Balancing Work and Family

Hi. I have a B.S. degree in Mechanical engineering and a M.S. degree in Engineering management. After working as a design engineer for a few years, I was offered a position as a project engineer (interface between management and engineering). I am 30 years old and am expecting a child; however, I would like to persue my M.E. Professional Engineering License but am not sure when i'll have the time for it. I'm planning on taking maternity leave, but of couse that's time for the baby and recovery period. However, I might decide to be a stay home mom for some time after that.

My question is if anyone as a woman engineer has studied for a PE with a baby as young as 3-4 months of age. If so, can you give me tips on how many hours (given that i have been away from school for some years) / how to manage the home/baby and studying? I would appriciate your help.
posted by H.B, Los Angeles, CA on February 15, 2013

Answer 1 by Ms Chris Rapposelli-Manzo

While I did not go back to school or study for a major licensing exam after having a baby, I can provide this advice.  My view is that it is possible if you are very structured and process oriented and if you are diligent in getting your child on a regular schedule.  There are several very good books out there that provide advice on this topic.   One is the “Baby Whisperer.”  There is another that I read but the name escapes me.  The author is rather militant, but you can pick out what makes sense to you.  You will have to plan to do nothing other than take care of your child, yourself, your house and study.  You will also need the support of your spouse and should work out roles and responsibilities to assist your goal.  If you have family close by you may want to enlist help from them as well.  Depending on your situation, and if necessary, you may want to consider getting a sitter for a few hours a week so you can focus on studying.

Your view that the first 3-4 months are for the baby and recovery is right on.  The 4th trimester as it is termed, requires pretty much full time self care and child care especially if you are nursing (which is a wonderful thing and I highly recommend it).  Now, there is always the risk that you could have a difficult baby and that may slow you down, but again if you are diligent with going through the “pain” of training your baby and getting him/her on a regular schedule, life will be much easier.  I also recommend that you really try to do this with your first child.  It only gets more difficult with a second.

Congratulations and Best of luck!

Answer 2 by Jenni Glauser

Well, I cannot give you specific advice on the PE exam since I haven’t taken it. But I have done the working with a baby/new mom thing. I agree with you to not plan on doing anything during the first few months. Hopefully you’ll have an easy baby and quick recovery but many things could prevent you from wanting to jump back into work at 3 months: colic, sleep problems, food allergies, PPD, etc. You won’t know how much you can do until you meet your baby and find out your new dynamics as a mother. I would suggest getting the study materials but don’t sign up for a test just yet. That way you can decide on a good pace without the pressure of a deadline. If you are able to get your baby on a good routine then it will be easier to set aside time each day for studying while they sleep. But remember, you also have to catch up on laundry, cook, clean, and take a nap during those precious hours too! If you have family close by maybe you could arrange to have them watch your baby for a few hours each week for your studying. Or if you have a spouse/significant other you could say “every Thursday from 7-9pm is PE review time” (for example).

Another thought I have for you is… if you’re seriously deciding on taking some time off work and becoming a stay-at-home-mom for awhile (which I am currently doing and I LOVE!) you might want to consider putting off the PE exam until you’re ready to go back to work. That way it will help you review basic principles you’ve forgotten over that time and it also shows a future employer that you’re still a competent engineer who hasn’t forgotten everything while being a full-time mom.

Best of luck to you and your new adventure as a mommy! And remember, they are only little for a short time so enjoy your baby and don’t put pressure on yourself to get everything done ASAP. There will always be time for the PE, but only a brief time to snuggle with your baby. I think as engineers we’re wired to be as efficient as possible and it is hard to just allow ourselves to sit and enjoy the moment. That was a hard transition for me to make and I regret not allowing myself to quit my job sooner to be with my baby. But I cherish the sweet moments we have now and hope to have many more with my two girls who are due in May. Many women can make the working mom thing work, but for my family being a stay-at-home-mom was the best option for us. :-)

Answer 3 by Khadijah Latiff

I spent about 150 hours studying for my PE exam. Having a schedule and study buddies help (even if online). There is a forum called engineerboards.com where a lot of people go to exchange tips and solve problems together. Maybe you can find local study groups too! good luck!