Have you ever thought about going back to school?
Maybe you dropped out when you had children, or you’ve been thinking of changing careers. Maybe your kids are about to start school in August, and you want to take some classes, too. Registration is coming up for summer and fall classes, so, if you’re thinking of jumping in, you should know that going back to school when you’re a mom is not impossible!
With the exception of a few short breaks, I’ve pretty much been in school ever since that first photo was taken. But I’ve learned that going back to school as a mom has been a lot different than when I went back as a carefree single lady! (For one thing, all-nighters now are usually about teething, not finishing a paper!)
While being a student is not always easy, here are a few things I’ve learned that have helped me as a student-mom.
Online education is your friend. I know this will likely vary per university and degree program, but more institutions continue to offer more and more online options. Being able to set your schedule up front, rather than having to conform to in-person class times, can be a huge help. Not to mention, it really is nice to be able to “go to class” in your pajamas.
Find a mentor. It has been so encouraging during this season to have a couple of mentors who have walked similar paths. Knowing that other parents have successfully balanced working, going to school, and raising children reminds me that I just might be able to do it, too.
Ask for support at work and at school. It’s certainly not always the case, but many employers are supportive of efforts to further your education, especially if that means that you’ll bring additional skills to the job. Maybe there is a new option for flex time, or you can count your classes toward professional development or continuing education credits. Some employers even offer scholarships. It never hurts to ask, and, at the very least, your employer will be aware that you’re taking on this extra responsibility.
Similarly, let your professors know about your life situation. Having kids isn’t an excuse to use for being late with assignments, but you might be surprised how many teachers can sympathize with your circumstances!
Be flexible. My husband and I were both two semesters into our doctoral work when I got pregnant with our daughter. We decided that he would stay home with her and just do his school work while she napped, because babies are pretty low maintenance, right? 😉 And the first semester, he really was able to stick to that schedule. But by the time the next fall rolled around, she was down to one daily nap and much more energetic and mobile. Game changer! So we had to reevaluate our options and decided to enroll her in her own “school” two days each week to give him some uninterrupted time to work. We had to make other changes when our second daughter was born, and having a flexible mindset helped us keep going from one semester to the next.
Remember your motivation. Why are you doing this school thing? Will your degree mean a promotion at work? Are you chasing your passion and changing careers? Do you feel called to pursue a degree? Or are you just setting an example of lifelong learning for your children?
At some point, school will get tough, and you’ll need to remind yourself (probably frequently) of why you are tackling this challenge. Write down your motivation, share it with your mentors, and hang onto the idea when you’re struggling to finish that paper before naptime is over.
Have you ever thought about going back to school? Are you taking classes now? If so, how do you make it all work?