By Laura Morrison, July 2014
Some may see graduate school as an all-encompassing endeavor that monopolizes your time and resources. Thought of as a young person's game, for those without the burdens of career or family weighing them down, people with families may turn away from pursuing graduate studies preemptively simply because they feel they won't be able to balance the demands of school with raising a family.
Fortunately, the myths of the all-consuming nature of graduate studies are somewhat exaggerated, and a baby or even multiple children doesn’t have to mean that you have to put the brakes on your schooling.
If you're a parent considering applying for graduate studies, here are a few things to keep in mind to maintain balance.
Communicate with Your Professors and Classmates
You may feel it’s your duty to not cross the wires of student and parent and weather the trials of your demanding schedule in stoicism, but this isn't accomplishing anything other than adding stress.
As Campus Explorer recommended, whether you're already a parent when you're admitted to school or you become one throughout the course of your program, it's imperative that you communicate this to your professors. Sharing your personal circumstances with your professors is not seeking special treatment or hunting for favoritism. Being up front about your existing off-campus obligations will help set expectations and start a conversation about how you can make being a graduate student and a parent work.
Budget your time
Time management is a critical part of any graduate student's life, but this goes double for those who have children. The addition of an extra plate to spin may make you feel more than ever like there aren't enough hours in the day, but if you take a concerted effort to examine exactly how you use your time you may surprise yourself.
The Chronicle of Higher Education was quick to point out that when you make schedules and timetables, you can often fail to include random "in-between" tasks such as checking email or updating your status on Facebook. You may think at the time that the 2 minutes it takes you to check your YouTube subscriptions is negligible in the grand scheme of things, but the tight timeline you'll find yourself on as a student and parent means that you'll need to accurately account for every moment of your day to maximize productivity.
Take it in stride
Perhaps most important is the need to roll with the challenges you will inevitably face. Time and energy demands can ebb and flow, meaning that while you may feel on top of your game one week, you may find yourself suddenly struggling to balance upcoming research deadlines with parent-teacher conferences and soccer practices the next.
Such moments can bring to mind the eternal question every graduate student-come-parent wrestles with: Should you sideline your academic and professional development for the sake of your family?
However, as The Muse pointed out, it's important not to let yourself get overwhelmed. Have a strong support network in place, be it your family, friends or other students, to whom you can turn when you're feeling overwhelmed.
Use your resources
As you are navigating the dual channels of graduate school and child rearing remember that you're not in it alone. If you're fortunate enough to have resources immediately on hand, such as a parent or in-law who can provide childcare on an as-needed basis, or a spouse or partner who is willing to take kid duty in the evening to give you time to study, be sure to make use of these resources.
Just because you're pursuing a higher education degree doesn't mean you have to do it alone. Your family is a part of your life, and this means they're a part of your attempts to achieve your goals as well.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.