When I started grad school, I was already pregnant. It was intimidating, and I changed daily from excitement, to determination to, "What am I thinking?!"
I knew that most of my fellow classmates would be younger and without kids. I knew that I would have to work extra hard.
My job as a mom already left little time for personal pursuits, so trying to squeeze in classes, studying, networking and even just changing my mindset from mom to student was a huge challenge.
Not impossible, though. I'm happy to say I made it through (relatively) unscathed, and I'm so glad I took the leap. It's proven to be a huge benefit not just for myself, but for my family.
If you are thinking about going to graduate to school as a parent, here are some tips that will help you pursue your dreams without going completely insane:
1. Make a Human Connection
Sure, there are the lessons, and the speakers, and knowledge, but at the end of the day, your academic career is made up of people. Professors, fellow students and advisors can all be a resource for your success after graduation if you become a real person to them. Don't hide in the corner of the classroom. Look for ways to ask questions, talk to them after class, help them get to know you by your interests and talents.
2. Leverage Your Life Experience
By this point you've done a lot, not to mention created new life. You may not be 22 with a ton of free time to take every internship in the city, but you do have life experience which can be an asset if you show its worth.
- Parents are pros at multi-tasking. There's no better boot camp for time management than having to manage a bunch of kids with different schedules, and doctors appointments... and eating habits, for that matter.
- Relationship ManagementYou've upped your interpersonal skills over these past few years of being a mom or dad, probably without even you knowing it! Managing fights, calming tantrums and avoiding mayhem has given you new insights into people and relationships. Now that you can read your kids like a book, you pick up on other people's vibes a lot better too. Relationship management and all those interpersonal skills you've gained are a valuable asset in the field you are studying.
- Work ExperienceYou may have been working, still are working or were working before you had kids. Mention your roles as your chatting with classmates or professors. Mention the companies you were part of and how you are using your experience in your educational path. Even if your previous job was in a different field than the one you are now studying, the fact that you were working professionally means you have skills to offer.
- Community DevelopmentMaybe you haven't worked at all and you've been a full-time mom! Well, share what kind of volunteering you did or still do. Community involvement and development are things you know about well. Are you involved at your kid's school, help with soccer or cub scouts, are part of a book club or a moms meet-up? Talk about ways you are engaged and leverage that to show your capacities.
However, this isn't an excuse to miss deadlines, act frazzled or talk incessantly about your children! It is a chance to gain respect, connection and understanding. This will help when you have a kid emergency and you can't make a deadline (which will happen... more than you'd like.) Most of the time, a professor will be flexible about your deadline if you are open about your child's new broken arm, etc. These days there are numerous ways to make school manageable including online classes or skype for office hours. Professors want you to succeed, and can offer you alternatives, but they need to know what your challenges are in order to help.
4. Stay on Task
I can't stress this enough. Schools run on deadlines, so you better remember what those deadlines are! I have chronic Mommy Brain, so I would input each deadline in my phone calendar and set alerts to remind me. These same deadlines would be written down in my planner, so that with or without my phone, I would stay on task. Calendar alerts saved me, more than once. You just can't keep everything in your head, so let your phone take on some of the work load. Whatever tools you use to keep your life on track, you'll use them twice as much during your time in grad school.
5. Remember Your Confidence
Whatever you do, don't psych your self out. The two and half years I did my graduate work flew by and so many doors opened from there. It will be worth it. You can do it. And your children will see you pursuing your dreams and valuing your education. That alone is a great reason to go for it, but you'll see there are many more.
If you are still thinking about grad school and looking up programs, then it sounds like your ready. Go for it! It'll be easier than you think.
Read more at WintheKids.com