Balancing a family, work and school can be a challenge. Some days might even begin to feel like more of a struggle than a juggle, but that does not mean that making it all work is impossible.
According to numbers obtained by the National Center for Education, one in four of the 17 million Americans enrolled in undergraduate higher education institutions is caring for a child. That means that a quarter (25 percent) of all undergraduate students are currently raising children while continuing to pursue their education.
Learning how to successfully integrate coursework into your already-full life comes with practice – and patience, and it never hurts to have a little advice from those who have been in similar shoes. Here are a few tips from juggling connoisseurs Robert Rutledge, Brian Hood and Cherise Shockley – all ASU graduates who completed their degrees online while raising kids.
Robert earned a Bachelor of Arts in business with a concentration in global leadership online while juggling a full-time job and parenthood. His biggest piece of advice? Make your kids a priority.
“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 children would often come in 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 balanced earning a Bachelor of Science in software engineering online with being a dad to young triplets. He emphasizes 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.
“My desk is in the middle of my house and opens up to a room that doubles as my kids’ playroom. To say that I had challenges while trying to listen to lectures is an understatement. I recommend investing 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 pause when you need to. I know it's tough, but in the end, it is absolutely, indescribably, unbelievably worth it. 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.”
Cherise is currently working to earn her degree online in mass communication and media studies after making sure her entire family was on board with her decision to go back to school. Her biggest advice is to call a family huddle and make sure that everyone is on the same page and understands the commitment that comes with continuing one’s education.
“You have to be organized and know that there are no shortcuts. If a problem comes up, make sure to speak up and ask when you need help. If you are married or have kids, you have to tell your family what’s going on, making sure to sit down and talk to them. Explain to them that this will require a time commitment but, in the end, will be worth it. When [my daughter] sees me struggling, she finds ways to help me stay on track, and when she’s down about her own classwork and grades, I share stories of my personal struggles, as well as how I persevered. When I’m sitting at the computer beating myself up for not completing my degree sooner, I tell myself, ‘at least my daughter will know that anything is possible with sacrifice, hard work, faith and determination.’”
Managing everything can be complicated, but completing your education can open doors to so many new possibilities for you and your family, like the opportunity to advance your career, increase your overall earning potential or even pursue a personal passion. With nearly 4.8 million other parents pursuing degrees, remember that you're in good company and the juggling act of parenthood and education is 100 percent possible.
If you are interested in pursuing a degree online, browse more information on the range of degree options ASU Online offers.