8 Tips for the Mom Who is a Student

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I started college in 2004 and finished in 2014.

Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not a doctor.

Instead, I took a 7-year hiatus. At first it was a permanent decision. I had no intentions of returning to school after the one measly semester I endured. But after a turn of events, I decided that it was in mine and my family’s best interest for me to finish the education I half-heartedly started. I was more mature, I was determined, and I was ready to earn a degree this time.

Setting a long-term goal like that is much easier said than done, particularly when you are the one having to keep it together deep in the trenches of accomplishing said goal.

My daughter was 3 years old when I returned to school, and just a year before I graduated, I gave birth to my son… during the semester. That was fun. I went to class and turned in a project while in labor… but that’s not what this is all about.

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This is about life as both a student and a mom. Is it hard? Yes! Is it worth? Yes–if that’s what you are wanting to do!

Here are 8 tips for surviving school when you are a mom.

1. Discipline is key. If you don’t have a drive or desire to do what is required, then save your time and money and just don’t! There will be times you want to quit or cry or throw your Finite Mathematics book across the living room. Just breathe and stick with it.

2. Have a village. You will need support from those who love you in your life. Whether this is family, friends, or people from church, do not take these people for granted. They will swoop in and save your tail from time to time. They will encourage you and congratulate you. They will help you with your children. And they will celebrate with you when you reach the finish line. Remember to thank them. Without those folks, you’d be a mess.

3. Organization is your friend. Make a really good calendar. The old fashioned kind on paper. Then also put reminders on your phone. I gave each subject a color and everything in my life was color coded accordingly per semester – in the calendar, in my notebook with dividers, and even my folders. Make lists of what you want to accomplish each day, each week, and each month.

4. Plan things out. Be strategic. By using that handy calendar I mentioned before, you can easily plan out time for big projects. It will keep you from waiting until the last minute, because as moms we know that is when someone in the household will start barfing. Never fails. Also look ahead and check day/time availability for classes you will need in the future. Some of those are FALL only or SPRING only. You don’t want to screw yourself up in the home stretch.

5. Communicate with your teachers. When I was 18, I tried to talk to my teachers as little as possible. This second time around, I would send an email introducing myself, I never hesitated to ask when I had questions, and I would have discussion with them about all sorts of things. I wasn’t sucking up, but at least being known as an eager student helped me out a few times when I was in a bind (i.e. my daughter was in the hospital for 5 days or asked if I could work ahead in one online class because I knew I was having a baby that semester).

6. Be nice to your classmates but do not let them use you. I was polite and friendly to my peers, but I made sure they did not mistake my kindness for weakness. One girl sat near me for the first week of class and we spoke and laughed here and there. Then she said, “I don’t actually plan on coming to all the classes, so I can I just have your phone number and you can text me if there is something important I missed?” I kept that same smile from earlier and said, “No, I’m sorry. I do plan on coming to all of the classes but I’m not going to school for you.” She looked at me like I was crazy  but she left me alone about it. It’s okay to put your foot down. Chances are, you aren’t going to school to make friends and hang on the quad later.

7. You will feel old at some point but many times in a good way. I was older than 3 of my teachers, so that was weird. But there were other times that being older seemed like an advantage. I got to lead group projects (hated having to do the group thing, but if I had to participate, at least I was the leader). It also teaches you how to work well with people of all ages, which is a great skill to bring to a work environment. I also had a classmate who was a younger mother with a younger child and she would ask for my parenting expertise. Little did she know I wing it on the daily.

8. Juggling will become your talent. It will take a lot of effort to juggle work (if that applies to you), your family, and school. But remember to let your children see your face rather than just the back of your laptop. You are doing this for them. Let them know you are still there. Sometimes shutting the books or computer to play Legos while singing “Let it Go” is just what you need to finish that 2,000 word paper later.

Returning to college as a real adult teaches you a lot about yourself without having to backpack through Amsterdam staying in hostels for that finding-one-self-experience. It’s never too late if it is something you really want to do. You’re a Super Mom, right? You can handle anything!

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Erica Baumer was born and raised in Memphis and currently resides beyond the suburbs in the rural town of Rossville. She married her high school sweetheart and together they are parents to Savannah (born September 2008) and Lincoln (born April 2013). When this full-time working mom is not on the job or chauffeuring her two little darlings around town, Erica enjoys bubble baths, Netflix marathons, and eat cookie dough. (If you don’t think those are hobbies, try doing all three at the same time!) Her greatest parenting advice is to be yourself and encourage your children to do the same. Live outside the box, color outside of the lines, and remember that big messes often make bigger masterpieces.