Some important reminders for working moms thinking of going back to school
If you are a working mom who is thinking of going back to school, there are a few important things I think you should know. Lots of moms go back to school without having some key information, so they end up stumped or discouraged when they run into obstacles.
So, if you want to avoid any nasty surprises as a working mom in college, this post has some useful reminders for you.
It’s important to be well-prepared and informed before going back to college since this can set you up for success. So without further ado, here are some important things you should know as a working mom going back to school.
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1. TIME MANAGEMENT WILL BE YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE
I have read countless articles about the biggest challenges facing moms in college, and without fail, time management makes the list every single time.
As a parent in college, you will face a lot of unique challenges, but your biggest challenge is going to be finding the time for everything. Between work, family, and college, you will be hard-pressed to find enough time for yourself. How you manage your time while in school will determine whether you succeed or fail.
One question that haunts many working moms who want to go back to school is, “how do you balance one area of your life without completely sacrificing another area?” This is a legitimate question and it’s one you should answer before you decide to go back to school.
So, for example, you have to figure out how much time you can devote to your academics while working. Think about questions like, should I go to school part-time instead of full time?
Can I reduce my work hours? Is online college a better option and fit for my circumstances? How many hours a week can I devote to my academics without feeling overwhelmed?
Also, think about ways or tools that can help you manage your time better as a working mom in college. What can you do to ensure you will have enough time to devote to every area of your life? What changes can you make to free up some extra time?
These questions are very important, so think about them carefully and make sure you are happy with the answers, and you have a plan for balancing work, family, and school.
2. RELIABLE CHILD CARE IS NON-NEGOTIABLE
As a working mom, you already know the importance of having good and reliable child care, but it’s also worth mentioning again. You need a reliable babysitter or childcare provider to be able to pull this off.
A reliable babysitter is someone you can count on at all times, someone who is flexible, and also willing to work with your schedule especially if you have a schedule that changes all the time. Your babysitter or childcare provider should also be affordable.
I have heard stories from lots of moms who ended up dropping out of college because they couldn’t afford to pay for a babysitter or find reliable child care for their kids. This is a big one for moms, so make sure you sort this out before going back to school.
While some professors and colleges are understanding and allow moms to bring their kids to class, note that you can’t rely on this because not all professors will allow it.
Whether it’s a registered childcare provider, friends, or family, having a reliable babysitter will ease some of the pressure and allow you to focus on your work and academics.
3. DON’T EXPECT EVERYONE TO UNDERSTAND OR CHEER FOR YOU
As a working mom going back to school, it would be nice if your employer and the people around you were supportive and cheering you on. Alas! That isn’t always the case.
Going back to school as a parent is hard enough, but it’s worse when you don’t have supportive people around you. So, you want to be prepared if you are faced with an unsupportive employer, family members, or even worse, a spouse!
What if your boss or employer isn’t willing to work with you or allow you some flexibility? Can you really cope with the demands of your job, family, and college?
Some employers are pretty nice when they know you are in school and also a mom. For example, many years ago when I was studying for a professional certification, I signed up for some classes. My boss was pretty understanding. On the days I had classes, he allowed me to leave work early and also gave me some time off to study before my exams.
Of course, whether your boss supports you or not also depends on the type of employee that you are. Are you productive at work? Can you be easily replaced or are you indispensable?
Like every relationship, you get what you put in (there are exceptions), so think about that before asking for favors or support from your employer or other people in your life.
So, the point I am trying to make is that be prepared to fight alone for your dream of going to school. You may face some opposition, so be prepared to work around it, and don’t let anyone or anything stop you from pursuing your goal.
4. YOUR JOB IS THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY IF IT PAYS THE BILLS
It would be nice if you didn’t have to choose between your work and education, but as a working mom going back to school, you may have to prioritize one over the other.
If you are a one-income family or you are the breadwinner, your job is going to have to take priority over college. I know there are moms who have managed to go to school full time while working full time. It can be done but it does take a toll on you.
If you can’t handle full-time employment with full-time college, consider going to school part-time or taking online classes. With so much economic uncertainty, having a job that pays the bills is a blessing right now, so do everything you can to hold on to your job.
So, plan your school schedule around your job until you can focus more on your education.
Related: How to Simplify Your Life While Studying, Working, and Being a Mom
5. YOUR FAMILY TIME WILL SUFFER
Prepare for your family time to take a hit when you go back to school. If you are lucky and have supportive people around you, it probably won’t be too bad.
