Some unique things and challenges of going back to school as a mom
The prospect of being a mom and going to school can feel pretty daunting to a lot of moms who dream of going back to school. Often, these moms are full of questions like “how do you balance being a mom and going to school?” or “Is it possible to go back to school while raising a family?”
More often than not, what these moms need is some guidance and reassurance that they can actually be a mom and go to school at the same time.
When I got married and had my first kid, I was prepared to face some challenges, what I wasn’t prepared for was life as a student mom (especially as a single mom). So I share my experience and tips to help other moms in school (or those thinking of going to college) prepare for what’s ahead.
I like to be candid about what to expect as a mom going back to school so you can be more prepared than I was. So if you’re concerned about being a mom and going to school, here are some unique things you should know about the experience.
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1. IT’S GOING TO BE TOUGH TO BALANCE IT ALL
The first thing I want you to know is that finding balance is going to be tougher than you think. If you have dreams of going to school, working, keeping a clean and organized home, feeding your kids home-cooked meals every day, while being a super mom and student, I am afraid you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration.
The main challenge you will face is the number of things you need to do. There are lots of things that will require your attention and make it tough for you to balance it all. The only way to do this successfully is to prioritize and streamline your activities.
Start by accepting that you won’t have enough time or energy to do it all, then focus on the most important tasks (like graduating on time, keeping your kids and family reasonably happy).
There’s going to be a constant conflict between wanting to be a mom (and maybe wife) and being the best college student that you can be. That’s pretty normal and nothing that should alarm or stress you. Just do the best that you can, learn to compromise, and be open with the people around you.
Your husband and kids will be more understanding if you are open and honest with them.
2. BEING A MOM AND GOING TO SCHOOL: IT GETS HARDER BEFORE IT GETS BETTER
I have always considered myself to be a “strong” person, but I must admit, going back to school as a single mom almost broke me.
For moms going back to school, things may get harder before they get better. Juggling motherhood and college doesn’t get easier since your needs and the needs of your family will change throughout your time in school.
Even as your kids get older, you’ll face new challenges and have to come up with new solutions. Learning how to make tough decisions will serve you well throughout your college days. If your kids are older, things might be easier in some areas, but you will still have to contend with other things because you never stop being a mom.
Being flexible and accepting there will be numerous and differing demands on your time is the best way to prepare yourself. Because there will be days when you feel like you’re letting your kids and family down. Don’t let those feelings overwhelm you.
Keep working hard, believe in yourself, make changes when necessary, and keep loving your family the best you can.
3. YOU NEVER STOP FEELING GUILTY
Mommy guilt is something every mom is familiar with. You feel guilty when you have to return to work, go back to school, or tell your kid you can’t play with them right now because you have to study.
As long as you understand that mommy guilt never really goes away, then you will be just fine. Mommy guilt will prevent many moms from going back to school or will derail their plans and potential success. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
You don’t have to feel guilty anytime you are doing something else other than caring for your kids. Your anxiety or stress level doesn’t have to increase because you’re pursuing a college degree. Whether you’re going back to school with a toddler or a teenager, you will feel guilty every time you can’t be with them or give them your attention. So no need to beat yourself up over it because guilt never stops.
So if you’re thinking of going back to school as a mom (whether you’re a single mom or stay-at-home mom), let your kids be the reason you want to succeed, not an excuse for not pursuing your dream.
I felt guilty as hell when I dropped off my two-week-old baby at a family child care center because I had to go take the Test of Academic Skills (TEAS) exam. But, I had no choice since it needed to be done.
Truth be told, I still feel a bit guilty about how much time I spent away from my kids during my college days. But, mommy guilt is part and parcel of being a mom, so I don’t let it hinder me.
Going back to school as a parent is tough in a lot of ways, but it’s also satisfying since a college degree can improve your quality of life.
Related: How to Deal With Mom Guilt While Studying
4. YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES WILL DOUBLE
I was a working mom before I decided to attend college full time. Unfortunately, I was still a mom to two little kids. I couldn’t pass on the responsibility to someone else.
While studying, I still had to clothe, bathe, feed, and play with my kids. My children didn’t care that I was also a student. They fell ill, whined, threw tantrums, and did what kids generally do. It was up to me to manage my responsibilities as a mom and a college student.
I say all this not to scare you or make you second guess yourself. I have only one purpose here and that’s to prepare you. Knowing the truth and what to expect is the first step to juggling motherhood and your academics.
