Going to grad school is a major decision that requires a lot of thought, more so if you are already a parent. While the thought of juggling grad school and raising a family may seem daunting, it’s certainly not impossible; take it from the grad students who are rearing children and still managed to earn their masters’ or doctorates.
If you want to brave the same path, you shouldn’t go in it blind. You may already be fully aware of how difficult it will be to manage parenting and studying, but here are a few things you should expect, specifically:
1. Schools can be family-friendly
Let’s start on a positive note: yes, there are a lot of grad schools that are very accommodating to students with children. So if you want an easier time being a student-parent, choose a family-friendly school such as AMA that offers masters’ degrees online. These schools offer programs designed to help out parenting students with child care, studies, maternity accommodations, and more. Furthermore, professors are generally more accommodating to students who are juggling being a parent and trying to earn their postgraduate degree.
2. Time management skills are paramount
Great time management is the key to managing student and parent life without compromising either or burning yourself out. With that being said, it is not a good idea to sign up for grad school when you know you can’t manage your time as well as you should. If you’re already having a hard time managing your schedule as a parent, then you will need to work on your time management skills before you go back to school. Otherwise, you may find yourself overwhelmed with everything that you have to do, and eventually become drained before you can earn your degree.
3. Sleepless nights are coming
If you’re already not getting enough sleep because of your kids, then you can expect sleep deprivation to get even worse when you go to grad school. For this reason, it is highly recommended to wait until your kids aren’t waking you up every other hour at night before chase another degree.
Even if you think you can handle it since you’re already used to getting a measly few hours of sleep every night, remember that chronic sleep deprivation is not healthy. If you’re always running on empty, you’re not going to be able to give your best, both for your family and your studies.
4. You need to trust your kids more
If your child is old enough to have some level of self-sufficiency, it’s time to start trusting them more to take care of themselves. You’re going to have to spend more time on your schoolwork when you go to grad school, and that may mean less time helping your kids with their basic needs. If you know that they can do something with minimal help (brushing teeth, preparing their own breakfast, and dressing up), let them do it. You’d be surprised just how fast children become independent when you let them spread their wings. And trust us, the extra time and energy you get in return will be extremely helpful.
5. You can’t do everything yourself
As early as now, it’s important to realize that you can’t do everything yourself. Tempting the idea of being a super-parent might be, it is simply not possible to go through everything without a little help unless you want to be in perpetual burnout.
All parents need a good support system to get them through life with their sanity intact, especially when grad school is added to the list of endless responsibilities. When you finally go to grad school, your spouse, family, friends, peers, and professors are your valuable sources of support.
6. You’re going to question if it’s really worth it
For many parenting students, there will come a time that they question if getting a degree is really worth all the stress, sleepless nights, and utter exhaustion. When you get to this point, it is important to remember why you’re doing this, whether it’s to expand your career choices, raise your earning potential, achieving a better life for your family, or all of the above.
During times like these, it’s also a good idea to employ relaxation techniques to help you de-compress, re-center, and get back to what you’re doing with less weight on your shoulders.
As you can probably tell by now, going to grad school while being a parent is not easy. But it doesn’t have to be extremely difficult either. Now that you know at least a little bit of what to expect of the road in front of you, you can better prepare for the life of being a parent in grad school.