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How to Balance School and Parenting
Finding the balance between school, work, parenting and life’s other demands can be a challenge. For many parents, going back to school is important to help further their careers and be role models for their children. To make a successful attempt at balancing school and parenting, parents need to be open about their feelings to their families, come up with a schedule that leaves them with enough time for their studies, but plenty of quality time with their kids, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Tip #1: Make the Decision
When you’re a parent, making the decision to go back to school is tough to navigate. You need to figure out who will watch your children while you are in class. If you have family nearby, consider asking them for their support. If you do not have a family who is able to help, a trusted friend can also help.
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Before you ask, make sure you have clearly detailed your school schedule so you are upfront with the friend or family member about the childcare commitment you are seeking. If neither of these is an option, you may need to seek outside help from a childcare service or babysitter.
A great way to find a sitter is to ask other parent friends for suggestions. Some universities and colleges offer onsite daycare while you are in class. Check with your school to find out if this service is available and what it costs.
Between the cost of tuition and books, going back to school is also expensive. When you make the decision to go back to school, establish a budget for your childcare and educational costs. Although you may use a friend or family member, still prepare to compensate them for their services, even if it’s less than what you’d pay a professional sitter or business. Within your budget should be your family’s day-to-day expenses, such as gas, groceries, clothing, health care and other major expenditures. Make sure you can provide for your family while going back to school.
The upside to increasing your educational knowledge is that you may yield more money in your career once you have a degree in a certain subject. In the meantime though, you might need to cut back in certain areas while you go back to school.
Tip #2: Talk to Your Kids About It
Keep the lines of communication open. Kids, especially the young ones, are responsive to talking about their feelings with mom and dad. If your children are younger than two years of age, it may feel silly to talk to them about your choice to go back to school, but there is some benefit to it.
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Simply saying it out loud makes it feel all the more real for you even if your children don’t fully understand what it means. When talking to your children, emphasize that you are going back to school to improve their quality of living. A degree can be just what you need to secure a significant pay raise and climb the corporate ladder, which is directly related to the type of home life you are able to provide.
The transition may be harder on you than it is for them. Your children may be so young that they won’t even remember you going back to school. If you have older school-aged children, it is still important to talk to them about why you are going back to school.
Help make it relatable by talking about how they are learning in school and that you will be doing the same. Talking about your feelings with your children and listening to their concerns is going to help make it a little easier for everyone.
Tip #3: Divide Time Between School and Home
As a parent, finding the time to go back to school is hard enough. Once you’ve made the leap back into education, it’s important to establish a schedule for your schoolwork and your home life. Your course load will likely vary from week to week. You may find that you are busier than usual during exams at the end of each semester. It is possible to establish an agenda for school and home as long as you can be flexible to whatever changes present themselves throughout the week.
If you’re juggling a job along with parenting and going back to school, you may need to complete your assignments and study for exams in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed. Or you can wake up early in the morning before it’s time to make breakfast. Whenever you choose to work school into your schedule, make sure it is a priority. Setting a designated time each day helps you stay focused and on track.
Maintaining your regular responsibilities in the home is of the utmost importance so that your children feel as normal as possible during the transition. This includes nightly dinners, helping them with homework and attending your child’s school functions. If you and your children always do something special on Friday nights, try not to schedule any schoolwork during a meaningful event. There will be some circumstances that are out of your control, so remember that communication is key.
To maximize the amount of time you spend with your kids while in school, try scheduling your classes at the same time they are out of the home and at school, daycare or during one of their extracurricular activities. If you receive child support from your children’s other parent, then perhaps negotiate more time with that parent rather than paying for a babysitter.
Tip #4: Consider All Options
Parenting and going back to school won’t be easy, but it’s usually worth it. If you think it can’t be done — and sometimes it does seem almost impossible — consider all your options. Many colleges and universities offer flexible paths for you to get your degree. These different options include night courses, online classes and weekend classes. These types of programs allow you to get your degree on your own time and schedule around your family life.
Today, many programs are also offered completely online so that you never have to step foot in the classroom. This can be a great option for parents who need as much flexibility as possible to get the grades and remain an active and integral part of their children’s lives and meet their needs. Other colleges and universities offer a mix of online and in-person courses that you can schedule around your parenting routine.
If you have a spouse or friend who is willing to help you out, consider taking night classes several times a week. This can be a good option for parents of young children who are not in school yet because they can spend time with them throughout the day and have someone step in to take the kids at night. Night classes are also an ideal choice for parents who work during the day and have older kids in school during business hours.
Tip #5: Find Time for Health
Now that you’ve decided to return to the classroom, you still need to stay on top of your physical and mental health to succeed. When you feel good on the inside, it shows on the outside. Going back to school no doubt adds extra stress to your household, but with the right tools, you can manage.
Schedule at least one day a week where you don’t have to worry about work or school. While it’s not always easy to get a sitter for the kids when you already use one during the week, make sure to take time for yourself. Practicing self-care helps you maintain a positive mental state. It’s easy to take on stress or anxiety stemming from school or any guilt you may have from spending less time with your children. Treat yourself to a good book, a hot bath, a phone call with a friend — whatever makes you feel good.
Also, make sure to check in with your children. Your decision to return to school could impact their mental health also. Do something special with your children to remind them that even when life is busy you still love them, are proud of them and that you are always there for them. Your children will appreciate your investment.
In addition to mental health, make sure that your physical health doesn’t fall by the wayside. You might be pining for any free moment you can get to just sit and relax. Schedule in an hour or two every few days to exercise. If you are able, try working out in the early mornings while the kids are still asleep. Even just taking 15 minutes to stretch and practice yoga can have immediate benefits for your mental and physical mindset.
Regular aerobic exercise brings a tremendous boost to your body, metabolism, heart and your outlook on life. Exercise is a great stress reliever, as well as a way to fight against anxiety and depression. When you work out, your body releases endorphins, a feel-good chemical that provides you with feelings of optimism and confidence to carry you through difficult and stressful times.
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