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Tips for Moms Thinking of Going Back to School

A mother working on her classroom assignment takes time to play with her young daughter.Give yourself the chance to make this significant transition in a supportive way

Parenting is all about giving your kids the best you can. For some of us, that might mean enhancing our career options, either so that we can make more money, or find more satisfaction. Whatever your motivation, if you’re considering taking the plunge by going back to school, we’ve got some advice for ways to go about it. After all, as they say, “If mom’s happy, everyone’s happy.” So give yourself a break and take the time to think through how you might make a big change like this while minimizing any additional stress it could add to your life and your household.

First of all, keep in mind that you’re not the only one facing this challenge. There are many women out there in the same boat. The National Center for Education Statistics estimated that there will be an 18 percent increase in the number of students 25 and older between 2014 and 2025, and moms are certain to be among them. We’ve got some specific suggestions for ways to keep your sanity while you gear up to head back to the classroom:

Be practical about what you can handle

A good place to start is a close look at how your daily and weekly schedule looks now. Are nights the only time you can reasonably be away from the house? Maybe you have a partner or family member who can watch the kids for a few hours. Would you be able to handle one class or two? Think about time you’ll need getting to and from campus (unless you’re considering online courses) as well as study time. A good way to estimate how much time you’ll need to spend outside class each week—doing readings and studying—is to ask current students at any of the programs you’re considering.

Start slow

If you think you might be able to handle two classes, but aren’t sure, maybe begin with just one and see how it goes. You can always add a second one during the next term. Being ambitious about your time can cost you strain and worry, especially at the beginning. Don’t put extra pressure on yourself, when taking it slow can help you to strike a better work-life balance. The last thing you want is to feel like you’re doing a less-than-stellar job at home as well as in the classroom. Give yourself enough breathing room so you can find your footing. This can take some time, and a few weeks or even months of making adjustments should be your approach until you find a strategy that works.

Seek out additional support

If you have childcare in place already, see whether they’re able to take on the additional hours you’ll need to get to class. If there is a friend or family member involved, talk with them about what you’re thinking and gauge their ability to be supportive and responsive. Keep talking to people until you find someone who can offer some help.

Get creative about study time

You’ll need to figure out when you’re best able to cram in those readings and class preparation. It might be in the early morning hours, before your kids are awake, or late at night after everyone’s in bed and the house is nice and quiet. If you take public transportation to work, turn off the social media and pull out your school books—even 10 or 15 minutes here and there can add up to the day’s worth of reading you need to stay caught up. After a while it will start to be second nature to use those small available windows of time efficiently.

Revisit your “to-do” list

First rule of a working mom is don’t try to do it all. If you’re going to handle this big transition to becoming a student, a few things might need to fall off the lengthy list of things to do. Maybe there are some chores you used to feel were essential, but now you can downgrade to “optional” or do them once a month, instead of once a week. Ask a friend or a family member for some help running an errand that could eat up a precious hour of your day. See if your kids’ friends have parents who can share pickup duties, so you get back some time for a couple days a week at least. Try to be creative about ways to simplify.

It’s also important to ask for help at your school or program. If you’re struggling with a course or a subject, don’t hesitate to reach out to your instructors, deans, or other administrators. This is what they’re there for, and there are lots of other students like you who’ve needed some guidance or support along the way. Don’t be shy about asking—they’re likely to be very responsive. Make the most of resources that are already there.

Be mindful of your budget

Think about choosing a program that is geared to getting you back out into the working world sooner rather than later, so you can begin earning a paycheck. Programs like these tend to be shorter and give you hands-on, practical working experience in your chosen field. Consider a professional training school like the Harris School of Business. They can make the most sense, given your budget, how much time you have to study, your schedule, and your career goals. Harris, for example, offers 11 different programs at campuses in 10 locations in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut. We’re likely to offer a career track that would suit you well, and training designed to get you out there into the work force as soon as possible. Be sure to talk to advisors for any programs you might consider about options for financial aid. It can pay to do some research on whether there might be loans or scholarships available (like the Federal Pell Grant, which includes the “Moms Return to School” grant for part-time students).

Whatever path you decide to take, break down the significant undertaking of going back to school into a series of conversations and some manageable steps. You can do it! Your end goal—to have a career you enjoy and that helps you to support your family—is a worthy and admirable one. With a little experimentation and patience, you can get where you want to go! In the mean time, take a deep breath, and believe in yourself. There are others out there who want you to succeed!

This article is part of the weekly blog of the Harris School of Business. Learn more about the professional training programs we offer at campuses in eight locations. Visit us online to request information, or call 1.800.510.7920 to learn about our career-focused education. We’re eager to help you reach your career goals!