Dear Diary,

My daughter was two weeks old when I went back to school. My high-risk pregnancy had forced me to dropped out of college my sophomore year. But the break was temporary. Shortly after I delivered a beautiful baby girl, I returned to the campus, and for the next four years, I was a mom and a student. Add that to also being a working mom, and it can be a recipe for utter chaos. I was stressed and overwhelmed. But I was also focused and determined.

Here are a few tips for moms going back to school.

Know Your Professors

When you decide to be a student, a mom and maybe even an employee, it’s a major commitment. And like with any other major commitment, you need a team. By building relationships with your professors, you demonstrate your interest in the subject and stand out from the rest of your classmates. Plus, if they know you, they’re more likely to go to bat for you if things get a little crazy at home. I used to be very upfront with my instructors that I had a young child with a chronic illness and a job with an on-call schedule. They knew I might need  to leave mid-class and that no matter what, I’d be sure to communicate and do my best work. Most of the time, they appreciated being put in the loop. I’d had a c-section, so I was too sore to sit in a regular desk, but in talking to my instructors, they were able to accommodate me with tables. Additionally, I had read about mommy brain, so I made sure to let my instructors know that I’d just had a baby and might be a little slow on the upkeep.

Organize Your Student Life

Beyond your agenda book and desk calendar, you need a strategic plan. One of my favorite days of the school year was the first one. The one when we got the syllabus. Most outline every assignment and provide the due dates. Your job is to take that information and transfer it over to your planner and calendar. That way, it’ll be much harder to miss amongst the doctor appointments and soccer games. In addition to being organized on paper, it’s imperative that your work space is neat. A cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind. Dedicate a space for your studies.

Involve Your Children

A parent attending school is an adjustment for everyone involved. Explain to your children why mommy needs a couple of hours alone to study. By doing this, the child does not feel neglected and might even feel like he’s helping you. That’s a win for everyone involved! Also, share with them the importance of obtaining an education and what that means for the entire family. When I used to leave for class, my daughter would ask me where I’m going. When I would say school, she replied, to get an education. My daughter is very proud of me for graduating. Every time we drive past my alma mater, she makes it a point to bring up the ceremony and my degree. That, along with the fact that I was in school forever (in her mind).

Plan for the Unexpected

It’s inevitable. Something sometime will go wrong. The babysitter calls off on the day of finals. Or your child gets vomits all over your 75-page paper. These things happen. And although they are technically unexpected, as a student mom, you have to be two steps ahead. That means printing out two copies of your paper just in case something spills or putting a backup babysitter on standby. Unfortunately, because our time and resources are so limited, student moms have to be master planners and psychics.

Build a Strong Support System

The road to a degree can seem long, arduous and lonely. And for the most part, it is. That’s why it’s so important to be surrounded by a strong support system. When I was in school, I knew that no matter what happened, I could call my best friend to vent. I also connected to other student moms and took turns watching each other’s children while we studied. If I didn’t have the energy h or wherewithal to cook dinner, I knew I could always depend on my husband to whip something up. You’re not doing this by yourself. Let the people who love you, support you.

Making the decision to return or enroll in school is almost as big as deciding to become a mom. It’s just as scary and overwhelming, but like motherhood, your hard work pays off.

Hey DFTM Fam–What tips do you have about going back to school after you start a family?

About The Author

Millenial Mom/Senior Editor

Vaneese is a millenial mom raising a 5-year-old daughter in in Omaha, NE. She writes about working motherhood and the constant juggle of the position, none of which was in the job description or discussed in the interview. She loves being a mom, because she gets to laugh and learn daily, experience true, unconditional love and do the most important "work" ever--guiding and loving a tiny human. When not writing for DFTM, Vaneese blogs at Mommy Works A lot.

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