Choosing to go back to school and pursue a college degree is a big decision. It will take considerable effort and discipline, but few things are as rewarding both personally and financially as a college degree. As you prepare to start on this journey towards a better life for you and your child(ren), here are some important things to keep in mind:
1. Time. The quicker you learn how to be intentional and disciplined about how you spend your time, the better your college experience will be. As you know, mothering makes extraordinary demands on your time and energy, and when you add a job or a relationship on top of it you can quickly run out. Completing your coursework is going to take considerable amount of time. Expect to spend at least 2-3 hours studying for every hour spent in class. Instead of wondering where your time went, tell it where to go by creating a schedule or time budget and sticking to it.
2. Community. You’re going to need all the help you can get to juggle all of the demands of a parent, student, and employee (if working). Don’t try to do this alone. Explain to your friends, family, neighbors, and/or faith community what you’re doing and why it’s so important to you and your family’s future, and then ask for their help! Check with your school to see if they have childcare available for students.
3. Expectations. Most of your fellow students are not going to be dealing with all of the extra responsibilities that you are. Most college programs are not designed with working parents in mind. Adjust your expectations of yourself accordingly. You’re never going to have as much time or as much energy to devote to your studies as those students without children. You will have many more interruptions to deal with. You will be stressed by all of the other things going on in your life before you even begin thinking about that chemistry final exam in two weeks! Give yourself a break. Don’t sweat it. You’re not alone. Thousands of students with children have gone before you, and many will come after you. You can do this!
4. Future. When times get tough, as they will, remember what all of the blood, sweat, and tears is for. Imagine what it will feel like to walk across that podium in front of your child(ren) to receive your college degree. Imagine the flife you will be able to give them as a result. Just as importantly, imagine the example you will be to them of hard work, discipline, and perseverance! With a college degree doors and opportunities will be opened that would not have otherwise. Remember that your future is bright!
For more useful information and advice for moms in school, check out the book Professor, May I Bring My Baby to Class, written by a former student-parent for student-parents (particularly mothers). It includes several inspiring stories from student-parents who have completed their college degrees and practical, in-depth advice on all aspects of the college journey.