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Save Your Sanity While Going Back to School: A Busy Mom’s Guide

So you’ve decided it’s high time you finish up the coursework for your degree, or maybe you have recently been laid off and think this might be the perfect opportunity for a career changes. Whatever the reason you’re going back to school, you’ve got a tough roe to how. Carrying even a partial course load of college-level classes while holding down a full-time job — not to mention caring for your family — can be a challenge. 

Then again, you’re not one to shy away from a challenge. You can absolutely do this! Ready to learn how to keep your head above water, help everything run smoothly while you study, and come out the other side of this experience stronger and smarter? Read on for a list of essential tips for mothers going back to school.

Consider an Online Education

Enrolling in an online degree program makes a lot of sense — especially for an adult student who’s already got her hands full juggling work, spouse, kids, and maybe even taking care of an elderly family member. Not only are online colleges and universities usually less expensive than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, but they also let you attend lectures, read material, study for exams, and submit assignments as your schedule permits.

Watch a case study while you’re making dinner, check in with your classmates in a chat room or forum at the same time you are nursing your newborn, or listen to a lecture as you commute to work.

Rally the Family’s Support

Before you sign up for your first class, sit down with your family and communicate just how important it is that they support you. After all, their well-being is probably one of the top reasons you’re pursuing your degree to begin with! 

Make a chore chart or use a smartphone app to delegate household responsibilities; your spouse will likely have to take up much of the slack, but even very young children can be tasked with simple chores like sorting laundry, setting or clearing the dinner table, watering plants, or feeding pets. 

The benefit here is twofold: you will gain precious study time, and your children will gain confidence and practical life skills.

Ask for (and Accept) Help

If your sister offers to host a cousins sleepover so you can write a term paper, say yes. If your BFF wants to bring a couple of pizzas or a big batch of homemade chili to feed your crew, say yes. If your coworker volunteers to quiz you on vocabulary words during the lunch hour, say yes! 

You see where we’re going with this, right? You might have a hard time admitting that you need help, or even accepting it when it’s freely offered, but it’s imperative that you learn to receive what others want to give.

In addition to expecting your spouse and children to each carry their fair share of the burden, accepting help from other family members and friends will be a huge boon to your own sanity. 

Lower Your Expectations (On Some Things)

Adding such a substantial commitment of time and energy to your already busy schedule is going to take its toll if you don’t make it a point to readjust your priorities. Lower your expectations when it comes to things like how clean your house is, the amount of screen time your children get, or making elaborate meals and snacks from scratch. You’ll drive yourself — and everyone else in the house — crazy if you can’t let go of your usual high standards.

Of course you want the best for your family, but a few extra episodes of Peppa Pig, a living room that’s not quite spotless, or the occasional fast-food meal aren’t going to hurt anyone in the long run. 

Don’t Sell Your Self-Care Needs Short

All too often, Mom’s needs — let alone her wants — are the last to be met. And while your selflessness may feel righteous, it can do you more damage than good in the long run. Unless you make certain to find room in your schedule for self-care, you are going to burn out, no two ways about it.

You might think that taking the time to go back to school in the first place is selfish, but remember that you’re doing this for the collective good of the entire family. So insist on having at least a few hours each week of “Me Time” to relax and recharge your batteries, on top of the time you set aside for studying.

Final Thoughts

Going back to school might not be the easiest endeavor you’ve ever undertaken, but your eventual success will be that much sweeter after you’ve invested some sweat equity into it. Drum up the help of your loved ones, friends, and fellow moms. Remember that this stress level won’t be the status quo forever. And forgive yourself for those cobwebs and baskets full of unfolded laundry. 


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