Working Mom Thinking of Grad School? Some Tips to Help You Get Through
Yesterday I graduated from graduate school. Since I was working full-time, it took me four years. I applied to graduate school when I was on maternity leave. I started when my son was about six months. Yesterday as I was ready to go on stage, my eyes were watery and I couldn’t believe I had finally finished.
I am not going to lie, it was not always easy. I think it became especially harder once my son was able to articulate that he wanted me to be home in time for dinner, or early enough to put him to bed. But yesterday, he saw me in my cap and gown and he wanted to try on my cap. Then he told me that my school was awesome.
If you’re a working mom (or dad) and you’re thinking about going to graduate school, or any type of school, here are some tips that I found helped me during me studies:
- Time management is of the essence. Use your time effectively. Plan, use a calendar, share that calendar with your spouse or significant other…but understand that sometimes you will just need to blow off the study session because you are tired.
- You will be tired a lot—take some time to regroup. For some people that might mean taking a semester off to become reenergized. For others, taking off a weekend without thinking of schoolwork. I did the second. From Friday evening to Sunday evening, I would try not to think about grad school, I needed time to decompress from the week.
- Graduate school is expensive—there are many ways to save, I wrote about it
- Ask for help. With the kids, with housework, with studies. Don’t think your partner (or anyone else!) can read your mind!
- Schoolwork will be higher on the priority list than housework, so laundry will pile up, dishes might be dirty, the house might be dusty. If you can afford it, hire some help. It will help keep you sane. If you can’t, don’t stress or feel guilty about the housework.
- Embrace your smartphone. If you don’t do so already. I used my phone to take notes, start writing papers while I was commuting, even read books for school. Since I commute two hours a day, that’s a lot of work that I was able to get done during my commute home. I will be honest though, sometimes I also just needed to sit and use my commute time to close my eyes and clear my mind.
- Talk to your professors (and teammates if any). If you need an extension, or if you need to check your phone while you’re in class because you have a baby at home with the babysitter (I actually had this conversation with my professor). Most will be understanding.
- Research and take advantage of your university’s resources. Some universities offer child-care subsidies, discount tickets, student health centers, special events for students with children, help with babysitting arrangements… all things worth checking out!
- Find someone that can support you. Another working mom who is going to grad school and can understand you will go a long long way. I found one and she was my partner in crime and lifesaver. I was also often inspired by other working moms who had done the working mom/college thing as well; like Lisa Quinones-Fontanez who is also a blogger (and awesome writer). Check out her tips for surviving being a working mom and college student.
- You CAN do this! You may have moments of doubt. You will wonder where is the light at the end of the tunnel… I know I did, especially this last year and especially when my son would say he wanted me to tuck him in and I knew I wouldn’t be home in time. Find inspiration anywhere and everywhere. Take time to regroup, watch a movie, spend time with your kids… they will remind you that it is all worth it!