[Lessons From A Student Mama] 11 (More) Tips On Balancing School, Work And Family


All week long the staff here at YML will be sharing our reflections on what was probably one of the most difficult periods of our lives: our time spent as a student-parent. If you’re in school this semester, or thinking about heading back in the near future, this series is for you. But first: In 2012 I wrote the first batch of tips for balancing life as a student-parent. Go back and read these first if you missed it the first time around. 

  • Reach out if you need help. Many campuses have an academic success center designed to help students who need a little extra help. If you can’t get a grip on statistics to save your life or chemistry confuses you more than it should, reach out to the appropriate department and get a tutor before your grade suffers. 


  • Immerse yourself in your studies. I advocate multi-tasking a lot because, sometimes, it’s the only way things will get done. But at a certain point, you have to realize when you need to focus. From time to time, you need to just sit down and study. No music, no kids screaming in the background. Just you and your work. If you’re spending the time and money to get this degree, it’s crucial you’ll actually know something once it’s all said and done.


  • Acknowledge that you will wear yourself out trying to be perfect in all your roles. You might not be able to get a nice dinner on the table seven days a week. (I remember being elated when, during a really difficult week, my kids requested cereal and bananas for dinner.) You might not be able to get to the laundry and end up wearing that pair of jeans five times before it hits the washer. You might not be able to volunteer on school field trips or during the class parties. But that’s okay. Embrace imperfection.
You gotta have this mindset if you wanna make it to graduation. You got this!

You gotta have this mindset if you wanna make it to graduation. You got this!

  • Get a hobby. You need something you like to do beside just study and sleep. That was my life for the four years I was a student-parent and I regret it. Find something you like to do that will help you release some stress (like painting, swimming, jogging). You’ll be better for it.


  • Sit in the front of the class. I know there were many, many days when I just wasn’t feeling it and wanted to just go home and sleep instead of sit in a three-hour class. It is during those days when I would make myself sit in the front. Whenever I did, I was more likely to pay attention, to take better notes and recall the information better than when I was in the back of the class, doodling on my notebook and daydreaming about what it would be like to have a sugar daddy and not need to work.


  • Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. I missed a day of  my family policy class due to a business trip and then another due to illness. My professor had an attendance policy where if you missed a class (for whatever reason) you were docked 3 points (out of 100 possible points). I approached him about a book I had just read (Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids?) and asked if I could do a 25-minute presentation to the class on the family policy implications of the text for extra credit. To my surprise, he agreed. I got an A that semester.


  • Get to class on time. My first semester of grad school, I had a 4:30 p.m. class. The problem was that I didn’t get off work until 4 and my office was almost an hour away from campus. So every Wednesday, I drove like a mad woman to get to campus, inevitably swerving to hit slow-moving students in the parking lot, and then literally sprinting into the building. I never felt like I could get a grasp on the class because I was late, every day. Moral of the story: Get there on time and you won’t have to spend the first few minutes asking, “What did I miss? What’s going on? What are we doing now?”


  • Pick out your graduation day outfit. This is most helpful when you are a semester or two away from graduation, which is incidentally the time when you will want to quit the most. It’s like being at mile 24 of a marathon (not that I know anything about that life!). You’re tired and you want to give up. Give yourself something (no matter how small) to look forward to.
  • Get a “study buddy.” This isn’t necessarily someone who is also in school, although that helps. But this study buddy is someone you can vent to, who will hold you accountable for your study schedule, who will celebrate with you when your grades are posted.


  • Have fun on “Mommy and Me” days. Date your children. Take them to new places and spend time focusing on how much they’re growing.


  • Breathe deep when you’re stressed. It is very easy to take out your stress on the ones you love. They’e constantly in your face, asking you to spend what little energy you have on them and at a certain point, it’s easier to lash out than it is to give just one more drop of energy to anyone else. But please remember that this is just a short time of your life and one day you will be a proud graduate, leaving behind these current stressors. Breathe deep. Often.

What would you add to the list?


  1. I really liked “Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.” That was a creative way to get extra credit! I ended up missing first day of class from a child care issue and with pink eye and sickness going around, I’m anticipating some days I may have to stay home with my child. This gave me a great idea to kind of “make-up” my absences and stay involved in my classes.

  2. Stefany Mari says:

    I definitely cackled at the sugar daddy comment lmao!!

    I 100% agree with “Reach out if you need help.” I always say, no one can help you if they do not realize you need it! This goes hand in hand with advocating for oneself as well.