Guest post by Drew Allen
You’ve always wanted to earn a degree, but it never seemed like the right time. You put off what you wanted to do so you could save money, get married, and now start a family. Even though your plate is full—especially with small children at home—you still feel something pulling you towards the college campus. You know it’s now time to make your move. Deciding to go to college when you have small children is no small feat. Does that mean it can’t be done? Absolutely not! While it might try your patience at times, there’s no reason why you should wait until your children are in school themselves to earn your degree.
The Time is Now
As a mom with small children, it’s normal to feel like there’s just not enough time. If your kids are under five, you might feel like it’s impossible to balance your home life with getting a degree, especially when you factor in the cost. The cost of attendance depends on which program you’re interested in and whether you’re transferring credits.
If you can’t pay out of pocket, you can look into getting a scholarship or private student loans. With the latter, you can use the funds to pay for your courses, books, and even a new computer. Keep in mind that with these types of loans, you may also be rewarded with a lower interest rate when compared to federally backed loans. You do need to be sure your credit is in good standing before applying. That’s not to say you can’t be approved with a few blemishes on your report; however, you may end up having to pay a higher interest rate.
To keep your home and studies running smoothly, you need to be organized. Even if you’re not currently working, taking care of children is a full-time job. As such, you need to create a calendar that helps you stay on track. To get things started, add the days when you will attend your courses. You can then build a schedule around that. Say your classes are Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. You also know that you need at least two evenings a week to study and complete your assignments. You could set aside Sunday and Monday evenings to get your homework done. In turn, you could plan on getting household chores done on alternate days and plan family time on those free days as well.
In terms of courses, you also need to plan accordingly. If you need to take ones that are not your forte, say chemistry or trigonometry, you need to set yourself up for success. This may involve only taking one class that semester, so you focus exclusively on the material. While that might prevent pushing your graduation date out a little, it’s better than failing and having to retake the same class. Keep in mind this doesn’t need to be set in stone. Life happens, so things you know you can move around, like grocery shopping, are easy. The most important thing is staying on track with your studies and being able to spend time with your family.
Build a Support System
Just like you, so many other moms are also going back to school. A quick search online will probably bring up a bunch of results. In addition, you can look into what resources your college has and inquire about any online or in-person groups. If you need academic support, you should also ask your advisor. They can put you in touch with a peer tutor whose job is to help other students. If none are available, you can look to outside tutoring centers for help. These can cost a lot, so be sure to exhaust all of the free resources you have before reaching out.
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But outside of that, you need to ask friends and family for help. This can include helping with the housework, spending time with the kids, or giving you a hand with the laundry. You don’t need to feel like you failed if you need assistance. Running a household isn’t easy, so when you add going to school into the mix, it’s okay to need a little help. You also need to take time for yourself during the week. Whether it’s getting a manicure, reading a book, or spending time alone with your partner, you need time to decompress.
Create a Study Space
Unless your children are newborns and need to be with you all the time, you need to set up a separate study space. Far too often, moms try to set up shop on the kitchen table or in the middle living room, which only leads to not being able to study or get homework done. This eventually causes more stress and could lead to you not doing as well as you could. Your study space doesn’t need to be large; it just needs to be private enough for you to focus on studying. Even a tiny nook in your bedroom can work.
If your kids are old enough, let them know how important studying is to you. Explain you want to learn new things and that the only way to do that is by having time to yourself. If your kids are too young to understand, you need to talk to your partner and ask them to do their part.
Understand Your Limits
Moms are superheroes; however, they also have limits. You need to understand the importance of a balanced lifestyle and have realistic expectations for yourself. You can’t do it all, so trying to do so will only lead to disappointment. Be honest with yourself and set a hard limit as to how many classes you will take each term. Also, give yourself time to get into a groove of balancing life and school. You may find that you need to tweak your schedule, so you have more time to get all the things done correctly. Furthermore, you also need to pencil in time to digest what you learn. Trying to cram in a lecture or homework, and study for an exam in a few hours usually doesn’t work. Set mini-milestones in your planner, so you have enough time to grasp the material.
Be Open to Change
You also need to keep an open mind during this period. Advanced degrees usually offer a lot more flexibility than undergraduate degrees, so you might have to take classes in the evening or on weekends if you’re not working towards your graduate degree. Alternatively, there are plenty of online universities that offer undergraduate programs online exclusively. If you prefer to learn online, you can research which ones are offering the degree you want to earn. If not, you might end up switching what you study altogether.
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Be Kind to Yourself
Going back to school is admirable, so you need to give credit where credit is due. Be proud of yourself and know that what you’re doing isn’t easy. As a parent, you might feel guilty about not spending enough time with your family. But the thing is, your kids will grow, so you also need to do what’s right for you now. Show yourself the same respect and love you’d give a family member.
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