I could try to say something inspiring here, but I won’t. If you are a parent and have made the decision to go back to college, you already know why you’re doing it and that you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Here are some words of wisdom and advice from some pretty incredible parents. You’re not alone.
These comments are quotes from about 15 non-traditional students.
- They are earning/have earned Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees.
- They study/ied healthcare, accounting, anthropology, journalism, criminal justice, biology, photography, and education.
- They have between 1 and 5 children, from newborn to high school senior.
- Some are stay at home parents while others work full time. One worked two jobs.
- Several are single parents. Two are military spouses.
On organization and study time
- Naptime! Easiest time to study, but I also set the two little ones at the table with me with their books and crayons, and they do work right along with me.
- Approach school like it is a 40 hour per week job. If you plan and schedule time to write, time to read, time to study (instead of letting it creep up on you), it is completely manageable.
- Schedule your study time.
- Stay at the school for an extra hour after class, before you go home.
- Work on things between classes.
- Papers and homework were done after the kids went to bed.
- Never underestimate the power of Play Doh to keep the kids playing while you study. And Legos – thank GOD for Legos! They hurt to step on but keep the kids entertained for nice, extended periods of time.
- I’m strict with the schedule, but I try not to stress when it doesn’t happen.
- I think the biggest thing for me was involving the kids in the study time… we went through a great deal of crayons and coloring books for a few years and then picture books.
- I have a hard time maintaining focus if the kids are doing something fun so I usually lock myself away in the backroom and turn on a fan to drown the noise when I study.
- I always study in the morning, cuz I’m dead by the end of the day!!
- Late night studying and lots of coffee.
- Use a dayplanner.
- My kids know my study partners and classmates so we’d go out and have as much fun as we could (hiking, going out to eat, inviting them over) but all the while my cohorts and I would be discussing what was going on in our classes.
On asking for help
- One word: Grandparents. I would study in big chunks while they were at the GPs for the weekend, playing with cousins/neighbors around the house. My kids are older so they don’t as much attention as a newborn/infant/toddler
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- It’s okay to call a friend ask them to come to the rescue.
- It’s critical to explain the demands that you will be under to your family in full detail and what it means to you to go back to school, your dreams, etc.
- Have your husband take the kids to the park or to Best Buy or something so you can study.
- Ignore the laundry. Undergrad and grad school is one of the few times where you can completely pull off dark circles, greasy hair, and dirty underwear.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the older kids to play with the younger kids so you can get some of the work done.
- Assign household chores to everyone in the family – We used our dry erase board to list the chores. My kids are greedy and the only way they get an allowance is to do the EXTRA chores; they don’t get paid for their everyday chores.
- It’s really okay if your bed isn’t made for a week.
On healthy-ish meals/snacks for the kids
- The Crockpot is your friend.
- Keep the bottom drawer of the refrigerator filled with snacks – it’s the kids’ free-for-all area where they don’t have to ask for permission. Keep it filled with juice boxes, apples, oranges, carrots, raisin boxes. Add a couple fresh sandwiches every few days.
- Two words… FROZEN MEALS. Yes, those prepackaged crap things you buy for a buck. Love them. Deal with them. And recognize, either you can study and get to class, or you can feed them organic. Since the rest of the worlds is alive while not eating organic, I figure, they will survive too. lol
- What’s that?
- Large doses of caffeine mixed with small parts of insanity and shake until blended. Lol
- I was always tired.
- Do not try to read textbooks in bed (snore)
- Sleep like the dead on breaks.
- Celebrate small successes. When you get a A on a paper or test (or your kids do) celebrate together with some sort of treat.
- Know when to take a break.
On dealing with employers
- Speak with your boss. They are going to have to be willing to work with your availability.
- My current struggle is working full time… Overnights. It’s wrecking havoc on my scheduling. If I’m home, I tend to be unconscious.
- It’s tough trying to juggle a full time career, full time school schedule, and your family but it can be done.
On dealing with instructors
- Keep open communication with your professor throughout the semester, so If Junior gets gets deathly ill you can call them. Don’t just skip out on exams. Professors are human and they understand that life throws you a curveball sometimes.
On miscellaneous realities…
- Acknowledge you won’t be able to get to every field trip, parent’s night, etc. Do your best and recognize you are setting up things for your children to have a better life when you are through. There is no room for mom/dad guilt here. Employ help when possible to meet those demands.
- There is no option for breaks, Students loans become due, and the quicker we are done, the better. Sometimes you just have press on and determine it’s what needs to be done. One can only take a break from school for so long (I took a two year hiatus over child care) before you just have to bite the bullet and get it done.
- How do parents do it when both work AND both are in school? Talk about caffeine and insanity, and let me add, a good therapist!
- With four kids, no matter HOW many times I asked them to let me study, at least ONE little person would have an “emergency” if they knew I was in the house.
- We have no family around to help. That was our toughest part. Childcare costs and the nerves associated with it were overwhelming at times hindered the process.
- I continued to work full-time to keep medical benefits, I had to change into my scrubs in the car. I think back then I was just on autopilot. I did what I had to do.
- Be willing to accept less than a 4.0 but strive for it.
- Saturday and Sunday are not days off, just more errands and chores at home and study time. Lose your life, it now becomes school, school, and yeah household chores.
- Yes, you will feel like you’re neglecting your kids, but remember you’re doing it for a better future for the family.
- It’s worth it.