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Countdown to Mother's Day: Day Three Heather Sheppard

In honor of Mother's Day, Doctoral Mom would like to introduce you to the amazing women that make up the Doctoral Mom group. Join us as we listen to their advice and stories.

It is day three of Countdown to Mother’s Day and today’s guest is Heather Sheppard from Capella University. Heather is a mother of two and her area of study is social work.

Motherhood What advice would you give to new mothers? Follow your instincts, not what everyone around you says.

What’s your favorite part of being a mother? Can you give us a specific example? The unconditional love for and from my children. They were unable to be at commencement with me, but my husband recorded their reactions to me walking across the stage and being hooded. Seeing them so proud of me, my daughter almost crying, was one of the best feelings in the world and made this whole process worth it. How did you manage juggling the different aspects of motherhood while working and pursuing your doctorate? Routine mostly. My husband was also a huge support and took on most of the household management. Walk us through your daily schedule. Get the kids up and out the door to school by 8:30am. I go to work from there until about 5:30pm. The kids are home with a nanny. When I get home, I check and see how everyone’s day is. From there it’s make dinner and eat together as a family then watch something or play a game together until bedtime. Once the kids are in bed, time to clean the kitchen. While I was in school, I would then work on homework or writing my capstone until my bedtime. Sometimes it would be until 2am and I would start everything over again. Doctoral Program What was the most challenging part about starting your doctorate? Having no idea what to expect and not knowing anyone who was experiencing something similar. It felt very isolating until about halfway through, when I went to residency and put faces to names and found a support network. How did you choose your advisor and/or committee? It was assigned. But after one quarter my mentor left the university. So, I reached out to a former professor and asked if she would be my new mentor and somehow, she was able to do so. What is/was your dissertation topic? Effective strategies for emotional identification and regulation used by clinical social workers. What is the most difficult part of the dissertation process? Trying to figure out how to write it without having much guidance or input on the front side. If you could do something over, what would it be? I think I would have tried to do more with my kids. Looking back, I feel like I missed more of the last three years that I realized. It definitely makes me value the time I have with them now. How did the program impact your relationships (romantic, family, friendships, etc.?) With my husband, I think it had some impact on our intimacy, but he was very understanding. We made a commitment to do date night once a month because that helped keep us going. My extended family didn’t see much of me though because I was busy, so our communication decreased some. Friends who were local were supportive and understanding. But I did lose one friendship during my program. I don’t know that it will ever be rebuilt. What tips do you have that might make it easier for mothers who are thinking about pursuing their doctorate? Do it! Don’t let motherhood hold you back! Show your babies they can do anything in this world they want. Be sure to set up a strong support network prior to starting and explain to your friends and family that this is going to be a priority. Practice self-care and if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the course work reach out to professors. They are human too.

Career Where are you in your career journey? I’ve just started a position as a program director for an outpatient clinic providing IOP services for mood disorders and dual diagnoses for adolescents and young adults. What is the most important lesson you learned from your journey? I’ve just started a position as a program director for an outpatient clinic providing IOP services for mood disorders and dual diagnoses for adolescents and young adults. What were your biggest struggles and how was Doctoral Mom Incorporated helpful to you? The isolation and imposter syndrome that comes with an online program. Doctoral Mom was so helpful because it was a support network that really showed me that I was not alone. The success stories were inspiring and helped me push forward in the rough moments. Is there anything else you want us to know? I’m incredibly grateful for this group!

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