Schedules, homework, studying, lectures, labs, textbooks... all are icons of college students, and that arsenal of tools for success doesn’t change because you’re a parent. If you’re contemplating applying to an institution of higher learning, or you’re neck deep in a course of study already, here are some tips that student parents passed on that helped them be successful.
You already know that your child’s naptime or bedtime is an excellent point to get stuff done — whether it’s housework, catching up on your favorite TV shows or putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) for school. But many moms report that homework is easier outside of the home. Studying or doing homework at home can be difficult if not impossible, especially if you have young kids, so try to pack in as much as you can in between classes while you’re still on campus, instead of planning to do homework at home. “I have to use my breaks between classes wisely, as I can't get any schoolwork done at home,” said Vicki, mom of two young girls.
This is a suggestion that will not work for every child, nor every professor. When you take a child to class, you not only have to worry about taking care of your child’s needs, but the learning environment of those around you. “I took Olive to class from 48 hours after birth until she was 6 months old,” Vicki shared. “It was very challenging to do that. I had a hard time balancing learning with attending to my baby's needs and with ensuring that I was not a distraction to my classmates or professor.”
You will likely need to rely on family and friends, and possibly hire a babysitter. Sarah, mom of two, recommends that college-student parents accept help when offered — you don’t have to be a martyr to be both a good student and a great parent. “Don't be afraid to accept help from family and friends when offered, even if you find them annoying, and if they are not the ideal Mary Poppins caretaker (sometimes the TV is on, sometimes there is junk food, and so on),” she told us.
Many colleges and universities have courses that you can take online. The format will differ, but it really alleviates the pressures of needing childcare or having a baby who breastfeeds. “I took a lot of online classes and got most of my studying for the first year done after my husband and daughter were in bed, because I couldn't concentrate while she was awake,” shared Brittney, who is expecting her second child.
You might imagine that taking time for yourself is a distant impossibility, considering the amount of work, juggling and stress that you deal with on a daily basis. But the moms we spoke with insist that the benefits of “me time” are worth it. “I find that I can concentrate on my school work so much better, and feel more like an actual human being if I spent an hour beforehand painting my nails and watching a trashy TV show,” Brittney told us. “I can't always fit it in, but when it's possible I make sure that I do!”
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