There are so many reasons why its advantageous to pursue higher education while in your early 20s. You have more energy, you may be broke but you don’t know any better yet, and many of us don’t have kids. Sometimes I wonder what I ever did with my life and my time before I had kids.
On the other hand, there are so many reasons why it’s advantageous to wait a while to go after a degree. For me, I know what I want to do with my life and I’m more driven. My kids help me decipher the passions in my heart.
I’m in my early 30s, and I headed back to school to get my Master’s of Business Administration degree about a year and half ago. When I started this journey, I had only one child, but now, I’m a mother to two girls aged four and under. I am definitely not alone. About 4.8 million American students raising children while in college. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women make up about 71 percent of all student parents, and about 2 million students (or 43 percent of the total student parent population) are moms.
Whether you’re a mom thinking about getting a master’s degree like me or going back to school to get a certificate or associate’s degree, I have mad respect for you for pursuing any course of education that’s right for you and your family. If on the other hand, someone or the voice inside of your head is telling you not to do it, because you’ve got kids, you’ve got a job, you are in your 20s, 30s, whatever, I hate to break it to you — there’s never a “right” time. If we waited for the perfect most right time, it would likely never come. It is up to us, as women, to make the times right. Motherhood is as good a time as any for higher education.
If you are thinking of becoming a student mom, keep these things in mind:
- Pace Yourself. Think you will be able to take 15 hours and actually stay sane or cordial to everyone around you? Think again. There’s no point in burning out, so keep a pace that works with your life and the little people in it. Like many women, I’m a full time worker, too, so at the rate I’m going, I may be 40 before my degree is obtained, but I’m doing it — one midterm, one research paper and one toddler interrupted train of thought at a time.
- For most of us in the real world, finances will be tight. But there’s help out there in the form of scholarships, loans, grants and even your church and employer. If you work, go to your HR department and see if there is a tuition reimbursement or assistance program. It often has strings attached, but every little bit helps when you’ve got kids in expensive diapers!
- Remember to ask for help. I’d like to think I can do everything! Of course I can, I’m SUPERWOMAN! But really, you can’t … being a serious student takes time, and it’s gotta be subtracted from somewhere else in your life. Typically the box it comes out of for me is the sleep box or the chores box, because I do not like to short my husband or my kids of my time. I’ve come to live with the fact that my house is nowhere near as clean as I’d like it to be and 5 hours of sleep per night is as good as its going to get. I’m blessed to have help in the form of my family. Make sure you have some sort of support group or a darn good babysitter for mid-term and finals weeks.
- Learn How to Study Again. I really got used to pages with no more than about a dozen words on them, and Facebook turned me into a really awesome internet headline surfer. At first, I couldn’t concentrate on any of my textbooks. I had to practice studying again, and do it where I couldn’t be “as” distracted. Distractions will inevitably come because, well, you are mom, but they can be reduced by setting up a good space like a dinner table after everyone has gone to bed or before everyone wakes up, a spare bedroom or just carving out an hour every other night to go to the coffee shop. Today, I know that I can spend three hours “multitasking” or one hour doing what I actually need to do.
- Think outside the classroom. Online learning is not for everyone, but it is a fantastic resource for time-strapped mothers. I’ve taken two classes online and two classes in the flesh. I prefer actually going to class, and I vow never to take a math-based course online ever again, but for the semester when the due date of my second child was during finals week, the online option was great. There are so many degree plans at your fingertips. Just be careful not to stumble upon an unaccredited program. Always check the credentials of the institution you are thinking about studying with.
- Lastly, student mothers set an example for their children. My 4-year-old knows what college is, she knows that mommy has goals, and she knows they will take time and effort to achieve. She can’t quite comprehend all its intricacies — “Mommy, were you on green today?” — she asks me referring to my classroom behavior. “Yes, baby, I was. Mommy listened to the teacher.” I can’t think of a better way to inspire my kids through my own actions and help them understand what it’s like to dream big.
God willing, I’ll be walking across that stage in my stole and graduation cap in a few years with my husband and daughters, who will be 7 and 4, cheering my name. It’ll be hard, I’ll want to give up, and I will have wondered way too many times if I am shortchanging my kids. But I’m convinced that the benefits will outweigh the sacrifices and it will make me happy.