Like I said at the beginning, finding the time to do it all is going to be one of your biggest challenges. Many working moms who return to school have had to sacrifice time with their family since that’s the only way they can juggle everything.
It’s very hard to balance it all when you are going back to school as a parent, all you can do is do the best that you can. Make the most of whatever time you have to spend with your family because, at the end of the day, your family relationship is very important.
Be intentional about how you spend your time, do as many activities as you can with your family, and learn to adapt. For example, I learned to study with my kids around.
In the past, I couldn’t study unless everywhere was totally quiet, but that wasn’t going to happen, so I let my kids play quietly while I did an assignment or studied. I did a lot of math with my kids around because it didn’t require my full concentration. I also took some online tests with my kids playing in the background.
So, you can actually find ways to spend time with your family even if it’s not as much as you would like, but it’s still better than nothing. Remember, it’s also temporary!
6. THE TIMING IS NEVER GOING TO BE RIGHT
There’s no perfect time for going back to school while raising a family, so you might as well just get it over with. When you are a mom, the timing is never really going to be right unless you want to wait until you become an empty nester.
So, don’t worry too much about the timing or beat yourself up for choosing to go back to school at this time. Since there’s no time like the present, all you can do is make the most of your circumstances, and do the best you can.
As long as you do proper research, take the time to create a plan, and put some things in place, you should be good to go.
I went back to college with a two-year-old while three-month pregnant. The timing wasn’t right then, but I knew if I didn’t bite the bullet, I would keep pushing things off looking for the right time to do it.
It was hard and stressful (possibly the hardest thing I did), but we survived and we are better off for it. So, don’t waste your time looking for the perfect time because it may never come.
7. YOU WILL FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT ALL
If you have been a mom for a hot minute, you are probably familiar with mom guilt. That feeling that you aren’t doing enough or that you are failing your kids. Well, you will probably feel even more guilty when you go back to school.
You will feel guilty when you can’t play with your kids because you have to study or say no to overtime even though your family really needs the extra money. But, you know what? It’s okay!
You can still pursue your dream even while feeling guilty. As long as you don’t allow mom guilt to overwhelm you or force you into making bad decisions, you will be just fine.
Mom guilt is real and is something we all have to contend with, so don’t let it bother you too much. As long as you are being productive and trying to improve your life, guilt can take a back seat.
8. FLEXIBILITY AND CREATIVITY ARE THE KEYS TO SUCCESS
What’s the secret to success for a working mom going back to school? Being flexible and creative!
You are going to have to adapt and be willing to make some changes if you want to work, go to school, and be a mom successfully. Don’t insist on doing things the way you have always done them or try to keep the same schedule.
Being a mom and going to school will require you to change things up, create new routines and schedules for your new way of life. For example, you may have to change bedtimes, when you wake up, how often you shop and how you shop, what activities you can participate in, or how many times you get to hang out with your friends.
While some changes will be minor ones, don’t rule out making some major changes to your life to fit everything in. The key is to be flexible. As long as you are flexible and open to new ideas, you should be able to handle working and going to school.
9. A POSITIVE ATTITUDE WILL TAKE YOU FAR
There are lots of moms who give up on the dream of going to college before they even start. These moms hear about all the things they need to do or the sacrifices they have to make, and they think it’s too much for them or they don’t have what it takes.
As a working mom going back to school, you know that this is going to involve making some sacrifices, so you need a positive mindset and a positive attitude to keep working on your dream.
A positive attitude will take you far and allow you to see opportunities where some see only obstacles. Does this mean you will never feel discouraged? No, it doesn’t! But, you won’t get down on yourself or beat yourself up when life gets hard.
With a positive attitude, you can stay focused and avoid burnout.
So, never give in to negativity no matter the situation. There’s always a way out no matter how bleak things look.
You can use affirmations or a gratitude journal to help you maintain a positive attitude. It’s amazing how much better you feel when you list all the things that are working in your life.
Stay positive and don’t let negative emotions control your life or decision-making.
Closing thoughts on working mom going back to school? Here’s what you need to know
Going back to school as a working mom isn’t easy but it can be done. Now that you know what to expect when you return to college, you can create a plan and take adequate steps to ensure you are prepared for what lies ahead.
Always remember to be flexible, keep a positive attitude, and don’t let guilt stop you from enjoying this season of your life. Also, there’s no perfect timing when you are a mom going back to school, so just do the best that you can right now.
Are you a working mom going back to school? What do you dread the most?
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