Disclaimer: I’m not a professional, I’m writing this from the perspective of a mom/wife whose husband got his masters while we had two little kids.
I’ve been meaning to sit down and pen my best thoughts on returning to school with young kids for over a year now. So, here I am, finally doing just that. So, most of you know my husband left his job as a Civil Engineer Corps Officer in the Navy to get an MBA back in 2015. He went to school full time and I was a full time stay at home mom (building this blog, of course.) On his first day of graduate school, we had a one year old and a two year old.
So many people talk and act like having children will prevent you from achieving your goals. We have never felt that way, if anything, we’ve found it to be extra incentive to kill it at life.We really had a special opportunity to model for them hard work and compromise. I want to be frank with you and say that isn’t wasn’t always easy, some days felt longer than others, and there were certainly stressful points. However, our kids being able to witness us work through those situations is a gift.
Getting into your desired program: I don’t have a ton of advice here for getting into a program, but I wanted to just say when applying to schools to consider the location for your entire family. For example, one school we really liked ended up being a terrible city for our whole family. The boys and I would not have had much to do while my husband was in class, and the cost of living was pretty high in the area. So, learn from our visit and before paying application fees make sure you’d want to live there if you got into the program. I wanted to also mention you may need to sit aside time to study for any admissions exams or schedule out time to write essays.
Create a schedule. This is something that tremendously eased the transition from full time employment to the sporadic class offering life of a student. Most people with young children will tell you that kids thrive on structure and routine. So, we were very intentionally with our scheduling. My husband would head out around 8 or 9, just like when we worked, and we’d have dinner as a family most nights. He tried to structure his days (as best as he could) like an 8-5 job.
Join school groups. Our experience was that many groups exist for partners and families of students. So, we definitely utilized those! I think it is so crucial to surround yourself with people in the same season of life, who can truly understand where you are. We had play & dinner dates during finals weeks, weekly play dates, and partner only evenings out. Honestly, I made some of my best friends while my husband was in grad school.
Take advantage of student discounts and programs through the school. As a partner, I was eligible for a heavily discounted gym membership through the university. We were also able to sign up for affordable trips, rent camping supplies, etc. Don’t get me started on the number of meals we were able to eat for free because of alumni days or school events!
Find out if your school has preschools or daycare centers available to students. My son was able to attend a preschool in the speech and hearing department of my husband’s university. I have also heard of co-op style daycare centers on campuses. I think this is a incredible resource for families, especially if both of students or working during this time.
Have a day where you do no school work. Look, I know this is harder than it sounds. Have a designated family rest and restore day.
Network. Network, network, network. You will never be around this many people working towards similar goals in the same space again.
Don’t neglect date nights because you’re busy with school. Don’t neglect your relationship, because your busy with school. We always joke that was only two years and we’ve committed to forever, so keep your marriage the top priority. Remember this is an advancement for the whole family. Offer to swap childcare with other families to make this an affordable option.
Get those discounted athletic event tickets. Yeah, I made this a priority. I love sports.
Make a budget: and stick to it. Again, I know this is easier said than done, but it’s so important. Grad school is expensive in itself if you’re struggling to pay for it) so you need to be careful with money from thereon in.
Find out if any of your current or future employers offer any tuition programs.
Get a mentor. Find a student that has been there a year longer, a great educator that you admire, whatever. Surround yourself with people who are propelling you forward.
Have you gone back to school with little kids?! Share your tips or ask your questions in the comments below!
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