Tips for Balancing Family and Education
Returning to school after starting a family is not an easy decision, yet each year nearly 4 million parents make this choice. The dilemma for most parents is figuring out how they will have time for their children if they have to spend their free time studying. The options will vary based on family structure, but here are some suggestions how you can continue to pursue your education while raising children.
1. Have Your Spouse Make Up for Your Absenteeism
If you have a spouse or significant other and you're both working full-time, as is necessary for most families, the decision to return to school doesn't seem as daunting. Your spouse will have to step up and take extra responsibility for the children while you study and perform school-related tasks. Of course, your significant other will need to be on board with this plan, as it requires a lot of extra work on their part. Will they be responsible for all the meals and getting the kids to school on time? Discuss what this will look like ahead of time, before you enroll in that online master's in industrial engineering program.
What this looks like will be different for every couple, and some parents pursuing an education will still want to maintain some sense of normalcy by continuing to do tasks they performed before, such as tucking the children into bed every night. What you definitely want to avoid is becoming a stranger to your children. They still need you.
2. Ask the Grandparents to Help
If you aren't raising children with a partner, and many people aren't, you may need to look to your parents to help while you study a few nights a week. Most grandparents will be happy to spend extra time with their grandchildren. Try to be as flexible as possible, because even though they might be retired, your parents have adjusted to life without children and suddenly having this responsibility can be stressful. There are times during school when your workload won't be as heavy. Consider keeping the children home for a pizza and movie night so they can entertain themselves while you study or work on your paper.
3. Dedicate Extra Time During the Day for School
If finding someone to help you is an issue, you have times during each day when the kids are asleep or at school that will allow you to grab at least three hours a day for school. This may require that you wake up each day an hour before you wake the kids. Mornings are an excellent time to study while the house is quiet. Also, give yourself another hour after the kids have gone to bed. Use your lunch break at work to gain another hour. Take your lunch each day so you don't have to spend time at busy cafes. Eat at your desk so you don't lose time traveling and do your work while you study. That's three hours each day you can dedicate to studying which equals 15 hours a week.
4. Set Aside Time for Family
No matter how much school you have each week, always be sure to make time for your family. The childhood years are critical to who your children will become as adults, and they need your guidance every day. Get out of the house once a week with your family and do something meaningful together. Going out for dinner or just spending time in a park will provide your family with opportunities to talk about their weeks and any problems they may be experiencing.
Continuing your education is important, and ultimately will improve your quality of life. Being present for your children is important, too, and if you need to ask grandparents to step in to make sure your children continue to have role models, you shouldn't feel guilty for doing so. Just be sure they know you are there if they need you.