At ASU Online, we're incredibly proud of our students who are also parents. With Father’s Day approaching, we wanted to take a moment to catch up with two of our recent dad grads, Robert Rutledge and Brian Hood, to learn more about what it’s like to parent while earning a degree online.
Robert who earned a Bachelor of Arts in business with a concentration in global leadership, shares a few tips and anecdotes about what it’s like to pursue a degree online while juggling a full-time job and parenthood. His biggest piece of advice? Make your kids a priority.
Brian Hood, who earned a Bachelor of Science in software engineering, shares his experience in pursuing his degree online while balancing being a dad to his young triplets, emphasizing that having a lot of patience and realizing it’s not just about you, are the best-kept secrets to making it to graduation day.
1. What is the biggest parenting lesson you've learned while earning your degree online?
Robert: I think the biggest parenting lesson I learned is being able to teach my kids how to work through their struggles, to overcome them. There were several times in school where I just felt like I was hitting a brick wall. It was so frustrating, and at times, deflating. But then you take a step back, look at the situation, and ask yourself "How do I do this?" When you tell yourself that failure isn't an option, it becomes much easier to focus on finding a solution, rather than being consumed by the problem. As my kids mature, they are going to face this same dilemma. It's my job to work with them, and teach them how to solve their problems, and learn from them.
Brian: Patience... discipline... more patience. They are young and need our patience as they learn what to do and what not to do. Our discipline is what teaches them right from wrong. Also, showing another definition, having the discipline to do the school work and make the grade and graduating instills in them a sense of what Daddy had to go through to achieve what he has.
2. What advice do you have for other parents who are thinking about pursuing their degree online?
Robert: Make it a priority to spend time with your kids. It's really difficult for them to grasp the importance of the time you're spending on your education, instead of with them - especially with younger children. My older two would often come into my office while I was working on classes, and ask "Daddy, are you done yet?", or "When will you be done?" I'd take a minute, and try to explain what I was doing, why I was doing it, but end it with the promise that as soon as I was finished, I'd spend time with just them, and devote that same level of attention. Make your kids feel important!
Brian: Do it! My desk was in the middle of my house in a room that was open to the main area and doubled as my kids’ playroom. To say that I had challenges while trying to listen to lectures is an understatement. I would say to invest in a good pair of headphones and be willing to pause and re-watch your lectures. Going to school online allows for more freedom to be able to do things like that. I know it's tough, but in the end, it is absolutely, indescribably, unbelievably worth it.
3. How has being a father impacted your student life?
Robert: Well, it didn't make it any easier, that's for sure! It was very challenging, just maintaining that balance between family, school and work. But I think it's good to be challenged, to have your limitations stretched. It helped me see what I really am capable of, which is always a good feeling.
Brian: Being a father taught me that my education is for more than just me. It is a way to leave a legacy for my children. That was my motivation to get through all the tough times and when I thought I couldn't do it anymore. I just thought about providing a better life for my family and the education I was gaining was the key to that ability. Being a student impacted my home life as well... I missed out on some things because I had to study. Some of the things I missed were the little moments like reading a book to them or going on a family walk, but then again, I knew it would be worth it to miss those moments for better ones later.
4. What is your favorite way to unwind with your kids after a long day of work and/or studying?
Robert: Well, I love watching baseball, but I can't always get my kids to sit through a game with me. I think my favorite way to unwind with them is to play with them, but in a way that explores their imaginations. We'll play Legos, or do tea parties, but I'll make them do all the thinking...things like having them explain what we are building, or who are we having tea with? Tell me all about them! I enjoy doing things where I can stop thinking for a bit, and just enjoy the creativity and imagination that my children are developing.
Brian: Since I have triplets, each one has things they like to do with me. Although, they all like it when I read to them. My daughter enjoys just sitting with me while my boys enjoy wrestling around and tickle fights. Those are some of the best times.
5. Where is your ideal study spot?
Robert: My ideal study spot is an old roll-top desk I keep in my office at home. I can shut the door, tune things out a bit, and just focus on what I need to do.
Brian: Somewhere quiet, but that never happens! Mainly, I just find some good music and play that in the background. That usually makes wherever I am a pretty good study spot.
6. What are your aspirations post-graduation?
Robert: I was just extended an offer to promote to the Safety Team Lead for Product Development at my current employer, so I think I'll be focusing on how I can improve the work area in my new role, at least for the near term. In the longer term, I'm very interested in Supply Chain, so that's something that I think I'll keep working towards.
Brian: I have a job lined up and started in early June! But that isn't what I'm most looking forward to. I'm looking forward to being able to spend time with my family and do the things that I missed while I was in class.
7. Do you have any fun Father's Day plans?
Robert: This year for Father's Day, I think we'll be getting together with all our family (siblings and in-laws) and having a BBQ to celebrate us, dads. All of the little cousins will get to run around and play, and the dads, we'll get off our feet for a few hours and just relax in everyone's company.
Brian: My ideal Father's Day would involve hiking and/or camping with my family. My most happy place is when I'm in the great outdoors and I love sharing that with my family.
Happy Father’s Day to all of our ASU Sun Devil dads! We know your families are very proud and thankful for all you do.
For any busy parents considering an online degree, ASU Online offers more than 170 programs and classes every 7.5 weeks.