By Elizabeth Griffith | May 22, 2017
When I graduated from high school Will Smith was still the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I completed my undergraduate degree to the sounds of dot-matrix printers and dial-up modems. So, yeah, the thought of going back to earn my master's degree online was a scary one. Like many of the students here at Marian’s Adult Programs
, I work full-time, I’m the mother of two amazing school-aged children, I volunteer in my community, and I manage an active social life. I know it sounds like I have a lot going on, and I’m sure you do as well. So how could I add homework to the mix? Well, I juggle, I shift, I drop, I pick up, I delegate, I pray, and I confess…
1. I was terrified to go back to school—especially one that was online.
Although, this may be more a statement of fact, than a confession. (I didn't exactly try to hide my nerves.) As someone who's usually pretty confident, I had incredible anxiety at just the thought of filling out the application, let alone in my abilities to do the required work. If it wasn't for the encouragement of my network of friends and family, I may have put it off for another decade or so.
It turns out, I didn’t have anything to worry about. I’ve had great success in reaching course objectives, the e-learning platform is easy to use, I still get to interact with classmates and professors, and I’m learning so much so quickly due to the accelerated schedule. After just a few classes my confidence is soaring and I’ve optimistically set my graduation date for January 2019. My plan is simple—to take it one class at a time.
How many times in our lives have we made the fear of something greater than the actual reality of it? Facing our fears helps us adapt and grow, and isn’t that the whole point of going back to school in the first place?
2. I don't actually know everything.
It’s a parental right to reinforce from birth on the fact that ‘we do too know everything’ into the minds of our kids. We have some crazy instinctual need that while our children are little, they believe that we’re omnipotent. Of course, the reality is quite the opposite. Parents don't have all the answers, just as moms don’t really have eyes in the back of their heads.
I’ve come to realize how much better of a role model I am for my kids when they understand it’s perfectly okay not know everything, or even if… eek, that sometimes I’m wrong! So I let them see me struggle to complete tough assignments and they sit with me in silent support while I study. I want them to know that even though I may not know everything, I'm always learning and willing to put in the work. Parenting may not have been part of the course objectives, but going back to school has made me a better mom.
3. I feel guilty spending so much time focusing on me.
After work a few months ago, the kids and I had just arrived home. My son was the first inside and as he flipped on the light said, "Where's Todd?" (My husband) I said he was out, and his next words were, "How are we going to get dinner?" Although, at the time, I laughed it off and reminded him that I had been feeding them successfully their whole life, the comment still got to me. When was the last time I cooked a meal for them? I couldn't remember. Hello, mom guilt…
Combat the guilt by keeping the bigger picture in mind and your end goals clearly defined. If you let yourself get caught up in the moments you run the risk of losing sight of your dreams. All parents have to strike a balance as to what we can expect from ourselves and what we allow others to demand from us. If we overextend or push ourselves too much to be everything to everyone, then we run the risk of burning out and accomplishing nothing.
4. I’m a recovering control freak.
Growing up, some of us took the whole ‘becoming an adult thing’ a little too seriously. This over commitment to proving our reliability and maturity naturally led to the desire to control as much as possible whenever possible. For years, I tried to imagine how my life would change if I enrolled in school as an adult and my fear of letting go of other aspects of my life was always great enough to stop me. I had to come to terms with the fact that I would not have the time or the energy to do everything I was used to doing the way I was used to it being done. There simply weren’t enough hours in the day. Volunteer, extracurricular, and non-essential activities would have to be reassessed, reassigned, or placed aside all together.
Did you know that delegation, communication, organization, and mentoring are all valuable transferable skills? Did you know that ‘the job’ can still get done without you having a direct hand in it? I’ve been able to encourage growth in others and help to build their skills by sharing the workload and fostering a team environment. It has been freeing.
5. There are days I want to quit.
Would you believe people expect me to be a grown up and do adult-type things EVERY day? Be a mom. Go to work. Volunteer. Pay the bills. Do the laundry. Do homework. Huh? Homework?
I can’t speak for all the dads out there, but it’s pretty normal for working moms to have days where we want to jump on a plane and disappear for a while. We want to say "No!" I'm not going to be responsible for anything else today, and by adding homework on top of everything else, it just doesn’t seem fair! It's in those moments, that I know it's time to refocus.
By placing things back into their proper perspective, and remembering what our priorities are, we can calm the storm and power through until it passes.
Do the best you can to strive for a sustainable work/life/school balance during your time as an adult college student. The time you spend earning your degree is a temporary inconvenience that will pay dividends in growth opportunities in the end. Lean on your support system, miss a few gatherings, cook a few less hot meals, and cut back on the extracurricular activities for a time. Remember, the point isn’t for you to have all the answers, but to develop your ability to find them.
You may also be interested in reading "Classes Designed with the Adult in Mind."