Balance Your Educational & Parental Responsibilities with These 10 Tips
Whether you’re a working single mom trying to get ahead or a stay-at-home parent hoping to supplement your spouse’s income, there’s no denying that the life of a student parent comes with a unique set of challenges. Because both coursework and parenting take up significant time at home, you may struggle to find satisfactory balance.
Below we’ve put together 10 tips to help you (and your kids) through your quest for higher education.
1. Find Your Support System
When you contemplate school, you’re likely to come to the conclusion that there’s no way you can do it alone. That may actually be true when you’re a student parent. Instead of overtaxing yourself and short changing your kids and your classwork, find people you can rely on. Your support system may include:
- Extended family members
- Your oldest children
- Your teachers
- Your partner
2. Disclose Your Situation to Them
Once you have an idea of who’s in your support system, approach them privately. Discuss the situation, and ask for advice and help. It’s particularly important that you talk to your professors about your situation and discuss your options.
3. Evaluate Your Situation
You have a lot to consider when you take on dual responsibilities. You may feel hesitant to look closely at the situation—what if you find out there’s just no way to succeed?—but ignoring the difficulties will only impair your success. Your evaluation should include:
- Childcare – Can you take your youngest to class with you? Will someone be home when your child's school day ends?
- Expenses – Do you need financial aid to cover living expenses? Will you be able to work while in school?
- Transportation – Can your children ride the bus or get a lift from a neighbour? How are you travelling to school?
4. Be Realistic
Before you panic, remind yourself to be realistic. You are taking on an enormous amount of responsibility. Your strategy for completing school will not be the same as a student who is not a parent, and that’s okay. Consider all of your options, including:
- Night classes
- Offsite or online learning
- Smaller course loads
5. Plan Ahead
Courses often require students to look ahead to plan for future exams and academic papers. Create an organizational system to track of all your responsibilities. This system should incorporate a calendar so you can plan for specific events, from midterms to your child’s hockey games.
6. Be Flexible
Unlike other students, student parents often have to face the fact that nothing is set in stone. Develop an “emergency plan” to compensate for the unknowns that come with parenthood, such as illness, injury, and inconvenience. Your plan should include:
- A classmate who can relay homework and class assignments if you can’t make it
- A reliable way to contact your professors
- Emergency childcare
List your priorities when you evaluate your circumstances. Is a fast graduation date your number one goal or do you value spending as much time with your children as possible while pursuing your degree? Is it more important to you to pay off school as you go or to divide your money between school and home, and take care of debt in the future? Your priorities will determine how you fulfill your responsibilities.
When you’re listing priorities, you may want to include every goal you have, from getting stellar grades to sending out Christmas cards. And it’s all right to include those goals in the initial list. But then it’s important to step back. Meaningful achievement of any kind requires focus. If you try to spread yourself too thin, the quality of your accomplishments may suffer. Or you may not accomplish them at all.
9. Learn to Use the Time You Have
Time management is essential for all students, but it’s even more important when you also have to accommodate parental responsibilities. Learn the best times for completing homework and other assignments. This may be during naptime, while your child is at daycare, or in the mornings before he or she wakes up. When you can, schedule your classes to give you time to work on things before you get home so you can focus on your children after school.
10. Set Aside Time
Taking time away from school for yourself or your children seems counterproductive, but without it you may lose your drive. Designate an evening each week for family time, take an hour on Sunday morning to read for pleasure, or even take a semester off to care for a new baby. Invest your time where it is most needed to stay energized, focused, and connected with your children.
It can be difficult to divide your time between the demands of the classroom and the home when both are so important. Use these 10 tips to manage your time and cultivate your relationships while studying as a student parent.