Starting a family changes your life in many ways. When you’re pregnant, it’s normal to think about how different your life will be in a very short time. You’ll have to make some sacrifices (including sleep!), it’s true. But one thing you shouldn’t have to sacrifice is your education or your desire to keep growing.
It’s not impossible for a new parent to go back to college. Whether you’ve never taken collegiate classes before, or you chose to stop to focus on your family, you can always go back. You can start over completely, or finish what you already put in motion in order to get a degree.
But parents (especially single parents) who choose to go back to school do face a unique set of challenges. You’ll have to balance your time between classes and your child (and maybe even a job), you might experience fatigue, and you’ll have to devote extra attention to both sides of your life, too.
Thankfully, having a support system in place and knowing your own limitations can make a big difference. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some strategies you can use to go back to college as a new parent.
Getting the Support You Need
One of the biggest obstacles you’ll face as a new parent going back to school is feeling like you have to do it all alone. If you try to go about it that way, it’s going to be much harder, and you’re more likely to quit or burn out quickly.
Raising a baby on your own is difficult. If you’re a single parent, going back to school can be more of a challenge because you don’t have a spouse at home to take care of the baby when you need time to attend class or study. It can also be more of a financial strain on single parents surviving on only one income. Some single parents even avoid going back to school because of the lack of affordability, the workload, or the inability to find clear information on what to expect.
If you’re married or living with your child’s other parent, rely on them for support. Talk to them about what you need and why you want to go back to school. Work out a schedule and a budget ahead of time that makes the situation comfortable for both of you.
If you don’t live with someone, it’s okay to rely on family members, friends, or even a childcare provider for support. Some colleges even provide on-campus daycare for parents in your situation.
Unfortunately, “mommy guilt” is a real thing, and it can be hard to disrupt your routine with a new baby if you feel like you’re leaving them alone or you should be spending more time with them. But if one of your reasons for going back to school is to better your career or your life in general, it’s worth it to reach your long-term goals.
Value Your Free Time
Newborn babies take up a lot of time. They require a lot of attention. If you already have other children, you’ll have even less time for yourself. It can feel overwhelming to balance yourself between school and your children, so don’t take any free time you have for granted.
Take an extra hour to study when your baby naps, or you can put them to bed early if they’ve had a long day and use that time to get your homework done. You’ll have to find unique ways to make everything work for you, and it might have to be around your baby’s schedule.
It’s also important to provide yourself with a little self-care during your free time. Get some extra rest, take a few hours off and go see a movie, or go to the spa. If you don’t have that kind of time, even spending 10 minutes in the morning meditating or doing yoga can help to calm your nerves and reduce stress.
Finally, use some of your free time to play. Babies are fun and can always make you smile and laugh. Taking time out of your day to play with your baby will strengthen your bond and help you to relax.
Think About Your Future
Before you decide on heading back to college, think about why you really want to. Is it just a personal goal you want to achieve? Do you want to get a better job, or start a completely new career? Are you willing to go the extra steps to put yourself out there with networking events, social gatherings, job fairs, and interviews when you graduate?
There are a lot of questions you’ll have to ask yourself along the way in order to make the experience worthwhile for you. College isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t the only path to success.
With that being said, if it’s right for you, then go for it. It’s a very personal decision you’ll have to make, especially with a new baby in your life, and it is doable. College can be a wonderful way to reach your goals and to show off your accomplishments to your child one day, showing them they can do anything they put their mind to. If you’re willing to make sacrifices for the betterment of your future and your child’s future, then going back to college is a great way to achieve your dreams.