I know, this is a very specific article that not so many people can relate too. However, I have found myself comparing “new mom exhaustion” to “graduation project exhaustion” and not being sure which one is worse SO MANY TIMES. Therefore, the time has come to settle this issue once and for all, based on a set of scientific criteria, to make a proper comparison.
*This is a long post, so I have included many ridiculous pictures of myself for your amusement. I hope you appreciate that.*
Having a newborn baby and being in the last year of your architecture studies are surprisingly similar, when it comes to sleep deprivation. The major difference is that you can not cope with sleep deprivation with tons of coffee when you have a baby, at least not if you are breastfeeding. You can have 2-3 cups, but that’s like nothing people! Also, when you get agitated due to sleep deprivation, you can always drink a bottle of wine to relax, if you are an architecture student. However, alcohol and babies don’t mix well. Sure, you can have a glass of wine, but is that really enough to relax you? Hell no!
Here is the thing, if you have the experience of architecture school, you are probably more than 23 years old. If you had a baby before architecture school, congrats! Me, however, I had that baby 6 years AFTER architecture school. This means that my stamina is significantly reduced. I have noticed that I am becoming less and less resilient, but I did not know that the older you get, the more sleep you need to function properly (unless you are 80, in which case you can sleep from 11 to 4 in the middle of the night and be happy). I clearly remember being able to party till 8 o’clock in the morning, go home, shower, go to the faculty on a Monday at 9, work till 7 or 8 in the afternoon on my project, go out for dinner, work more from 9 till 12 and then go out for drinks. And repeat. No problem.
With the baby I have to wake up at 6:30. If I am lucky, I get to nap with the baby from 9 till 10:30. Then, if I were wise, I would go to bed with the baby at 6:30. But I don’t do that. I “do my own thing” ’till midnight. Then I wake up at 2 and 4 and then again at 6:30. And I am like a zombie the whole day, despite the fact that I eat much better than I used to at my early twenties. I tell you people, it’s old age.
Sense of fulfillment
When I got that freaking architecture diploma I felt sublime. I was dead-tired, I hadn’t slept for half a year, I had drunk and smoked and probably cut a few years from my life expectancy due to stress as well, but it was oh-so-good to hold that piece of paper in my hand. No, actually, it was not the day that I got my degree the best. It was the day that -together with my best friend- we presented our diploma project. I don’t like to brag, but man it was a really good one. Of course it was. We went crazy (we might have actually gone literally crazy, that’s what people say), but we were so proud of that project. At that moment, when everyone was congratulating us, it felt like everything was worth it.
A few months later we sobered-up and realized that it was just a stupid diploma that did not guarantee that we would find a job and basically we have wasted half a year of our lives, just to make an awesome project that did not mean much at all.
Now, when it comes to having a newborn, there is a sense of fulfillment because, come on, you just created a human being. On the other hand, at least in my case, I would feel more fulfilled if becoming a mom was not so scary. Let’s face it. The first three months you have this HUGE responsibility to keep this baby alive. You love your child with all your heart and the only thing you get back is some blurry stares and maybe a smile, which is actually gas. You are amazed by the wonder that life is, but it often feels like you just gave away your life and sense of self to this tiny alien, that doesn’t really give anything back to you. You are madly in love with someone who only cares about milk and doesn’t even realize you are there.
A few months later though, you realize what an amazing potential this little alien -that looks more and more like a human- has. And the day that your little human gives you the first open-mouthed, drool-filled kiss, you will be so overwhelmed by the waves of love and joy that you might faint (I did not show all that, but that’s totally how it felt).
I can already see both my architect friends and my mom friends smiling. Yes, both occupations are disgusting.
However, I am pretty proud of myself because even during the worst of times and the tightest of deadlines, both me and my best friend would shower every single day. Maybe we wouldn’t sleep, but we would go home for an hour to shower. We did have people around us who did not shower though. Or change clothes. It happens when inspiration strikes, you know? I totally get that. And I definitely did not do laundry that often back in the day. And all my clothes had some sort of stain from glue, markers, water colors and the like. So maybe I did not look as clean as I thought I was.
