Trying to maintain a balanced life when you have children can be a very difficult task as it is. However, for those of us who have decided to go back to school, managing our family life and our coursework can feel completely overwhelming. Even students who opt for distance education, which is significantly more flexible, can still have trouble figuring out how to care for their kids and get something valuable out of their education at the same time. Luckily, there are many ways to make balancing these things easier, it just takes a little extra effort.
The first thing to do is set some ground rules and boundaries. You will have to get together with your family and let them know exactly how going back to school is going to change your day-to-day life. Before you have a talk with your kids, decide for yourself what kind of boundaries you will need in order to get your work done. For example, if the door to your study is closed, that could be a signal to your kids that you’re working and can’t be bothered with anything that isn’t an emergency. Decide for yourself how much time you think you’ll need per day to study and when your best study times will be, and then let your kids know your plans. Discuss with them the difference between an emergency situation and help that can wait until later. Once you all have a chance to talk about the changes that will begin to happen, your kids will be prepared and more able to help.
Next, your kids are not the only ones who will need to make changes and adjustments. You should plan to make some adjustments in your own lifestyle as well. You know that you will not be as available to your family as you have been in the past, so you should be prepared to change your lifestyle a bit in order to become more available in other ways. For example, maybe after getting home from work, you usually like to veg out in front of the TV for a couple hours to unwind. Now, you may have to devote a couple extra hours to studying. Instead of studying, and then unwinding in front of the TV like you usually do, you may need to allocate that time to spend with your kids. Try showing them more attention now during times that you may have once taken for yourself. Just like your kids will have to bend to accommodate you, you should also bend to care for them. While we all need our me-time, just try to take less of it, and add some family time to your plans instead. You can also fit in family time in easy ways. Try setting a timer and using 30 minute study breaks to play with your kids. Or try studying together, if your kids are school-age. You can set a great example for them and be around one another at the same time.