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ARE Series: How to Pass the Architecture Exam as a Parent

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

In today's ARE Series, I'm talking all about how to successfully complete the exams as a parent. There is a huge drop off of women in our industry during the child bearing ages and there is also a decline in the percent of women who start the exams verse finish them. There is a big correlation between become a mom (and a parent) and finishing the exams. I'm here to encourage you that you can have both!

My daughter has wanted to be a veterinarian for as long as I can remember. Recently she told me she decided she no longer wanted to do that because she wanted to be a mom. This broke my heart! The fact that age 5 she felt like she had to choose one or the other. You better believe she got a long, heart felt conversation empowering her that she can do both AND be great at both. It left her rolling her eyes and walking away. But, I think she got the message.

Taking the exams while being a parent isn't easy. It comes with a whole new set of constraints. But it's possible. In the video below I talk about what worked for me. If you prefer audio form, you can also always listen to the podcast here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

For reference, I took my first exam when my daughter was 11 months old. I passed my last exam when she was 2 years and 11 months. So, almost 2 years to the day to get through them. Some people pass sooner, some longer, but each person has their own journey. These are the tools that helped me get through them (and remain sane).

1. Time block

Time blocking was a huge life saver. It helped me stay organize and forced me to find time in my schedule to to study. Believe me, no one has time for studying! You'll talk to parents, non-parents, people who work, people who don't work, EVERYONE - some how we all don't have enough hours in the day. So, we need to find them and carve out the time to make it work.

Reflecting on my time block calendar from my exam days, I cringe and it gives me anxiety. I am not sure how I managed that schedule! But, I did it and so can you.

2. Prioritize

Get creative with how and when you study. I prioritized studying after putting my daughter to bed and during naps. That wasn't easy and believe me, I was tired! But you can get through it.

3. Get Support

Reach out and ask for help when you need it. Especially the last week or two before your exam, get extra help from family/partner/support system.

4. Get Efficient!

Also, there is power in audio! Get efficient in how you consume the material. Kill 2 birds with 1 stone - the most study time I would get was at the gym.

I would go to the gym and walk on the treadmill for an hour. I would set it on hills, so it would automatically go up and down, then I would just read, do flashcards, watch videos, (even try to write notes although that was kind of hard) while on the treadmill. I was working out without even thinking about it. Being a parent is all about learning to be efficient, especially with your time. I didn’t have time to go to the gym, then study, then work, then be a mom. That’s impossible, if I wanted to sleep and be sane.

5. Give yourself Grace

There are times when you need a mental break. It’s not easy! I had to take breaks in between exams to breath, get back my sanity. It's ok. Having a kid isn’t easy, it takes a lot of energy. One of the hardest parts of studying for me was that your attention is often broken up. Right as you’re getting in your groove, the baby wakes up or needs fed or something else. As they get older I found it even more difficult because they want you to play with them, they want to talk to you, they want to interact. So, getting undivided study time is hard. I had to realize that even 15 minutes of studying was helpful. Find a method that works well for you and if it means taking a week off, that's ok!

6. Always remember the end goal - to be a licensed architect

To be able to tell my daughter that her mom worked hard to achieve her goals even with a baby. Becoming a mother doesn’t mean you have to put your dreams on hold. It may make things take a little longer than originally anticipated, but it’s worth it. To me, I knew my daughter would look up to my tenacity when she’s older and I hope it inspires her to work hard at whatever she wants to do. And to know that she really can have it all, she doesn’t have to choose being a wife or mother over a career. Or a career over being a mother.

Some people sit and watch tv, I chose to sit and study. Both of these activities takes attention away from your kid, but studying for something that will improve your whole family’s future is admirable.

It Will Soon Be a Distant Memory!

I may have finished sooner if I wasn’t a mom yet, but I also may have not been as driven to finish. Being a mom really forced me to pursue my own business even when times were rough and I knew I could make more money working for a firm. Without my daughter I probably would have given up on my business a lot sooner and worked for someone else because I could make more money in the interim. Having a kid made me OK with not making too much money because I was working much less hours and home with her. But it was building my business, getting through the exams, and now I’m so thankful I stuck with it! I have a lot of friends who still haven’t taken the first exam because there hasn’t been much incentive. For me, the incentive was my company going from a “design business” to an “architecture firm”. And it really has made a huge difference for my company!

I think if I didn’t have my daughter I would have procrastinated more. So, although it was tough and I had a lot of late nights after she went to bed, I was able to persevere and make it happen. I just had to stick with it (through each fail too!). Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than someone else. I had to take mental breaks after each exam to be present with my family and not go insane. Slow and steady!

The anxiety is totally normal! Having kids is a hard decision when you have a career path you’re dedicated to like architecture. For me at least it was. I didn’t want to put my career on hold, but I also wanted a family. It’s too bad that women often feel like they have to choose one or the other.


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