The Life of a PA School Father
My name is William Seibt, and I was a PA student and a dad.
We moved out to Miami from Phoenix to attend PA school when my son was nine months old.
We arrived in Miami in a Penske truck the evening before classes started and stayed with my sister-in-law for the first week.
The first weekend of school, we moved into our new place where we still live today. I have to give my wife credit for setting up the house and taking care of our son while we started our new journey.
The first year of PA school was the toughest; I wasn't able to spend a lot of time with my family, and my wife bore the burden of taking care of our son on her own. I was either at school or studying at the library.
I knew that finding the balance between life and school was necessary, but this was a difficult transition. I didn’t always feel that I could afford the time away from the books and still pass; the workload was just too great at some intervals.
Looking back on it, I feel that I just popped in on the family every once in a while, either for dinner or just before going to bed.
I made every attempt to spend time with my family for the last hour of the evening, but that didn’t always work out.
I made it a point to be available on the weekends, and my wife was fantastic at planning events and finding activities to do.
I often loaded slide show presentations and books onto my phone and would sit on the bench at the park or in the mall. I would review lectures or topics while my wife and son played.
There were some events, such as my son’s first birthday or Halloween night, where I made it a point to put the books away for the evening (not the whole day though). I got to enjoy seeing my son dressed up as a dragon and learn how to try to say “trick-or-treat”. But even then, my wife made all the arrangements and preparations without me.
The second year was clinical rotations, and the workload finally lightened up; this is in contrast to the first year. I was able to spend more time with the family, but I found I was lost about what to do around the house to help. Ever since we moved into our place, I had my nose buried in the computer studying.
My wife laughs because, for the longest time, I didn’t even know where we kept the toilet paper.
My school was a 2 ½ year program, so studying for the PANCE didn’t officially start for me in the second year. The second year, we enjoyed going to the beach on weekends and doing events around the city. It was the best year of PA school.
Then the third year started it was all classroom time again. It was also time to start focusing on the PANCE. Once again, my nose was buried in the computer, and there was time away from the family. The same routine started again. The final semester was much shorter than the other semesters for my program, so it wasn’t as bad to go through.
My son was a little older and had learned how to speak a few words and sentences by this time. He was also more insistent on spending more time with me.
That was the toughest part, having to tell my son “no, I can’t spend time with you. I have to study” while trying to get out the door.
A 2-year-old doesn’t understand this, and they will repeatedly ask to play, and I found it a little heart breaking. One of my son's first semi full sentences was, “You have to study?” I imagine it will be the same when I have to finish up notes at home from work… “You have to work?”
A recurring theme in PA school is that of my wife taking on the responsibilities of most everything while I went to school. This includes raising our son pretty much on her own.
We were fortunate that our son was young when I started PA school. He is two years older now, and I am looking for my first job, he needs my attention, and I’m happy not to have to say no all the time.
My advice to anyone with kids or planning on having kids while in school
- Before you start school, discuss the lifestyle with your partner. I don’t know anyone who would say that PA school was easy. You will both be going through this trial together, and with a family, it is a team effort.
- If you can try to live near extended family. We lived near my wife’s sister, and I think this helped.
- Once you’re in school, do not study at home. You will need time to focus on you studying without distractions. If you stay at home, your family will need your attention, or you will want to give it to them. Either way, remove that distraction.
- Be sure to give your family some of your time. Either for dinner, at the end of the day, or on the weekend. This requires some flexibility and will depend on your testing schedule. Most of your hard-core studying will be dependent on what tests you have that week.
For the bigger occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, school events), take a chunk of the day off if you can afford to.
During the semester breaks, make that time count. I knew some fellow students that took mini vacations or "staycations." We couldn’t afford that on our budget, but if you can afford it, do it.
Finally, show your better half your appreciation for supporting you
Buy flowers or cards every once in a while. I went through one semester where I left my wife little notes for her to find in the mornings when she woke up. At the end of each semester or rotation, I would buy her flowers. I tried to let her know that I still noticed her and thought of her and my son.