I don’t want to paint a rosy picture for you because what tends to happen when people are unprepared is, they quit at the first obstacle. I don’t want you to quit.
So, understand that your responsibilities will double when you become a student. You have to stay on top of your schoolwork while being the best mom you can be. Many people simply don’t know or understand the stress moms take on when they go back to school.
With all that said, let me reassure you that as long as you work on being successful in both parenting and your studies, it can be done. So don’t feel discouraged or inadequate.
5. YOUR SELF-CARE WILL TAKE A BACK SEAT
Let me preface this by saying that this depends on your personal circumstance, number of kids, finances, and course of study.
I went back to school as a single mom of two to study nursing. It was hectic and my self-care took a back seat for the most part. This doesn’t mean you should completely ignore your health and wellbeing, but, be aware that your self-care may take a hit.
Being a mom and going to school means you are pulled in many directions and you often fail to consider yourself. You spend so much time trying to take care of everyone else and push yourself so hard that you end up neglecting yourself.
The only way to combat this is to be intentional about your self-care. While you may not have as much time or resources as you used to, there are lots of easy ways to ensure you don’t completely neglect yourself,
In How to Thrive and Enjoy Being a Mom in School, you will find some ideas for self-care especially if you’re a mom with limited finances. Check it out!
6. YOU WILL PUT COLLEGE BEFORE YOUR FAMILY MORE TIMES THAN YOU’D LIKE
When I made the decision to attend nursing school, I was determined to always put my family first. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I couldn’t keep my promise.
More times than I wish to admit, I put college and my academics before my family. While I don’t regret the decisions I made, they certainly weren’t easy.
Saying no to your kids because you have to complete an assignment or prepare for a test can be pretty rough. Waking up your kids at 3.30 am to prepare them and drop them off at the child care center is painful. But, that’s exactly what I did when I had clinicals at 5 am and the hospital or facility was more than an hour away!
Your mileage may differ, but be prepared to put your studies ahead of your family more times than you’d like especially if you’re a single mom.
So, if you’re a single mom asking: “how can single moms go back to school?” The answer is, be willing to compromise, make some tough decisions, come to terms with mommy guilt, and be willing to sacrifice some family time.
7. YOU SERVE AS A ROLE MODEL
I don’t know about you, but one of my greatest wishes is to be a role model for my kids. I want my kids to like me and look up to me. And there’s no better way to influence your kids academically than going back to school as a mom.
This is true especially if you have school-aged kids. You can learn and study alongside your kids, model good study habits, give them some study tips and school hacks, and succeed with them. Studying with your kids is one of the coolest things you could possibly do.
As a college student, your kids and family will look up to you and you also have the ability to be a role model for your friends and other moms. Your hard work and success will serve as inspiration and motivation for your kids.
My kids have developed a love of learning because they know I love learning and I always encourage them to read and be curious.
Being a college mom rocks in so many ways, but being a role model is one of my favorite.
8. YOU WILL EXPERIENCE PERSONAL GROWTH
Going back to school stretched me in so many ways, but it’s a great feeling to look back and see how much I grew as a person.
Going back to school while raising a family provides a unique opportunity for personal growth like very few things do. For example, you could become more organized, confident, and become better at time management because of all the things you have to deal with.
Whether you succeed in college or as mom hinges in part on how willing you are to grow as a person. So think about it. Are you willing to embrace the challenges that go with the territory? Can you easily change and adapt to new things or are you averse to change? How quickly can you come up with creative solutions when you face obstacles?
The more willing you are to grow, the more resourceful you become.
So, if you’re still on the fence, wondering if you should go back to school, let me say that I don’t regret my decision to go to college and I encourage every mom who wants to go back to school to do it. You will experience personal growth, become an expert problem solver, and you will have so many beautiful life experiences.
Closing thoughts on 8 unique things about being a mom and going to school
Going back to school whether as a single mom, stay-at-home mom, or working mom can be challenging, but it can be done. There are some unique things about being a mom in college, but none of them should deter or scare you.
Lots of moms like you have gone back to school and earned degrees, so there’s no reason why you can’t do it, as long as you understand it’s going to be hard to balance it all, your responsibilities will increase, and you never stop feeling guilty.
Are you a mom in college? What are some unique things you have experienced?
Related mom and student articles
Working Mom Going Back to School? Here’s What You Need to Know
9 Practical Tips for the Stay at Home Mom Going Back to School