11 Tips On How To Balance School, Work And Family

I’ve been in school for the past two years and it hasn’t been easy.

When I started, I had a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old at home. I was convinced that it would be better for me to go back to school when they were young, because they wouldn’t remember exactly how much time it would take me to get my degree. Who remembers much before they turned 5?

I figured if I waited until they were in elementary or middle school, it would be harder for me to explain long nights in class and why my stress levels were so high.

I’ve spent the past year and a half as a self-employed mom, which throws another wrench into things. Sure, I had flexibility and no boss to answer to about missing work. But when you have to leave evening class to come back and do more work, ugh.

I know there are a lot of us who are juggling all of these things—some of us married, others single, some with extensive support, some with none whatsoever. Some of us in two-year programs, others of us in more rigorous, multi-year programs. Today’s post is dedicated to sharing some of the tips I’ve learned over the past few years:

  • Review the syllabus early. Figure out what weeks are going to be hardest for you and mark them in your calendar accordingly. You will also know if the class requires a lot of group work (which I hate!) and outside-of-class work (which I hate!).
  • Talk to your professor early. I haven’t done this as much in graduate school, but it was crucial when I was an undergraduate with a newborn. All my professors knew I had an infant at home and during those times when I didn’t have someone to watch her for class, I knew if it would be okay for me to bring her or just stay home. One day, I didn’t have a babysitter so I brought her with me because it was during finals week (horrible time to not have one!). My professor bounced my daughter on her lap and then rocked her to sleep while the class took the exam. I finished first (partially fueled by my anxiety that my daughter would start fussing at any second), thanked my professor profusely and hightailed it out of there.
  • Buy your textbooks (if you must) at CampusBookRentals.com. I went there last semester when I saw that ONE of my books was listed at $215. No bueno. I checked on CampusBookRentals and the book was $35. I win.
  • Set aside at least one day where you will not study. Giving yourself a regular break will help you persevere over the many months of studying, test-taking, essay-writing and internships.
  • If you must study with your children in the house, give them “homework” to do as well while you’re studying (if they’re old enough). I bought a stack of workbooks for my kids (get yours at the dollar store) and let them work while I work. Spread some snacks on the table, put on some music and spend an hour or so feeding your minds.
  • Find ways to free up time. I recently made a “snack station” in my kitchen to cut down on how much of my day was spent getting food for my kids. Let them get themselves ready for bed and you only come up when they’ve changed themselves into pajamas. Bring your textbooks with you so you can sneak in studying while you wait at the doctor’s office, in the pick-up line at school, etc.
  • Download a countdown app or mark down the days on your calendar. I check every few weeks to see how many days of this madness I have left and seeing the number continue to dwindle reminds me of how far I’ve come and how close I am to my goal.
  • Make friends in your classes, particularly the ones that you find difficult. Not only will they (hopefully) be able to help you with the material, but it’ll be good for you to have someone to talk to!
  • Bring your kids on campus with you. Let them see the inside of the buildings, where you have classes, let them meet your professors. If you attend a suburban campus like I do, let them run around in the grass. They think it’s a big park and a big park = fun. When your kids know where you’re going, it makes it much more real for the both of you.
  • If you must bring your child to campus to meet with your professors, pack them a “busy bag.” Fill it with coloring books, crayons, flash cards, etc, to keep them occupied while you talk.
  • Remember that you will not, no matter how you feel about it, be in school forever. In reality, this is a very short period of your life. Take a deep breath, smile and know that you are working to improve your life. Pat yourself on the back.



  1. Great post!!! This would not have come at a better time. These tips will be very helpful as I am will be working full-time, taking graduate classes and preparing for my first baby. Thank you for taking the time out to share these tips.

  2. Tara – these are such great tips! Never applicable to me but I think you’ve done an awesome job here

  3. You have some great tips here! One that really helped me when I was a single mother in college was looking over each syllabus and planning my entire semester – I knew what projects and papers were due when, and I could make a decent study/work schedule that worked for me. No last minute surprises! I bought most of my textbooks on half.com and really like that site (for the most part). Crossing off days on the calendar is a huge help too! I actually had one professor (for World Religions) who welcomed the children of his students into the classroom. He was a big family guy, he often told us we could bring our kids.

  4. Tara,

    Thank you for these tips. I’m working on going back to school. Can’t imagine doing homework again.

  5. Great post with helpful tips…I am working full time, in graduate school & the mother of a 14 & 9 year old. I wish I would have known about that book site. Next semester, I look forward to hopefully saving some money on books. I started graduate school when my daughter was 7 mos old. I wish I would have finished then, because she wouldn’t have remembered my time away but both of my children have been extremely helpful and understanding. I also take all the help I can get, where I wouldn’t before. It’s no easy task but it can be done.

  6. Greetings! This is my 1st comment here so I just

    wanted to give a quick shout out and say I really enjoy
    reading through your posts. Can you recommend any other
    blogs/websites/forums that cover the same

    subjects? Thanks!