It’s 5:58am on Friday morning. Your 3-year-old just barreled into your bedroom with his 11-year old sister chasing behind. You drag out of bed (kids following) and slink down to the kitchen for a cup of coffee… you’re going to need it while you pack school lunches and put on makeup before leaving for preschool and work.
Then you remember: your Psychology 201 final paper is due today at 9pm. It’s supposed to be 5 pages and you haven’t even written one word of the assignment.
Sound familiar? Sound terrifying? If this could be you, then you’re NOT alone.
Did you know that over 22% of college students are also parents? Studies done by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research show that most of these parent-students are women, and many are single parents. It’s common for these parents to have young children under 13 years old.
When you’re trying to succeed at work, home, AND school, you need all the life hacks you can get. Of course, the idea is that you should stay alive and healthy along the way too!
Here are tips + inspiration from parents who achieved their college dreams.
Figure out childcare.
It’s normal for kids to need near-constant supervision, and a steady supply of snacks and activities are pretty essential too! Every parent knows how maddening it is when you NEED childcare but don’t have it.
You might already use after-school programs, preschool, or in-home daycare, but here are other creative options for childcare:
- On-campus childcare: Did you know that many MS campuses offer on-site care? Check this list to start your search If you don’t see your favorite college on the list, ask someone at the college what they recommend.
- Childcare swapping: Find other students with kids and take turns watching each other’s children so that you can each have some focused time.
- Gyms: Many gyms offer a few hours of free childcare. Fit in a workout (which is great for your brain!) and then stay and study for an hour or two. This can be a reliable way to attend online classes.
- Family & friends: It’s humbling to ask others for help, but getting through college with kids takes a team. Remember that you’re studying to make a better life for those around you too… not just yourself.
Find activities that keep your kids engaged
It happens to everyone: childcare falls through. The kids will be home on a rainy afternoon and you have to attend an online class and submit an assignment and show up for a group project meeting on Zoom.
In these moments, you need activities. “Screentime” is always an option, but it’s good to have some other ideas on hand too.
Explore some of these activities listed below. It might take a few minutes to set up a special activity for the kids, but you might buy yourself just enough time to submit that assignment or finish that chapter.
- Ultimate list of indoor activities for kids
- Sick day activities for toddlers
- 40+ best indoor activities
- Activities for kids (ages 8-12 years old)
Adjust your expectations
No surprise here, but according to a 2021 study, college students who are parents of kids under 13 years approach their education differently than those without young children.
- They have significantly less time to spend on their education (studying & classes)
- They are much more likely to enroll part-time
- They spend a lot more of their “free” time studying
The takeaway? Recognize that this season will be extra crazy, but you are investing in a future filled with more opportunities.
Embrace the trade-offs
In movies and TikTok videos, moms manage to “do all the things.” These unrealistic expectations make it hard for us to accept our unique seasons. When you add in something new (like college), other things have to go.
When you’re in college and have young kids, here are a few trade-offs you might experience:
- The house might be a messy disaster… but you worked with your fellow classmates to nail the group presentation.
- You are way behind on shows (maybe you don’t know who got the rose on “The Bachelor” or who won the game last night)… but you helped your daughter study for her test while you also finished a term paper.
- You might be earning a little less money because you’re avoiding overtime at work… but you’re prioritizing your kids, your classes, and occasional mental-health breaks.
We can’t have it all, but while you’re in a crazy time of school and kids now, you will enjoy your season AFTER GRADUATION even more!
Also, there’s one more trade-off you should know about. Parents in school have extra challenges…. But they ALSO typically get higher grades than non-parents! (Source)
Maximize small moments
Now that you’re a parent, have you ever been shocked by the number of tasks you can finish while your popcorn cooks in the microwave? Having less time forces you to use your time well!
Rosa Hall is one mom/college student who maximized her small moments. She had two jobs and was raising two kids, but she prioritized her dream of working in the medical field.
Every night she packed her computer and books along to her second job as a cashier at an airport parking garage. She studied when she wasn’t helping travelers, and eventually graduated with her degree!
“You’ll be surprised how strong you can be,” says Rosa. “I wanted to show my children that, when things get hard you just keep pushing and work harder.”
Small things add up to big things. Use your small snippets of time well, and you could have your degree before you know it.
Don’t forget your WHY
You’re finishing college for you AND your kids.
So many parents are eager to be role-models for their children or grandchildren. “If I expect them to attend school and college, why shouldn’t I be willing to also finish?”
Here are what just a few Mississippi college grads have to say:
“I am now able to check the box next to ‘College Graduate’ when prompted for education level… It feels SO good! Best of all, I feel like a great role model for our kids. Their mom is a college graduate.” –LaShawnda
“I have three young children. I want them to see that dedication and hard work do pay off in the end. I’m pursuing my education for me, for my career prospects, and to inspire my children.” –Courney
You may feel like you’re failing as a parent while you’re studying, but you are also showing your kids what it means to work hard to achieve a dream.
Can you relate?
Sooooo many of us can relate with one Mississippi mom:
“Having to pursue full-time employment to make ends meet, plus having to care for my family, I lost my motivation to continue my education, even though I had been passionate about it before.
I had to put my two beautiful daughters first, and I thought that this signaled the end of my educational dreams. While I didn’t feel resentment, I felt disappointed that I would not get to complete my educational journey.” –Christy
Christy is one of the parents who went on to earn her degree with the help of the Complete 2 Compete (C2C) program, even though she took some time off from college. There are so many stories from parents like her who eventually overcame the challenges!
If you’re a parent who is also juggling college classes, then you need all the help you can get! If you haven’t heard of the Complete 2 Compete (C2C) program in the state of Mississippi, then you should definitely learn more about this program. It helps adult students get resources that can help you complete your college degree.
Along with grants to help pay for college, the C2C program connects students with coaches, who can help you transfer credits, find on-campus childcare, get more financial aid, and finish your degree more quickly.
If you’re a MS adult who needs help with college (whether you have kids or not), complete this simple survey to discover your eligibility.