I am trying to type this while keeping the “z” key of my laptop keyboard in the near vicinity of where it is supposed to reside. Yesterday, my toddler was playing with my computer. I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I was getting ready to do some errands for the day. Unfortunately, I didn’t do much by way of trying to shoo him away from the computer because my “mommy” brain was busy, concentrating on other things. He was quiet, occupied, and not getting into the toilet or trash can. Unfortunately, my overlooking of his “quiet” play resulted in some damage to my keyboard. So far, I have not figured out how to reattach the key. Ugh!
You know, it is funny when you go back to school after having been out for such a long time. It can feel a little bit intimidating. Sometimes, being a stay at home mom can make your brain feel like it is shrinking day by day as you pick cheerios out of your hair, wipe the butter off your little ones’ faces, and scoop socks out from under the couch. It is easy to wonder if returning to school is even possible. Well, I am here to tell you that it is and that you are probably better equipped to handle the rigors of the classroom now than you were when you were 18.
I am glad I went back to school. Here are a few tips that I hope will help you as you consider deciding to hit the books.
1. Take a life inventory before you commit to a school program:
I already knew what I wanted to study so it was easy to figure out which classes I needed to take to reach my goal. If there is a field of study you have been marinating in your brain for a while, maybe that is a good indicator of what you pursue in your studies. As mature adults who have had the life experiences of getting married, running a household, raising children, and just living. This experience amounts to a better ability to figure out what type of future career best fits you and your personal strengths. By now, you probably know if you are outgoing and enjoy engaging with others or if you prefer to work on projects alone. You know how your brain thinks and what types of tasks suit you best. My mom always said she enjoyed doing repetitive tasks like laundry, etc. If something like this floats your boat, look for careers that involve repetitive tasks. If you are awesome at putting out fires and solving problems, look for careers that involve these types of skills.
- What subject areas on the internet do you find your self spending most of your time?
- What fellow mom’s careers have sparked your interest when they talk about their work?
- What programs are easily available nearby and/ or online?
These factors all played into my career decision and schooling path. I was always interested in looking up health-related information on the internet and used to spend time as a child, reading my Mom’s nursing books. As a parent, I try to learn as much as possible about the various ailments and their remedies/ comfort measures that strike our family. To me, nursing was a good fit and as I have taken my classes, I think I made a choice that goes along with my own personal interests and skills.
2. Have Confidence in your abilities:
I know this sounds cliché but it is an obstacle in the way of starting a degree program for many of us parents. For me, the idea of going back to school was intimidating because I was not sure I still had the same mental capacity that I did in my early 20s. I kept putting it off with plenty of “good” excuses. Staying home, wiping boogers and butts, and speaking toddler-ese, was starting to make me feel like I was losing brain cells. A helpful thing to remember is our brains have matured since we were last in high school or college. According to a study by Arain, Haque, Johal, Mathur, Nel, Rais, Sandhu, and Sharma (2013), the human brain does not stop growing until around age 25!
3. Use life experience to your advantage in school
I found that I am a better student because I am older, my brain is more mature, and I have a wealth of life experience that makes classroom content easy to digest. Things stick in my head a little easier because I can make real-life connections with my past experiences. You may be surprised to know, each “more mature” person in class has said they are experiencing the same benefit of this relatable life experience. Many people have come up to me when they heard I was in school and would say things like “I could never do that and take care of things at home.” “I don’t think I could keep up.” and “How do you manage?” I am here to say that it is do-able and if you are considering a career change that involves returning to school, you should consider going ahead and enrolling in class.
We moms get I guarantee that some of those higher level organizational skills and study discipline will kick in when you return to hit the books. I know, when I returned to school, I was easily able to make mostly As, whereas before, I was a mostly B student with a few Cs thrown in for good measure. Life experience helps you make connections in your brain that make learning new material much easier as you will be able to relate to content that is taught and have real life examples already stored in your head from experience. You will likely be surprised at how much easier it is to understand class lectures and materials be because you have all those connections wired into your brain through life experience. When you learn about acid base reactions in chemistry class, your mind will conjure up images of using baking soda and vinegar to get your laundry clean. You will understand the stuff your psychology teacher presents and probably have come across a few people in your life who serve as real life examples of what is in your textbook!
4. Determine when you will do your studying.
This is an important aspect of your time management. Schedule this time for yourself because it is just as important as the other appointments you have in your life. During my time in school, I felt a little compulsive about studying. Every spare minute that I was not mothering or wife-ing, I felt like I needed to study to keep up with what was being taught in class. This was overkill and before I realized it I allowed myself to get bogged down into the no-fun zone where I didn’t allow any time for myself. This is a recipe for disaster. Scheduling your study time and sticking with it will prevent burnout from compulsive studying.
5. Practical time management skills help you make the grade in school.
Excellent time management is the lynchpin of your success. As a mom, returning to school is just another thing added to your already full plate. You need a good study routine and a planner that you can use as your second brain. As far as I’m concerned, the best time for me to study, and still can function, is as close to the class time as possible. Sure, I save larger projects for those hours after the kids go to bed and I make sure to have an evening cup o’ joe to see me through those times; but I try to study on the same day I have covered the material in class. It just sticks better and helps me when studying for mid-term exams and other skills testing. Plus, I can set time limits for myself and this helps prevent me from falling victim to the compulsion to study with every spare minute I can muster. The 80/20 rule works well and I structure my study times with breaks for housework and other chores but I set a pre-determined amount of time I will spend on a subject for the day. If I don’t catch it all, oh well. Life goes on and I find that I still end up learning what I need to do well in class.
If I can go back to school, anyone can. Signing up for your first class is the big hurdle to overcome but once you show up with your old-school pencils sharpened and your digital recorder (I used the Sony USB digital recorder) to record your lectures, you will see that you can do it and you will do well!
Leave a comment
Tell me about your experience in going back to school after becoming a parent or, if you are thinking about returning to college, leave a comment!
Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I may receive a commission if someone purchases through the links within this post. However, I only recommend things that I like and use myself and that I think would benefit my readers.
Arain, M., Haque, M., Johal, L., Mathur, P., Nel, W., Rais, A., … Sharma, S. (2013). Maturation of the adolescent brain. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 9, 449–461. http://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S39776