What it’s Like to be a Father and a Communication Masters Student…At The Same Time

Chris Burch headshot

Chris Burch, Student & Alumni

Before I started the Master of Communication program with Purdue I thought a lot about what the challenges of returning to school might be.  Even when pursuing my undergraduate degree, I was never what might be considered a “traditional” student. I started school when I was 23 and married. I was always the old man in class and while everyone else was worried about social life on campus I was worried about trying to get enough sleep while trying to raise two sons, one 18 months and the other a newborn.  As a father I had a family to support so while going to school full-time I also worked full-time at a local manufacturing facility.  I would go to school by day and work the night shift.  I did this for 4 years and was able to maintain a 3.96 GPA.  I don’t share this to brag about how smart or great I am with school, but to point out that I understood one thing about going back to school…

It would require a large investment of time.

I actually didn’t want to return to school for the same reason. I had graduated and done fairly well for myself by moving up at the same manufacturing facility I had worked at through school. I had a great job with good benefits. I had medical insurance and 3 weeks paid vacation I could take anytime I wanted during the year. I enjoyed my time with my family and pursuing my hobbies. I had no reason to think about going back to school and even if I’d wanted to the thought of having to sacrifice my time was more than enough to dissuade me.

Then in January of 2015 the facility where I’d worked for more than 10 years announced their closure.

There’s nothing like losing your job that will get you thinking faster about going back to school. I immediately knew why I had to go back.  The hardest thing for me was going to be giving up my time.  It’s not easy to tell my, (now) 10-year old son that I can’t play Legos, because I have to read homework. It’s not fun, to have tell my other, (now) 9-year old son that I can’t go fishing with him because I have to post to a discussion board by Wednesday, 11:55 PM, or tell my wife that movie night is cancelled because I’ve got to catch up.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve got a great support network. My wife is great and understands the what and why. My sons are old enough to understand the what, if not some of the why. I try to justify the loss of time with them by telling myself that what I’m doing is for them.  In a partial sense that’s true, but I’m really doing this for me.  I’m doing it so that I can make myself marketable in today’s economy.

Going back to school is hard. Assignments are more demanding at the graduate level, as are the professors and the expectations.  There is more than enough homework to keep anyone busy.  Deadlines will make you focus on priorities.  Your time will be stretched thin and you will have to let something go.  I am having to let go of some of the “family time.”  I’ve done it before so I know that it can be done while finishing up the program.  I missed out on some things that other Dads will always remember when my sons were younger.  I wasn’t there for some first words or steps.  I missed some birthdays.  I’m missing out now on some milestones.  I know that I can’t recover these moments later on.  I know that my sons will remember these missed opportunities.

Whatever reason(s) you chose to go back to school for your masters degree in communications, make sure that you can justify to yourself and your loved ones the sacrifice of time and missed opportunities that come with it.     

Mine is in the hope that my sons will always remember a day that is a short year’s time away from now. A day when they will watch their father walk across a stage in West Lafayette, shake someone’s hand and receive a M.S. in Communication from Purdue University.  

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Chris Burch is a student in Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.