Lynsey Thibeault, Academic Advisor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Two years ago I wouldn’t have been fully equipped to write this article. That is when I became a parent to my son, Oliver. Then two months ago I enrolled in a class and am now experiencing what many of you deal with everyday: the balancing act of being a parent and a student. In one word, it can be overwhelming. Here are some strategies that I’ve learned that may help you.
Schedule in Study Time: A parent once told me that she wasn’t quite honest with her family about her class meeting times. I don’t normally encourage dishonesty, but I loved her plan! She simply pretended her classes ran two hours longer than they actually did so that she could complete her schoolwork on campus instead of at home. This became her weekly schedule for the semester and she and her family planned around it. This may not be doable for everyone but the idea here is to schedule those hours to study. Treat it like a dentist appointment or a PTA meeting and put it on your calendar. You’ll feel better if you can concentrate on school during those periods and focus on your family during the rest of your week.
Meal Planning: Organizing groceries and cooking meals means spending less time on them and more time on other priorities. I do my meal planning every Friday on a piece of notebook paper. On the top half of the paper, I list out my family’s seven dinners for the week (some nights are leftovers). On the bottom half, I write the grocery list. This means I only have to figure out the meals and visit the market once for the week. When I get home, I put my list of meals on the fridge and follow it. Need help to get started? There are great meal planning websites, such as EMeals.com and PlateJoy.com, that will send you personalized meal plans for a fee.
Don’t Forget, You’re a Role Model: Okay, I’m going to be honest. Oliver watched more screen time last week than the American Academy of Pediatrics would have liked. Don’t judge. This is real life and I had homework to do, among many other things. I wanted to spend all of that time playing with Oliver, but it wasn’t possible. I had to remind myself that I am a role model. Devoting time to further my education and visit and take care of family are all priorities I want Oliver to also have some day. What better way to help him learn these things than actually modeling them. A college degree is an investment in your family and your future. The time spent in college is temporary, but the dedication you model for your children will leave a lasting impression.
Find Your Support System: Surrounding yourself with people who build you up is critical. What you’re doing isn’t easy, and it’s even more challenging alone. Support is one of those things where some people have more than they need and others struggle to find it. If you are the latter, know that there are people here at USM who can support and cheer you on such as: Advising, Campus Life and faculty. Believe in your path and let us believe in it with you. Another local resource to help you is the G.E.A.R. Parent Network (crisisandcounseling.org/services/gear).
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. Please e-mail me any tips that work for you, so I can share with parent-students looking for that balance (or that I can use for myself)!