I was in my second semester of my freshman year in college when I found out I was pregnant with Jayden. Obviously, one of the first things that came to mind (after the “Oh my god, I have to give birth?!”) was “How the hell am I gonna finish school?!” Quitting was never an option for me; I knew from the get-go that Jayden and I would never have a stable future if I didn’t finish getting my degree first. My parents totally backed me on this and had us move in with them in order for my goal of graduating to be achieved. (Bless their hearts!) So, I’ll just tell you now, for the mothers in college reading this, it will NOT be easy. Think of what Noah says to Allie towards the end of The Notebook. “It’s not gonna be easy; it’s gonna be really hard! We’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you.” Okay, fine, maybe I just wish Ryan Gosling was saying that to me, but it really does relate to this! Being in school with kids is really hard work, and on top of that you have to have income. So, even though you probably don’t, do not think it’s going to be a piece of cake. A lot of people ask me how I do it. So here, people! Here is how I do it!
A little disclaimer before I proceed: I am able to work this out because I am lucky enough for Jayden to be in affordable daycare and because I am living with my parents. This is not to say that money isn’t an issue for me and that I don’t have to work, because I DO. But there are many other young mothers out there whose only option IS to quit school and work full time to support their child(ren). If that’s what you have to do, girl, do it. This is just how I manage MY life and I am very lucky that I am able to do so this way. Even if you are not able to stay in school, maybe some of these tips could be applied to other parts of your life.
1. Have all your classes on certain days of the week.
At my school, the majority of the classes meet on set schedules: either Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or on Tuesday, and Thursday. I have used this to my advantage and I have planned my schedule around this system. This semester I have had my classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays only. This gives me Tuesdays and Thursdays to work 8-hour days. Last semester, I was going to class Monday through Friday and working right after I was done with class. This schedule was INCREDIBLY exhausting and made it practically impossible to get any homework done before 9pm, which meant A LOT of all-nighters. So limiting your school days to however your school sets up the class sections is extremely helpful.
2. Take advantage of daycare hours.
This is probably the only way that I am able to get my school work done and it has helped SO MUCH this semester. I have class from 9am to 2pm. Daycare closes at 6pm and the cost is a daily rate anyways, so why not take this time to catch up on school work? This in tandem with the scheduling has helped me a lot this semester, especially on diminishing my all-nighters! I can get most of my work done before Jayden gets home and it gives me the opportunity to spend the evenings with him instead of stressing about the homework I would have yet to start if my schedule was like last semester. Having these extra hours in the day between school and daycare pickup also gives you slots of time when you know you can schedule appointments or even take a nap if you need to!
3. Get your child sleeping through the night!
I have talked about this in other posts but getting sleep, both for you and your child, is so important. There are a lot of different ways to go about getting your baby to sleep through the night. The method that worked best for Jayden was “cry it out.” He now sleeps 11 to 12 hours a night. This not only gives me time to do homework after he goes to sleep, but it also gives ME a restful night, which is crucial for getting through work and class.
4. Put the kids to bed early.
Last semester, Jayden was going to bed between 8 and 9pm. Then a coworker told me that her son went to bed at 6:30pm. I couldn’t believe this! So I decided to see if Jayden would go down at 7:30 and, sure enough, it was easy peasy. I’ve heard that kids naturally want to go to bed earlier and this clearly was the case with Jayden since he didn’t put up any sort of fight. Now I have gotten it to 7pm. This really works great if I am not able to get all my homework done in the afternoon. I can do homework for a few hours after he goes to bed and still go to bed at a reasonable hour.
5. Shower at night.
I am still trying to figure out how to take a shower if Jayden is awake, now that he won’t just sit in his little rocker in the bathroom with me like he did when he was a little baby. During the week, I have found it easiest to take showers at night. It eliminates so much time in the morning, you can relax after a long day, and you don’t have to rush to get ready at night or in the morning. You can even pick your outfit out for the next day if you want to. It gives you more time to get other things ready in the morning, other than yourself, and it makes for a much less hectic routine!
6. Try to get ready before your baby wakes up.
I know, it sounds difficult, and I still have trouble with this sometimes. But if your child is anything like Jayden, he or she will sleep until about 7-7:30am if you put him/her to bed around 7-7:30pm. Since I have to be at school and work at 9am, I try to get up between 6:15 and 6:45am. I can usually manage to get myself and Jayden’s things ready before he wakes up. Then I get him ready in about 10 minutes and I am out the door. But, again, this is one that I struggle with on a daily basis; I would sleep in till 11am if I could. Hitting the snooze button is just too tempting sometimes!
7. Keep a planner.
I know they MADE us do this in elementary school but it really does help. When professors hand out the syllabi at the beginning of every semester, I write down when all of the assignments are due in my planner, that way I can consult it easily to see what is due that week or even weeks ahead. Now, this isn’t to say that I am not the world’s biggest procrastinator, because I am. But it at least keeps me organized and it is an easy way to remind myself for things that are coming up.
8. Let your professors know you are a mom.
I do NOT think that parents should get special treatment if they are in college, but it will benefit you if professors know your situation. During the snowpocalypse this year, it was nearly impossible for me to get to my 9am class on time with the INSANE traffic into Boston when daycare opened at 7:30am. Yes, it took me an average of 2 hours to get to school during those weeks of hell. So, I emailed my professor and told her why I was consistently late to class. Chances are your professors are also parents. Not only will they understand, but it can give you something in common with them, as well. Again, this isn’t for special treatment! But it does help them understand if something is going on. And, hey! If you’re young like me, when you show up in sweatpants, you look like the rest of the class who is actually late from being hungover, not from having to change clothes multiple times after being spit up on.(No offense to my classmates. Y’all are the bomb dot com.) It’s interesting to see professors’ reactions when I tell them I have a 15 month old; it was usually a reaction of newfound respect for me. They most likely have NO idea that you are not only killin’ the game in their class but are doing it on top of taking care of a little one after class. So fill them in!
9. Spend your breaks with your children!
If it is not financially possible for you to miss a week of work, this tip may not be helpful to you. But if it is possible, it is SO rewarding to spend your vacations with your little ones. I did this this spring break. I kept Jayden home from daycare, which saved money, and we just hung out. Going to school and working really makes you miss your baby so much, even more than you think you already do. So I was eager to spend some quality time with him since we really only get the weekends plus the couple hours between daycare and bedtime otherwise. This spring break I took him to an indoor playground and he had a blast. We played all day, took naps together, and just had fun together. It’s an awesome way for you AND your baby to get some time away from everything and just bond with each other. It was incredibly refreshing and I am so glad I did it.
So these are the ways in which I keep it together while being a full time mom and full time college student. I would say that scheduling is the biggest factor for me in terms of maintaining my grades and sanity. The underlying issue is time management, which you have to learn anyways when you are a parent! I am far from an expert but I hope these tips helped!