“Statistics isn’t a Math class.” said my Professor. “Don’t worry if you haven’t studied Math in awhile.”
Several weeks later, I was spending hours WITH a calculator. I understood the problems as much as I understand Mandarin Chinese. I doubted the sanity of my professor and myself. How was this going to work? Could I take care of the house, work full-time, be a student, and not neglect my family? These questions ran through my head multiple times in those early days as a student mom.
Miraculously, I passed Statistics. (Though, several outbursts of tears may have been involved.) With having only four classes left before finishing my second undergraduate degree, this time it is my BSN-completion Nursing degree. I have learned a couple of things along the way. I also chatted with some of the other RMMB student moms about their own tips for survival. Hope they help you on your journey.
1. Right Perspective: What you are doing is important for your kids. Going to school models life-long learning skills. Our world continues to change at a rapid pace, it is highly likely as mature adults they will also return to school. Even with the right perspective, it is still important to make sure your family doesn’t feel neglected. Realistically, something has to give.
2. Simplify your Schedule: Be realistic about your commitments. It might be something you love, but that basket-weaving French immersion class might need to be dropped. It is important to create some extra space to study. Remember it is temporary. If possible cut back your work hours. Even 4 to 8 hours a week, can give flex-time to finish that paper or presentation without going insane. This also goes for your kid’s schedules. Their commitments are our commitments. Scale back to essential activities or ones that require very little parental involvement.
3. Empower your Children to Feed themselves: Breakfast: Set out bowls and spoons the night before. Open up the sealed plastic in the cereal boxes to avoid catastrophes. 1/2 gallon milk jugs are lighter and help to avoid spills. Better yet, provide yogurt and fruit. It is usually less clean-up.
Lunch: Sign your kids up for the hot lunch program or have them pack their lunch the night before.
Snacks: Introduce a snack box. I stock mine with granola bars, raisin boxes, various dried fruit and nut packets. We always have a full fruit bowl on the counter. When the pleas of, “I’m hungry” come fast and furious direct them to these two areas.
4. Invite your Kids to be a Part of your Learning Experience: My kids have watched videos about different nursing topics, listened to TED talks, and participated in collecting data for a Public Health class. The collecting data consisted of sitting in parking lots counting the number of elderly people arriving by car or by public transport.”Boring” might have slipped out a couple of times, but they experienced things I was learning. You can also try doing homework side by side.
5. All Professors are NOT the same: If you find a professor that “gets you.” That understands you are a working adult, with a family, and they assign a reasonable amount of work, take all the classes you can with them. I learned this the hard way. I thought I should diversify my teachers. Go with what is working. Avoid the professor that gives you an insane amount of work and acts like their class is the only thing in your life.
6. Passing is the Goal, Not Perfection: Type A personalities hear me out. You don’t have to get all A’s. Allowing yourself to get a B or C may just be the tip to keeping your sanity. You will still get your degree. D’s or F’s are bad. This requires you to take that class again. Even so, if you do get a bad grade, share this with your kids. I got a C minus on a literature paper. I had the choice to rewrite the paper or just keep the grade. Our dynamic dinner discussion on what I should do gave me great insight into my kid’s personalities.
7. Breaks may be Necessary: Technology provides an amazing opportunity to do school anywhere and anytime. The problem is fewer breaks. As a student mom I finally decided to give myself some breathing room and take the summer off to spend extra time with my husband and kids. As an adult learner, taking a break is acceptable. Moving, having a baby, a new job, or getting married might all be major life changes that it would be wise to give yourself some time off.
8. Study Outside the Home: The laundry, the dirty dishes, and the glob of ketchup on the kitchen floor will start calling your name when you open that statistics book. Suddenly, scrapping ketchup off the floor seems pretty desirable. I suggest finding a study spot outside the home. One student mom told me she reserves a room at the library to study in once a week. Though she never set foot in the library for her undergrad, she now thinks it is the best thing ever.
9. Reward Yourself: What you are attempting to do is not easy. Small and big victories should be celebrated with your family. When I finally passed that statistics class, we celebrated with my favorite meal. (I probably could have used a trip to Hawaii.) Also, good quality chocolate goes a long way. Just saying.
What are some of your tips that are helping you survive as a student Mom?