organizing toys or I could take 30 minutes to sit down and rest my mind. My thinking is, “this is only for a season”. Once this season passes, I will get back to cleaning up all the toys and putting the laundry up straight from the dryer.
What has my experience been in the USC Doctorate of Social Work Program?
My experience is that it is a great program, overall. I am in the inaugural cohort so naturally, there will be kinks, but the faculty is very supportive. In my personal opinion, I don’t think people should rush through their college career and beeline to a doctorate program in social services. You will get much more out of the program if you have more than the minimum post masters level requirement. Books teach you knowledge, but life gives you experience. I also don’t recommend it if you are not truly interested in innovation. I would research other programs to make sure that the nature of this program is the best fit for your overall goals. Be honest with yourself. Don’t get caught up in “doctorate program at USC”. I think the over achievers are looking for the next perfect step on the ladder, but you will be thoroughly disappointed if you start this program and find that it does not truly meet your goals. For the record, I am not disappointed. I knew exactly what my goals were and how this program fit the big picture. Do your research. Check out other schools and seriously consider land based programs. Online learning isn’t for everyone. For the details of the program (classes, duration, etc) check out the website
What advice do I have for people on a similar career path as me?
I don’t have a formula to give you. I did not go to the perfect school. I did not get mentored by someone in the field. I did not take the perfect job or accept additional summer internships. I have only recently gotten good at networking so it’s not that I have great connections. My secret sauce is 1) I pray about everything 2) when God says move, I move. I honestly never know how to answer that question because my whole life is one big faith walk. I’m literally a living testimony. Every connection or move that I have made has been God breathed. I don’t mean to sound creepy, but it’s true. It has not been by my own merit or my own ingenuity. It was because I got “lucky”: luck is when preparation meets opportunity. God orchestrated things to happen a certain way. Since I was already listening to Him talk to me, I was prepared when the opportunity presented itself. And in that, it hasn’t been perfect. I have made mistakes, misjudged people, and over estimated myself. I have shown people my plans thinking they would help, and they disappeared. I have mismanaged money. I have cried, out of sheer frustration. But I have also had people approach me with a clean heart and say “I want to help you out” and actually follow through. I have had people share knowledge with me and literally say “here, let me do that for you”.
You have to listen to your own small inner voice and figure out exactly where your passion and your gifts lie. Everyone’s path will be different. Getting close to someone that has done something similar will help, but no one can give you a concrete plan and guarantee success. At the very least, get exposure in different areas of your field so you know that you are truly picking the subject that you are passionate about and can spend a lifetime building on.
I hope this is helpful for someone. Again, I am not available for people to “pick my brain”, but if you feel like you could use some one on one help in guiding your future, I would love to meet with you for Personal Development Coaching.
Remember, there is no perfect formula. Just pray for direction for your path. But hey, I could be wrong. I’ve always been a bit of an Odd Bird.