I’m so excited today to welcome B-Inspired Mama contributor, Jennifer of Sugar, Spice, and Glitter. Jennifer has shared cute kids crafts and activities here at B-Inspired Mama in the past, but today I’ve invited her here because she has first-hand experience managing continuing education and motherhood. She shares her personal journey continuing her education through distance learning while also managing kids and household as a single mom. She also shares some great information about B-Inspired Mama sponsor, Concordia University Wisconsin, for those who might be looking for an option for online courses. Without further ado, here’s Jennifer…
Busy Mama, Jennifer, Shares Her Continuing Education Story
Whether continuing your education or taking advantage of educational opportunities that you maybe didn’t have earlier in life – I’m a huge supporter of moms pursuing higher education for themselves and their families.
In fact, I’ve been there. And I want to share with you some things I’ve learned along the way.
First, my story. Shortly after I had my daughter, I realized that the psychology career I had passionately trained for was not one that really fit into my future plans for my family. Major changes were also being made in the field that would require me to update my education before I re-entered the work force.
At first, I tried returning to my alma mater – a traditional Ivy League School.
It was harder than I ever imagined trying to balance (single) parenthood with class schedules.
Trying to navigate textbooks in between night feedings.
Even just working out childcare around such a haphazard schedule.
I made it to the end of the semester before going to speak to someone in my department – and was boldly told by the receptionist,
“You made your choice. Most people pursuing your degree delay parenthood.”
I was shocked. But it was the shock I needed – to find something that worked much better for my family.
[Tweet “I turned to distance education and haven’t looked back.”]
With distance education (like the courses offered through Concordia University Wisconsin) I could work my school schedule around my family’s needs. So if someone got sick, or we took a family vacation, or my babysitter was unavailable for a week, I could shift and move things around. Nothing was set in stone like at a traditional school. In fact, right now, I’m taking a semester off to work on my business. But I can return in the summer months and pick up right where I left off.
Also, I’ve found myself getting more out of my course material through distance education – maybe because I am leading my own learning rather than just sitting in a lecture hall. My professors seem more available to me than the ones at my previous traditional university, and I can talk to them over the phone while taking care of my daughter.
Even the costs for distance education are better for me. I don’t have to buy a parking pass, I can save on childcare costs by studying and working on assignments during the kids’ nap time or after their bedtime (unless I really wanted a few hours uninterrupted), and I’m not grabbing take-out while rushing between home and campus.
Are You Considering Continuing Education, Too?
If you’re a busy mom who is considering continuing education, too, here are my best tips to help you navigate and make the most of it while parenting at the same time:
- Establish a Schedule – Figure out and streamline your family’s schedule. Ensure that you have at least 5-7 hours a week per course. Honestly, you’ll probably never get all of those hours, so make sure you’re starting with at least that many.
- “Practice” First – If you’re not currently reading or pursuing any academic pursuits, get back in the habit for a couple months before enrolling. Train your brain to remember what you just read, train your body to sit still through several chapters – these are skills you may need to tune up on.
- Set Up Systems for Meals & Chores – Look into easy dinner ideas and freezer meal recipes. And if you have older kids, teach them how to help out more around the house.
- Consider Childcare – Find an occasional babysitter or friend who doesn’t mind childcare swapping (and set aside the funds if necessary). Having someone on hand will alleviate so much stress if you get a bit behind.
- Consider Distance Education – Distance education utilizes the internet for courses and degrees. You can enroll in Concordia University Wisconsin’s online courses right from home. Concordia University Wisconsin is particularly notable for the range of educational experiences they offer – ranging from free MOOCs and email courses to low price Academies where you earn digital badges to full bachelors and doctorate degrees. And have even tailored their online courses to the busy lives of moms just like you.
- Pick the Right Institution – Make sure the institution you are attending understands the challenges of busy life and has systems in place to accommodate those challenges. For example, Concordia University Wisconsin knows that “Life happens!”, so they have Student Support Advisers to aid you along your educational journey.
- Work Ahead – Get ahead as much as possible. Something that became really obvious to me was that something always happens! Someone is always sick, someone always has a last minute appointment – these things don’t seem as obvious until you’re really stretched thin. Try to work ahead as much as possible, so unexpected life occurrences don’t get as frustrating.
- Reward Yourself – Work in some rewards upon completion of educational goals or courses. Make sure to reward the family for supporting you, too!
If you think that your education could use some upgrading, or you’d like to start preparing for another career for when you’re ready, you truly can do it all. It might not always be perfect, but there are ways to find balance if you start by finding the right fit for your life now, as a mom.
Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have about returning to school as a mom. I’ve been there, and it was definitely worth it!
More Motherhood Inspiration from B-Inspired Mama:
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