The following is a post from my friend Jenna on her experience as a single parent and going back to school!
“Being a single parent makes obtaining your educational/career goals impossible.” You don’t know how many times I’ve heard statements such as this. While I do agree that having children can make life a bit more “challenging” to conquer, I do not believe in any way that this means that parents should throw their dreams away. There are a lot of single parents out there that somehow feel like their new title in life makes them ineligible to pursue their goals and dreams. Many parents fall prey to excuses and the pressures of life, all before realizing their full potential.
Take me for instance. Prior to getting pregnant with my first child I had received an associate’s degree in nursing. For the first three years of my child’s life, I worked as a CNA at a local rehabilitation center. The hours and income were pretty decent, but I knew that ultimately I wanted to advance in my nursing career and become a RN. To do this however, I would have to return to school. The very thought of going back to nursing school as a single parent seemed scary. How would I be able to properly study while still being there for my child? How would I afford the expense of school?
Want to be a Nurse: If you’re contemplating going back to school for nursing, it is best to look into programs that will make balancing home, work, and education easier. For instance, Gwynedd Mercy University RN programs are offered both on campus and online for parents who can’t seem to find the time sit in a classroom.
Getting the Facts Can Minimize Concern
After careful research, I was able to see that there were a lot of parents who had the same fears and concerns that I had. However, many of them proved that it wasn’t impossible to go back to school and further their careers. How did they accomplish their goals…research, planning, and organization.
Common Concerns and How They Can Be Remedied
- Finding a School That Best Suits Their Immediate Needs
Many single parents are left wondering which educational facility will best accommodate their needs. What will the schedule be like? What types of classes will be taught? Will their current credits transfer accordingly?
All of these are very valid concerns. In fact I had a few of these same concerns myself. However, what I did find is that a lot of my concerns were obsolete. We often revert to our own personal experiences of being in college; a day filled with classes, several tests, weekend classes, and so on. However, modern technology and times have certainly changed the way you can get an education today. Do a bit of research on schools you’re looking to attend. You’ll be surprised to find how many schools offer online courses, the option to test out of certain classes, and credit transfers.
- Finding the Money to Pay for School
As a single parent, you’re usually left with a brunt of the finances involved in caring for your child. Not to mention, if you’re currently paying on student loans, finding the means to return to school without it breaking your budget can be pretty stressful. The good news is that there are options for single parents (moms). According to CollegeScholarships.org, there are plenty of grants and scholarships you can apply for as a single mother to start or continue your education.
Other options for funding your education include:
- Financial aid
- School scholarship and grant programs
- Work study opportunities
- Education/Work programs such as tuition reimbursement
- Balancing Work, School, and Family Life
Even if I find the right school with appropriate funding options, how will I manage raising my child, working, and getting an education? This too is a common concern for single parents. Not always having a huge support system there means that a lot of the responsibility falls on them. How do you manage to balance these three important aspects of your life without skimping on either?
There are plenty of ways you could learn to balance work, school, and family life. However, it should be pointed out that it will take some patience and organization on your end. Below are a few suggestions that other parents have tried:
- Hire a sitter – If you have a teenage cousin or neighbor that you wouldn’t mind leaving your child with for a few hours while you go to class or catch up on some studying, then consider hiring a part time babysitter. Their rates are often minimal and would only be required on times when the kids aren’t in school. Some schools also offer childcare services to their students at a free or discounted price. Check with several schools you’re interested in to see where you can get assistance.
- Simplify your life – simplifying your daily life can make going back to school a lot easier. For instance, prepping meals on the weekends, creating a meal plan, taking care of laundry, ironing clothes for the week, and giving your kids a set schedule to follow can all make life at home a lot simpler to manage.
- Ask for help – If you are fortunate enough to have family members that are supportive of your goal to return to school, then asking them for help is advised. Maybe mom or dad could watch the kids a night or two while you study, or your kid sister could pick them up from school so that you don’t have to leave your class early.
- Find support groups – Believe it or not there is a support group for just about everything these days. Search the internet or even talk with your school admissions department to learn about the various support groups there are out there. You may find groups for single parents and get great advice and support through those that are going through similar experiences.
Don’t get me wrong, going back to school will certainly present challenges along the way, but that doesn’t mean that you should put your dreams on the back burner. Write down all of your concerns and then conduct research on various solutions. You may find that the very thing that was holding you back all this time is of little importance – I know I did. Now I’m on the journey towards making a better life for myself and my children.