Motherhood is no joke. Going to college is definitely no joke. When you combine the two, one would think about getting a mental health check due to the insanity behind the thought but it can be done!
I had my son at the end of the first semester of my junior year of college at Clemson University. I didn't let the birth of Romeo become a setback. I actually turned his birth into motivation to finish school on time. However, I didn't know all of the challenges that would come along with motherhood and education combined. Now believe me, I can write a whole textbook on the strategy behind graduating college while being a mother at the same time but I entitled this post 101 because I wanted to take you through the basics.. These are the 6 initial tips you should consider when thinking about returning or staying in school as a mother.
1. Build a Village
The saying " It takes a village to raise a child" is completely true. This is the first thing that you need to develop when considering going to college while being a mother. Anyone that says they did it on their own or their self- made is a complete lie! There is no way you can be successful without building a sense of community around you. People that you can depend on and that are in your corner during tough times. More than likely these individuals will be your family members and close friends but because I was 2 hours away from my hometown, my village became my sorority sisters ( I said my SAWRAHS!!!). These women stayed on me and held me accountable. They would take turns watching Romeo so I could go to class and to work that were outside of daycare hours. They challenged me to stay on Romeo's development. They were truly my family and the village that groomed Romeo into the intelligent 5 year old he is today. I cannot stress to you enough how valuable it is to have a community of people that you can count on when you need help. Focus on building that circle of close people and everything else will begin to fall in place for school!
2. Solid Financial Aid
FAFSA is your new friend and savior. For all things blessed come in his name, Amen. Know and understand your financial situation. Calculate the cost of school, books, housing, daycare, etc and make sure that you have enough money to fund your entire living situation not just school. Food stamps, rural housing, section 8, daycare vouchers, and medicaid are all options I tried to cut expenses. You need to be able to focus on being a mom and excelling in your academics. Work needs to be number 3 on your list therefore you need to have a comfortable financial aid plan. Seek scholarships! They are everywhere and they only require an essay and resume most times. Scholarships and grants will be your new best friend. I am not a huge fan of loans but I have taken some out in college when times got tough. Do extensive research and speak with your financial advise on a regular basis to ensure that you are financially stable. Don't let them play with your money!
3. Employment with Reasonable Hours
After reading number 2, you could be a little confused but you can never have enough money when you are a mother! Once your financial plan is set in stone make sure you have a work study or paid internship/employment in the field that you are getting a degree in. This is extremely important and will set you apart from other candidates when applying for jobs post graduation. Work Study allows you to study on the job, work 1st shift and don't require more than 15 hours a week. This extra change in you pocket will help you in case of emergencies as well as up keep with your beauty routine. This experience will beef up your resume and allow you to be well rounded. It's never good to only go to school and come home. You must have internships, extracurricular activities, and leadership experiences to excel above the rest!
4. Communication with Professors Communication is key when attending school as a mom. This is something that I believe professors should know up front. There will be slim to no other parents in your classes and your professors need to understand the family dynamics that you are experiencing. Communicate with your classmates as well when assignments call for group work. There were many times that my teammates wanted to meet at bars to go over the assignment and I didn't feel comfortable because I had Romeo. They understood my situation and accommodated by meeting at my home or on campus for group projects. Never be ashamed or feel like you need to hide the fact that you are a mom. That is not a weakness and in fact it is a strength that sets you apart from the rest. Communicate your priorities as a mom up front and this will facilitate a smooth semester with your professor and classmates.
5. Studying at the Right Time
When you are home with your child, your priority is your child. Be attentive, listen, and engage with them. The time you spend nurturing them is vital to their growth. This is where the challenge of studying comes in. Depending on the age of your child, this can become really difficult. While attending Clemson, Romeo was between the ages of newborn to 1.5 years old. Those years are relatively easy because all he did was cry, eat, poop, and sleep. I could hold him and read because he was so small and because he slept more, I was able to study while he was down. While attending graduate school, Romeo was the ages 2- 4 and that became more active and required more attention and more activities. Understand the age and the attention that your child is seeking and work around that because being a mother comes first. If you lose sleep, it's okay. Sleep can be a little overrated at times if you ask me. Hey if it was easy, everyone would do it!
6. Don't Make Excuses!
This is the most important step of all. Excuses are tools of incompetence. Don't use them. You don't need them. No one should feel sorry for you. No one should pity you or worry about you. You are a mother. You are bullet proof. Don't allow the stress to get to you! What ever you do, have the resilience to bounce back and keep moving. Stay focused on the goal. Get the degree and remain an awesome mom. It will be difficult but you can do it!