How to Balance College, Work and Family
More parents than ever are going back to school to get college degrees. With the economy requiring both parents to work and with the job market being as competitive as ever more people have to have at least a bachelors degree and even a Master’s to stay competitive. I went back to school after I had children and I worked full time (or more) as well. I got my bachelors in business but switched and earned my Masters in Elementary Education. Looking back I have no idea how I managed with young children and so many responsibilities, but I did it and you can too. (Late nights after the kids were asleep, online classes and coffee played a major part.) It is certainly a sacrifice and a challenge, but parents today can balance college, work and family and make it a success.
Attend Online Classes
I didn’t take all my classes online but having as many as possible to create a flexible schedule was a huge help! As we all know, life doesn’t always follow the schedules we have planned out and emergencies pop up all the time. With online classes you dont have to worry about missing a class and getting dropped from the class. If you had planned to get online and study for a few hours and your child gets sick, you can always move things around or even work from your laptop at the doctor’s office! You can work literally from wherever, especially during your kids practices, lessons and in the carpool line! When you opt to take classes at home virtually you free up a tremendous amount of your daytime hours. Many colleges offer some courses online with a flexible schedule for you to complete the work. You will still earn the same credit for completion of the course and won’t miss out on anything in the virtual environment because there is a lot of online interaction anyway!
Accept Help from Family and Friends
They say it takes a village to raise a family, those who balance many duties have learned the village is something required for success in life. When you are found balancing college, work and family as a parent you must learn to ask for help when needed. This alleviates high levels of stress for everyone and allows your children to have some fun social time and form bonds with others. I paid for my son to go to child care on one of my days off from work when my other two kids were in school, but if you can’t afford that, maybe set up some babysitting swapping with another family. Or find something else that you can trade, like your “famous” cinnamon rolls for a few hours tending your kids. Ask around for help and you will most likely find that there are plenty of parents willing to take your kids with nothing in return! People feel good when they help each other and they like play dates for their kids as well.
I also recommend that if you are able to, budget for a maid service. With less time to follow everyone around to pick up, the house can quickly get out of control. Have one thing less to worry about and let someone else do the work.
Work from Home
If your employer has an option, working from home part of the time really can help you to balance college, work and family as a parent. While this may not be the solution for all employees, check in to see if your employer may be open to this idea. Especially if your job requires you to be on many conference calls, you can pop on a headset and double your productivity by folding laundry, preparing meals and cleaning house! You could always start your own business during this time if it will provide less stress and flexibility that going to work. Teaching music lessons, tutoring students, doing hair, whatever you are good at and qualified to do could be a good thing to rely on while trying to balance college, work and family as a parent! I did in home child care and while I would never think to leave the children unattended for even a moment, it did help to save money on my own childcare. There was no commute which also saved time every day.
Have Family Meetings
A family with two parents who are juggling so many duties may need to start having family meetings. It is important to make sure that each family member’s responsibilities are clear, schedules are aligned, and that each person has a chance to voice how they are feeling and what their current needs are. Each week sit down together to discuss what you all appreciate about the family, what changes you would like to see and just do a simple check in to ensure everything in the household is running smoothly. When you have family meetings you can make them fun too with make your own banana splits or a few games of charades after the conversation is done. Family meetings helps maintain order, closeness and structure amongst the chaos.
Align the Family with Realistic Expectations
Make sure from the beginning that you and your family are aligned with you going back to school knowing that it will be a time of sacrifice for everyone. I tried to do everything myself and I was run ragged and overly stressed. I even fell asleep in class a few times from the late nights trying to be superwoman, supermom and superstudent all in one night. My husband and children resented me studying a lot and I had to try and repair those damages while trying to pass my tests and get ready to give presentations. So, be realistic that you are going to need help and that everyone will need to be on board for this important event in your family’s life! It is a huge deal to go back to school and further your education. It is essential to getting better jobs, and it is a great example to your children to see you working hard to achieve your goals. They will have an excellent point of reference when they go to college one day!
As a parent who has been there myself I would totally recommend going back to school with a plan in place to make it a success. Go for it!