Making the decision to go back to school as a mom might not be an easy one, but it’s the right decision for some. For me personally, going back to school saved me. While I knew that “mom” would be the best title I would hold, I also knew I didn’t want it to be my only title.
So, I entered my second year during the fall of 2018 pregnant with my son. Completing my first year of graduate while pregnant was exhausting. Not only was I a full-time student, but I was also a full-time employee and carrying around an extra 80 (yes 80!) pounds. Needless to say, I was tired. But I made it through and the experience taught me a lot about successfully multi-tasking as a mom. If you are considering heading back to school—maybe with or without the 80 pounds I carried—here are a few tips to make it through.
Communicate with Your Professors
Although I gave birth to my son in June of 2019, I chose to enroll in online summer courses and take on a full course load for the fall. So, I was very honest with all of my professors right from the beginning; I emailed them explaining that I would be giving birth in the midst of our summer “semester,” but I assured them I would be getting my work done once I was home. Additionally, I knew I would be on maternity leave from work when the fall semester started, so I asked if it would be okay for my son, Ace, to come to class with me. Every single professor I had said yes. I even had some professors jokingly get jealous that Ace wasn’t present in their classes!
I know bringing your baby to class may not be feasible for everybody, but you won’t know if you don’t ask. Communication is key, especially when you are a mom going back to school. Life happens and your professors know this and will honor this as long as you are open and honest. Once I went back to work, we had a different schedule and Ace did have a babysitter. However, he went to school with me for a while during the fall and would make “guest appearances” in the early spring of 2020.
Create a Schedule
When you’re in school, time management is key. And I know, I know, time management is key for moms at any time, but if you’re taking classes on top of it, it may be helpful to employ even more time management strategies such as:
- Create a visual schedule of the day. Color-coding or using time-blocking can help you break down your day into related tasks so you can be more productive, especially splitting between “mom” and “student” duties. The key here is actually not multi-tasking, but grouping related tasks—so, for instance, do housework and laundry on “mom time” and block out any chores during “study” time.
- Establish early bedtimes. I put my son on a schedule of 7:30 pm bedtime and while some people think I’m crazy, I had to allow myself time to get my work done. Granted, there were some nights when he didn’t and still doesn’t go to bed on time but for the most part, we have a routine.
- Use a sitter for homework. If you have a support system that will take your child(ren) for an hour or two utilize that time for homework. Most classes don’t meet daily, so schedule your homework/study time on your off days.
Set Small Goals
Any goal—even the small ones—are accomplishments, so set them for yourself. Your goal may be to write two paragraphs per day until your paper is done or to read five pages of a text in your off time. Setting small, manageable goals can help make reaching those big ones more of a reality when you’re a time-strapped mom.
Organize, Organize, Organize
Grab yourself a planner, those cute stickers (if you’re into them), folders, and highlighters. Organization is key. It is important to keep all your work in order.
Once you’ve received all of your syllabus, input all important due dates in your calendar—whether that’s phone, email, paper planner, desk calendar, or all of the above. Be sure to mark days off too, so those can be used for study time or time to relax. Trust me, you don’t want to do work on every “break” you have.
Have a Set-up for the Kids
OK, if you’re bringing your child(ren) to class with you, you’re going to need to prepare. Here are my best tips for bringing along a baby or older child to class with you:
- Pack a bag the night before. Running late is just a symptom of motherhood, sorry.
- Choose your seat strategically. I preferred either sitting in a back corner or by the door in case I had to quickly step into the hall.
- Have some entertainment options. If your child is small enough and content being in a stroller, I suggest getting toys to clip onto the bar of the stroller or car seat handle to stimulate them. If you have a blanket and are okay with them entertaining themselves on the floor, that is also an option (Ace loved to roll around on his blanket). If your child is a little older, I suggest bringing a tablet (if your child uses one), books, or coloring books with you.
- Snacks are life. I mean, this is true of any age, right? If your child still drinks from a bottle or breastfeeds then have your supplies handy. Find out if your campus has space for lactating parents (mine did) but if I was in a building that didn’t have a mother’s room, I nursed Ace wherever I was.
In addition to having an on-the-go setup, have one at home too. For older kids, carve out a time and make it clear that it’s “study time” for you. You could even get them involved too and have them read books of their own or work on a quiet self-sustained activity that will allow you to get work done. If your infant can go thirty minutes without needing to be held, you may be able to use that time to read or write an assignment out.
Have Faith in Yourself
Every day won’t be easy, but you’ve already conquered half the battle by enrolling in your program. Remember: you are smart, driven, and worthy. You can do it!
Sometimes, making a big decision like going back to school can feel lonely, but I can guarantee you’ll be surprised how much support you’ll have. So, congratulations on being a rock star and moving forward. You are one heck of a mama—and student.
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Reviewed by Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN…