How to Go Back to School After Having a Baby
If you have a new baby in the house, then you know just how much your life has changed. Your priorities have shifted, and with newborn care now at the top of your list, your schedule is a far cry (pun intended!) from what it used to be. Thought you'd organize your closet and write those thank-you notes? Think again! Chances are, if your baby is fussy or off schedule, you'll be lucky to finish a load of laundry. And even though your sleep patterns are unrecognizable, it’s hard to follow that age-old advice and “nap when the baby naps” when your to-do list is getting longer by the minute!
It’s also likely messy closets and sleepless nights are not the only lifestyle changes taking place with a new baby in the house. A new baby can change the way you think about your future. Reva Seth, in her book The Mom Shift, shares that many of the women she interviewed about life after baby reported motherhood gave them the push they needed to actually do the thing they always wanted to do.1 The new baby was the equivalent of hitting the “reset button.”
For some parents, this “reset button” is a transition back to school. According to Mary Davis, former college academic advisor and founder of the online resource thecollegemom.com, many parents see returning to school as a necessary step to pursuing their professional goals. Davis states, “Some seek further education in hopes of obtaining a fulfilling position.”2
If, like these parents, you’re finding yourself suddenly considering a degree program but are worried attending classes and completing coursework in the midst of such a significant life change will prove stressful, keep reading. You’ll be relieved to learn that there are ways to set yourself up for success, not failure. Following these three guidelines can help you be successful both in the classroom and on the home front.
#1: Get Rid of the Guilt
Feeling guilty about leaving your baby is normal. Parents, especially mothers, often feel they’re obligated to spend all of their time on their family, and they struggle with feelings of self-blame and betrayal when they pursue educational and career endeavors outside of the home. The key, according to most experts, is to remember that it’s quality, not quantity that counts. In fact, in the first large-scale longitudinal study of parent time published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, findings indicate the sheer amount of time parents spend with their kids has virtually no relationship to children’s outcomes. It’s quality that matters.3 So schedule set times for quality activities such as “mommy and me” classes, walks and bedtime routines with your baby. Turn those guilty feelings into positive interactions and show everyone in your house that you can manage to find time for them.
Finally, school can be fun. You’re meeting new people, learning new information, developing new skillsets and getting exposure to knowledgeable faculty and industry experts. You may find the experience incredibly energizing – and that’s positive energy you bring home to your baby and family.
#2: Ask for Help
Let’s face it: caring for a new baby is hard work even when you’re not in school! Regardless of whether you’re a two-parent or a single-parent household, you need physical and emotional support from your friends and family. Make sure everyone in your personal network is aware of your degree goals, and then ask for their help. This can take many forms: childcare, household chores and financial support to name a few. Try to spread the responsibilities around so no one person is overly taxed. And then try not to feel guilty about these requests! This is a temporary state of being, not a permanent life change. Once you graduate, you can look for ways to return these favors and offers of support. It really does take a village.
Since it’s a great idea to leverage your education for the connections in addition to the coursework, take advantage of opportunities to meet people in your situation. Who knows? Fellow classmates might be invaluable resources for you as a student and could be great professional resources when you graduate.
#3 Set a Routine
Your new baby needs a routine anyway, so establish one that meets your needs. Sticking to a good routine can force you to become an efficiency expert – maximizing the quality of your studying when you’re supposed to be studying, and your parenting when you’re supposed to be parenting. The following tips should help you optimize your efforts on either front:
- Refrain from social media.
- Leave the television off.
- Put your phone on silent or place it in another room.
- Ask household members to respect your time.
- Choose a quality environment/activity that eliminates distractions.
Also, with so many organization and scheduling applications available today including Google calendars, Timeful and iStudeiz Pro, it has never been easier to set a schedule and stick to it. Estimate how many hours a week you need for classes, coursework, reading and research, and identify high-quality parenting activities that need to be on the calendar. Then, create a schedule that allows you to accomplish everything.
Know going in that the more you “work your schedule,” the better you’ll get at estimating hours and creating a realistic schedule. Remember, your schedule will need frequent revision too. Course loads can change, projects can begin and end, and family obligations may differ from one month to the next. Be willing to make adjustments as you go.
Not every day is going to be easy, but your education is an important investment. Stay determined, stay positive and look forward to the life that awaits you upon graduation.
Looking for some inspiration to help you head back to school? See our degree programs.
View videos about student experiences at CTU.
1 Evans, Lisa. “How Becoming a Mom Can Actually Help your Career.” Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3027917/how-becoming-a-mom-can-actually-help-your-career (Visited 4/11/17).
2 Bacher, Renée. “Going Back to College.” Retrieved from http://www.workingmother.com/career-advice/back-school-yes-we-mean-you (Visited 4/11/17).
3 Schulte, Brigid. “Making Time for Kids? Study Says Quality Trumps Quantity.” Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/making-time-for-kids-study-says-quality-trumps-quantity/2015/03/28/10813192-d378-11e4-8fce-3941fc548f1c_story.html?utm_term=.f53e6aa33938 (Visited 4/11/17).