As a newly-wed when people asked why Shaun and I were putting off children for a few years, our answer was always consistent. We wanted to set ourselves up to allow me to be a stay at home mom from the beginning. This is a goal that I in no way regret and I am grateful was able to come to pass. Part of that goal did not come to pass before having kids however, and that was to have my degree completed. The right timing finally presented itself shortly after the birth of my second son and in the middle of a rather intense internship for a part time position I hold on the weekends. So as a stay at home mom, who really does keep a fairly solid schedule, you would think that studying wouldn’t be an issue… right?
Wrong. So how exactly does a parent figure out continuing their education without neglecting their first vocation as a spouse and parent? While I am not an expert on the matter, here are some of the tips and conclusions I have gleaned through experience and advice from friends and mentors.
- A deacon told me that to prioritize life deacons are taught to put their vocation first, their job second and their ministry third. This has been a godsend to me. My vocation and first service to God is my family. Then I need to figure out what is priority number two, which is my job and then school. I do not want my family to suffer because I have taken on too much. Then write out your goals in each of those and why they are important to you to motivate and keep you on track. It is important to my husband and me that our kids see us making our education a priority. If they see us working toward that using that information and passionate about what we are learning, they are that much more likely to follow our footsteps and love learning.
- Find an easy cleaning schedule. A little organization makes the housework much easier.
- Solicit help. Can your spouse take the kids for a few scheduled hours every week so you can focus? If so, do it. If they won’t leave you alone, pack up the books and a laptop and make use of the library or a local coffee shop- suddenly school doesn’t seem so bad does it? Sounds more like a mini vacation! If that doesn’t work, find something else. A babysitter, a daycare, a relative, a mom’s day out program at a local church- there are even some gyms who don’t mind if you use their daycare as long as you are in the building (smoothie bar). You’ve got this!
- Wake up an hour or two before your kids do every day. This one is not possible for me as my kids basically don’t sleep- ever. But once they hit that sweet spot, 12-15 months for mine, where they begin sleeping through the night regularly, this is the best time of the day even for a non-morning person. It’s quiet and you can have your morning cup of coffee before anyone is making demands for their survival on you. Also, take advantage of those naps!
- If your kids are old enough have them play on their own. While children need supervision, letting them learn to play without our direct involvement for set times worked into a routine that is actually healthy for them. Setting specific (time consuming) toys they love aside for those times is a tip that I have gotten from several friends for the future.
- Tell your professor in advance if you know you will have a tough week coming up. They might be willing to give you an extension or open assignments early so you can be proactive and complete them early. Especially with online learning many professors are realistic with the fact that we have jobs and families and while they need to keep their standards they often will make allowances.
- Always hit spell check. If your little ones are anything like me, they LOVE to be active participants in everything I do- and that includes typing when I may not realize what they are doing. Along those same lines, save your work more often than you think is needed. Trust me.
The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.