Going Back to College As a Parent

Going back to school to earn your degree is a triumph no matter what stage of life you are in. But going back to school when you’re a full-time parent is an even greater triumph.

Triumph for raising your children and leading by example. Triumph for knowing what’s best for yourself and your family and going for it. Ignore the doubt. Avoid the nay-sayers. Take it from me; it can be done, it will be done, it was done.

1. There will be doubt, no doubt about it.

I was already enrolled in an online Masters degree program when I became pregnant. It wasn’t until a few weeks before my delivery that I decided to reach out to my advisor and instructor. Until this point, they had no idea. I notified them of the upcoming event and sought to cover deadlines as necessary.

I explained to both professionals that it was merely the day/ night of delivery that was my concern, but I would be back at it, completing my work immediately after. I had no intentions of slowing down, or being granted any time off.

Both similarly responded that extensions would not be given and that while I had intentions of completing the course(s) successfully, I may want to consider taking a break.

Maybe it was because of these words that I came back with a vengeance. I could not believe they recommended I prepare for the negative: quitting. Maybe it was that very moment that gave me all the momentum to finish my degree in the following year with nothing less than ‘A’ marks. Whatever lights your fire, use it. Let it empower you.

Doubt will surround you. Sometimes it will be self-inflicted. Other times it will come from those you thought supported you.

But the ones who will never doubt you are the most important, your children. When in doubt think of them. Hold them in your arms and physically look at them and you will see all the motivation you need.

Let your children be the soldiers of doubt because someday soon they will be so proud of what you have accomplished.

2. Treat school like it’s your job.

If you go to a traditional, on-campus school, a schedule will be set for you. The advantage with traditional school is that you can separate school and home life more easily.

However, online school as a full-time parent is more popular since it is convenient. If you go to school online, like myself, set a schedule anyway. Treat school like it’s your job; clock in and clock out.

The best part about school online is that you can schedule your time as you’d like. Kids wake up at 7:00? Complete your schoolwork from 5:00- 7:00. Baby goes to sleep at 8:00? Clock in at 7:00, clock out at 9:00; with a little help overlap from your partner from 7:00- 8:00.

You just gained yourself 4 hours of school time per day. That’s 20 (or 28) hours a week! How could you not be successful in 20 hours? There is nothing you can’t accomplish in 20 hours.

When you make a schedule, it helps to make it known to others. It helps family members respect your hours of “work” time. Most of all it helps you avoid the “I’ll get it done later” mindset.

Deadlines come fast in college and if you save it all for ‘later’ you’ll feel burnt out. Finally, if you treat school like your job, you’ll take it more seriously.

Instead of something you’re doing online and on the side, school becomes the forefront. For the short time you are in school, make it the priority.

3. Be your own cheerleader!

Between your fabulous kiddos and the power you are giving yourself by going back to school, you have a lot to be positive about.

For most full-time parents, providing more for their children is a big motivator. Set aside schoolwork to spend quality time with your kids everyday and you’ll keep that motivation going.

Other than your children encouraging you, try to use intrinsic motivation to keep you going. Cheer yourself on, give yourself little rewards.

As I mentioned, doubt may be all around you, but if you’re motivated from the inside out, there’s no stopping you. Try these little tricks to be your own cheerleader:

  • Write down your goals. Use sticky notes to write down your goals for the week. For example, write, “Complete assignment by Friday.” This makes them more concrete. Place them around your workspace so they are a constant reminder.
  • Hang in there. Use sticky notes to write empowering phrases for yourself. “Only I can change my life,” and “Failure will never overtake me,” are some powerful ones.
  • Give yourself little breaks. Even if you are only working for short windows of time, we’ve all been there – focusing can still be tough. If you’re writing a 10-page paper, give yourself a break after every 1 page. Walk around, play with your little ones, visit with your partner. You need a mind break and the body circulation and blood flow will help keep your brain active.
  • Reward yourself. Reward yourself along the way. During your schoolwork, reward yourself with that iced latte after one hour of working. Maybe you’ve had a long week, but got everything done on time? Have a date night.

Waiting can be challenging, but it will pay off in the end, when you have your degree in hand. We can all admit that the reward can feel and be so far away, that it’s easy to lose direction. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to a little extra along the way.

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Going to school online was the best decision I could have made. I highly recommend it.

There’s no accidentally missing class, no traveling long distances to campus, and if you’re a night owl like me and want to work until 2:00am, go for it!

Although some may think going to school with a new baby is hard, I kept telling myself it would be so much easier to complete while my son was young.

There’s no baseball practice, school, or swimming lessons to work around. I could even complete schoolwork with my little babe in my arms.

I’m proud to say I defeated the odds and there’s no doubt that you can too.

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