Now, with a baby, I still manage to take a shower every day. I read all those mommy blogs about how people don’t find the time to shower and all that stuff and I feel lucky, because Loulou will happily play on her blanket in the bathroom, while I shower and talk to her. Is that a risky thing to do? I hope not. I mean, there is eye-contact and I can always jump out of the shower. Anyway. Regarding my clothes, yeah… They are not that clean. There is definitely spit up and drool soaked in their fibers, but if I am lucky, you can’t see the stain. I might be smelling of sour milk though.
So I would say that there is some dirt involved in both occupations, but you do laundry much more often as a mom compared to an architecture student. At least I do. Do I enjoy it? No. But I do.
That one is really easy for me. As a mom I eat MUCH better than as an architecture student. Definitely. My close friends will tell you that even as a drinking/smoking/junk-food eating architecture student, I had these detox phases when I would insist on drinking hot tea during the hot Greek summer, in order to detox. So I was kind of a repressed health nut from back then. But there was just no time to go home and cook. For a whole year, that is 365 days, me and my best friend survived on delivery twice a day. And back in the day I was a vigorous meat-eater. But somehow neither me nor her gained any weight. It must be due to the exhaustion and sleepless nights.
Nowadays I do eat a healthy, balanced diet. I might drink a couple of glasses of wine per week and I walk at least one hour every day, even if it is freezing outside. I also take my vitamins. Hell, I even invest our money to organic produce instead of whiskey.
Therefore I would say that becoming a mom is quite helpful when it comes to improving your dietary habits. That means that your diet is better for your health and wallet, but it is much less convenient, as there is tons of dish-washing and cooking involved. (By the way, we still do junk food weekends. We are only human).
In both cases you are forced to hang out with people you don’t necessarily like. There, I said it.
And that’s because both architecture students (well, and architects) and new moms are obsessed with their occupation, therefore only people who belong in the same category can stand them. It is true that people outside architecture will hang out with architects some times, but that’s more to earn the badge of “I can hang around with those weirdos!”. Or because architecture is the only engineering faculty with girls. You know it’s true. Also, the case of our faculty back in Greece but even in my faculty at TU Delft, architecture students are secluded in their own building, which is usually further away from the rest of the campus, as if architects suffer from some contagious disease. Therefore, when you only have 1 hour brake to eat/have a drink, you will just stay at your faculty and eat delivery or go at the faculty’s bar, instead of going out and socializing with other people.
The same goes with mommy groups. Everyone wants to talk about their awesome bundle of joy and in order to do that, they will endure other moms talking about THEIR bundles of joy, until my… ehm.. I meant “their” turn comes. And it’s all-right. Much like in the case of architecture, by hanging out with other moms you get to learn the tricks of the trade and if you are lucky, like I have been, you might even find a couple of super-cool moms, that you would actually hand out with, even if they didn’t have kids.
That is something that mommy-world and architecture world have in common. TONS of criticism. And TONS of stubbornness as well. You either love modernism or you adore the Zaha Hadid stuff. You either vaccinate or are sure that vaccines are the devil. You either like the old OMA stuff or feel that their new stuff is actually a fresh look into architecture. You either breastfeed or swear by formula. And no matter what you choose, you are automatically choosing sides. It doesn’t matter if you are open to other ideas. Once you express an opinion, you have automatically chosen sides and the mommy wars/ architecture wars is ON. And you will be criticized for your choices ruthlessly.
And weather you are an architecture student or a new mom, you will take that criticism personally, even if it is not actually criticism but well-intended advice. And that’s normal. Because both architecture and mothering are creative endeavors and you are giving your soul and it is harsh when someone doubts that you are doing your best or that you are doing a good job. Criticism sucks, but once you graduate from architecture or the newborn trimester, you learn to deal with it and it makes you stronger, if not better.
Sense of humor
Well, both being a mom and being an architecture student are like being in a sect. You will inevitably make jokes that only your peers find funny. And that’s totally ok, because that’s how it is in almost any profession/occupations. So don’t feel bad about it. Just don’t make your architecture jokes in your mom groups and vice versa.
I can only draw a conclusion based on my personal experience and that is probably not particularly valuable, but here it is:
On a physical level, getting an architecture degree is more demanding than motherhood. Considering the fact that I had an un-medicated natural delivery, that hurt like hell, you can imagine how painful a graduation from architecture can be. On an emotional level motherhood is much more challenging but probably more fulfilling as well in the long run. I think. Dunno. What do you think? Help me out people.