Going back to school as a working parent can be a difficult decision to make. You have the desire to advance in your career, and getting a graduate degree can help you get there. But you might be wondering, “how can I possibly fit school into my busy schedule?” Here are some tips and life hacks to help you successfully achieve your educational goals while managing your life:
Sit down and talk about your desire to go back to school. Guess what, in addition to being a provider, caregiver, advisor, and let’s face it…chauffeur, you are still a person with goals and aspirations. It’s ok to do something for you, and your family can help. Divide household duties to allow more time for you to dedicate to your studies. Giving the family ownership in contributing to your success will make them feel proud. Explain to your children that you will be a student just like them and maybe you can even do homework together. Presenting your plan for getting your degree in a positive light will help make the transition easier for everyone.
Set a goal for how long it will take you to get your degree, but be reasonable and flexible to change. It is important to have a time-frame for completion in mind so you have a goal to work towards. It will give you and your family peace of mind to know that this life change, though time consuming, is temporary.
Let your employer know that you are pursuing a degree, and ask if they have tuition reimbursement programs or educational scholarships available. Getting your degree will make you a more educated employee, thus making you more valuable to them. Your education benefits both you and your employer; if they don’t recognize this, well then with your new degree you can find a job that does right?
Managing and planning your time is essential. Divide your day into timeslots for each of your responsibilities between work, family, and school. Unexpected things come up, but having an overall outline of your time each day will help get things done. Set yourself up for success by controlling what you can. Pre plan meals, coordinate appointments and children’s activities before the start of each week or month to reduce daily stress.
Easier said than done, but this is important! You may feel a sense of urgency to get your degree fast, but overloading yourself with classes can be detrimental to not only your grades, but yourself as well. Start with fewer classes to acclimate yourself to this added workload in your schedule. Over time you will learn how many classes you can handle comfortably. You will become a pro at being a nontraditional student in no time. Don’t be afraid to adjust your original completion date if you cannot carry the load you originally thought. It’s OK, you are in control.
Anything but an enthusiastic YES should be a NO! It is easy to overextend yourself if you don’t draw boundaries and learn to say no. You cannot commit to everything so you must only commit to what is most important. It is ok to pass on being PTA president or the soccer coach while you’re in school. To keep your stress level down, and focus on your most important commitments, you must prioritize your tasks, and say no when necessary.
Sure, reading text books or studying for an exam probably isn’t your first choice of leisurely activities, but it is a responsibility you have committed to so you must give it the time it deserves. It can be easy to get distracted when there are so many other tasks that seem worthy of your time. It is important to be self-disciplined and follow through with the time you have allotted for your studies. That laundry and those dishes will still be there in a couple hours so it’s ok to put them off for a while. Better yet, hand those tasks off to another capable body in the house. They will learn responsibility and you will have that many fewer tasks…it’s a win-win!
Rest, refresh, and rejuvenate! The three R’s as a parent AND a student? We know, insert eye rolling now, but it is important to try. Being a student can be stressful especially when you have a family and a job. It is important to get the rest you need so you have a better capacity for learning and performance. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed refresh your mind with stress-relieving activities such as a hobby, watching TV, or even meditating. Rejuvenate by exercising or just get outside and change your scenery. Take a walk on the beach; go to the park with the kids; breath in some fresh air. It will do your mind and body good. Then get back to the task at hand with a clear mind.
It’s not easy getting back into the swing of school when life is full of commitments, but it absolutely can be done! You are worth the investment in yourself, and you CAN achieve your goals.