(by guest blogger Vera Reed)

While many people try to squeeze in their college education before becoming a parent, sometimes life doesn’t work that way.  Some of us find ourselves swept up with families before we’ve even had time to consider college.  Other moms may decide to launch a new career, or start a first one after having been a full time housewife.  No matter what the reason, being a mother and student at the same time is a subject in itself, so here’s a crash course in the basics.

  1. Set aside dedicated study time

Many moms delude themselves into thinking they can be a model mom and student at the same time.  If your kids are still young enough to need full supervision, this is a big mistake.  For moms with small children, then, be sure to schedule regular study slots and pre-arrange a babysitter.  If you’re already paying for school, additional child care might be a cost you’d rather avoid, so if it’s an option, you can try and find family, friends or older children that will watch your younger children while you’re still on site if needed. 

2. Check in with your employer

If you’re already working and are seeking a degree to boost your salary, make sure that the accreditation you’re seeking meets the company’s needs.  Furthermore, they may have recommended matches to suggest to you. 

3. Set boundaries with your family

Becoming a student means there will be a shift in your role and in the household dynamic.  Especially with younger children, you may need to have a little powwow (or more) to make it clear why you’re suddenly holed up in the den muttering over piles of paper.  As with any source of competitor for attention, education may need to be explained to the little ones.  Because you’ll need to convince them that this foreign time-sucker is important, however, this can be a great opportunity to start teaching your kids the importance of good schooling.

4.  Get the kids involved

This option isn’t for everyone, but if the subject material is appropriate and your kids are at the right age, you might want to somehow involve them in your study sessions.  Of course, this shouldn’t take the place of full-on study, but sometimes teaching things at the basic level can be the best way to learn.

5.  Ask him for help.

If you’re taking the plunge to go back to school, you’ll need the support of your partner.  However, he may forget that your place in the household is going to change.  If your significant other is used to having you take care of meals exclusively, for example, see if he’ll pitch in and free time up for your studies.

6. Get outside support

You’ll need the support of your significant other and family, but outside help is also needed and will prove very helpful. If you have a friend who’s also taking the plunge and enrolling back in school, form study groups or even just time to vent and unwind with someone who knows what you’re going through. Seek the advice of friends and other students, and be sure to also check out  some of the great resources out there dedicated to inspire and expand. 

7. Consider online courses

Online courses are on average faster and cheaper, and offer more flexibility that brick-and-mortar institutions can’t compare with.  If you’re a full-time mom with a limited support system, this might be a no-brainer.   If you’re going back to school to increase your earning power rather than catching up with a long-lost passion, online opportunities present an additional allure for moms:  you can get your accreditation more quickly. 

Even if you’re married to a more traditional program -- or your field of study requires one -- look into your university’s online adjunct offerings.  You can still enjoy your targeted courses in the flesh while getting general ed requirements out of the way online.

No matter how much help, money, or foresight you have, just know that your new double duty is going to take some adjusting:  every family and every mom are different. 

 Vera Reed is a freelance writer from Southern California. She is a former school teacher, and loves writing about education and parenting issues. When she’s not writing she loves spending time with her two daughters. 

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