In the last couple months, I have had at least a handful of young moms asking me the daunting question, "Ok Mackenzie, how did you do it?"
"You know, school, work, be a mom, be a wife, clean a house..."
Typically, I answer with... "a lot of wine"
But all hilariousness aside, I feel that it is a legit question. There are many young mothers, single, married, getting all sorts of degrees, with all sorts of support systems that want to know how to make it work and stay sane.
I have ten tips that were helpful for me. Of course, they may not all be applicable to you but hopefully you can glean at least a few of them to encourage you!
1. Keep a positive attitude.
It's easy to forget why you are going to school. Your mind can swell up with horrible thoughts like, "I'm not seeing my babe as much as I should" or "I'm sacrificing family time with school work." Remember that going to school is a short term sacrifice for a long term benefit. Never lose focus or let your mind run wild with how you're corrupting your child. If anything, you're giving him or her the greatest example of hard work and dedication.
2. Pick Reasonable Classes.
No, do not pick Chemistry, Biology and Astronomy all in one semester. You are amazing but you are not God. Pick two hard classes. That is all. If you have more than that you will cry yourself to sleep most nights. Pick one class you're excited about it. Remember. You like what you're learning most of the time so enjoy it! It's ok to enjoy a class!
3. Pick Reasonable Times.
So you work full or part time. I suggest that if you work part time, pick classes on the same day as work. Although that seems to go against what seems to be normal scheduling, I highly recommend it. I find that the more you cram into one day the less outside "help" you need to receive. I would work half the day and go to school half the day usually putting in a 12-14 hour day. Or if you can, switch your hours to work 10-12 hour days during the week. That way you could work three 12 hour days for work and use the other two days to fill up on classes.
4. Yes, He's Old Enough for Preschool.
If you have the funds or if you have in-laws, parents or if you're a single parent (the government) that have the funds, put your child in part time preschool. When Cohen was a little over 2 I put him in halfday preschool. He would go to school from 8-12:30 so I would drop him off at 7:45am and then head to class from 8-1pm and then go to work from 1:30-9pm. My mom would pick him up Tuesday and my mother in law Thursday. That way I am getting in a lot of hours and school in one day. He loved preschool and it encouraged socialization. I loved that he had an authority figure that wasn't me!
5. Get You Baby-Daddy Involved
No matter if you are married, single or in a relationship. That baby has a father and should be involved. If he can't or won't be, find a friend to be your advocate apart from your family. Find a friend that is willing to take your child to school one day or pick him up. Remember, people want to help and if you explain to them your goal I GUARANTEE you they will help. Zac took Cohen to school two days a week. That's it! That way, I could go to the library early in the morning or I could work a 5:15-12pm shift and then pick up Cohen. You need advocates so surround yourself with people who respect your hardwork.
6. Stay Away From Nay-Sayers
I always found that there were friends that minimized my hard work when I decided to go to school full time and work full time. Not worth your time. Honestly, you barely have enough energy to have sex with your husband at night and wake up to change another diaper. You don't need to waste energy trying to get others to understand what you're doing when they don't care to begin with. Surround yourself with advocates. Accept praise, you deserve it.
7. Make One Day for Family
I always found that I needed one day that I did not have to go to a job or work on schoolwork. This is critical. I remember I would count down with Zac until our family day. Plan something exciting, do something special as a family. Cook with your babe, laugh with friends, go for ice cream, volunteer in your child's classroom, NAP as a family, take a bath, drink some (lots) of wine. Enjoy life. You deserve it.
8. Release the Expectation
You're not going to get an A in every single class. It's not that you're not capable, it's not that you're not as good as the next guy... it's that your life is a lot bigger than the next guy. There were days when I would look at all the reading I had to do and say "What can I get away with reading?" or "If I have only 4 hours to study where is my time better spent?" Sure, I'd rather read a great psychology that was recommended by my teacher but truthfully my time is better spent studying the difference between acids and bases for my big test on Friday. You have to learn how to "cut the fat" so to speak. Your time is valuable.
9. When to NOT Study
Do not. I said... DO NOT try to study at night after a long day of school and work. I highly recommend waking up early to study or work on a paper. Though you may be running on five hours of sleep... you have some sleep under your belt and the quietness of your house. I never tried doing homework while Cohen was awake. It's pointless... don't even try. Don't study or do homework at home if you can help it. If your husband, boyfriend, mom... anyone is home with your sleeping baby... GO OUT to study and do homework. If I didn't work that day after I put Cohen to bed, I would put Zac in charge and go study for 3-4 hours at the library. If you're at home you'll start doing laundry, putting away the dishes, watching TV... playing on the internet. Anything! There is nothing at the library but a goal. It helped me switch gears.
10. Pat Yourself on the Back
Don't ever minimize your accomplishment or sacrifice. Never say "it was nothing" when honestly, it was everything. Do NOT skip walking across that stage and getting your degree. Wear your cap and gown proudly. Make your kid or kiddos a part of the whole experience. Invite everyone who has ever supported you. I always said that I had a lot of people lifting me up to grab my degree. Always be humble and grateful for the support you have received. Never take it for granted. Have a party for yourself, eat cake and of course... DRINK WINE!
Working full time, going to school full time and being a wife/girlfriend/sister/mother/granddaughter... is a lot of work. But it is completely doable.
And in those hard moments when you're staring at another white board feeling as if you're damning your child to attachment issues.... remember this....
It's a lie.
One day, you'll have an incredible story to tell your kiddos.
I am excited for the day when Cohen tells me he doesn't want to go to college and I'll get to tell him my story. That my friends is payday.
Your kids are watching you struggle and triumph.
It's worth it.