Editor's Note: This is a guest blog from Dr. Leah Klungness and Rachel Sarah. Dr. Leah has written The Complete Single Mother, and Rachel's blog is Single Mom Seeking. We're really impressed when we hear about single parents in college or returning to school on top of everything else they're doing! Getting an education isn't just important for you — it's crucial for your kids, too. Dr. Leah knows what single moms in college face — she returned to school while also parenting two young kids on her own. It was not easy, but this was her dream. And, of course, these credentials made a critical difference in how she was able to provide financially for herself and her kids. We often hear from single parents in college who are:
- Working full-time and going to school at night
- Completing intensive internships on top of their jobs
- Returning to school as 'older' students to earn or finish a BA
- Advancing their education to get a Master's degree — and a PhD!
Bravo to all of you! We know how frantic everyday life can get: working and parenting can be overwhelming. (Not to mention the fact that you show up as a single parent for your own kids' classes.) We also know that getting a degree is one of the best ways to gain new skills and move ahead. If you're a single parent in college — or consider returning to school — here are our top 4 tips for success:
Write Down Your Goals
Make your goals specific. For example, "I will have taken all my required courses by Spring 2013." "I will do this by taking two courses each semester and one course during the summer. I will attend every optional career seminar offered, even if it is scheduled on Friday afternoon." Make a contract with yourself, and sign your name. Promise yourself to move ahead with a well thought-out plan.
Do not think you can plop your school stuff down on the kitchen table every night. Find a shelf, box, or file cabinet in which to keep your school materials. The kitchen table can certainly turn into your 'school desk' at night, but you need a defined, organized place to keep everything. Otherwise, valuable study time is wasted on looking for misplaced things, or items the children somehow managed to 'borrow.'
Single moms in college do not have the option to procrastinate. Guaranteed, the first time you put off an important school paper, a child will get the flu, and the paper will not be done on time. The best way to manage the inevitable stresses of juggling multiple responsibilities as a single parent in college is to prioritize and NOT procrastinate. When your assignments are completed, you can enjoy guilt-free the time away from the pressures of school.
Learn to Say 'No'
When returning to school, you must learn to say no to demands that do not help you either 1) progress in your studies, or 2) personally benefit you and your children. Lots of us have trouble saying no. If this is difficult for you, keep a tangible reminder — like a picture of a vacation spot you'd like to visit — somewhere handy to remind you that you will enjoy with your kids thanks to the added income and increased job security.
Now, we'd love to know:
Are you currently working toward an online degree? If so, what's your advice on how to juggle the competing responsibilities of school, family, and career? If you haven't made that commitment just yet, what's holding you back? Tweet us @GetEducated!
About the Author: Dr. Leah Klungness is a psychologist and co-author of The Complete Single Mother, now out in its third edition. Rachel Sarah is a digital media consultant and founder of Single Mom Seeking.