This is going to be so out of left field for anyone that has my read my blog in the past. I saw today someone comment on a random Facebook article,”Wait, people still blog?”
I don’t know. But here’s what I do know. When I started looking for resources on going back to school as a mother, there was little to be found. There were always a few articles (a lot that were dated), and then the search engine thought maybe I mistyped and my search watered down to anything with “back to school” in the title.
In case you’re a mom, thinking about going back to school, I hope you find this helpful. I shared these thoughts on Instagram and it seemed like there might be an interest, so I’m going for it (for as long and as much as I can). If you’re a mom, thinking you’ll never go back to school, that may be true and then again, you never know. I once swore off going back to school forever, up until a few years ago.
I was recently admitted a Master’s of Occupational Therapy program and to say I am excited is a serious understatement. I get random bursts of ridiculous happiness (dancing in the car might also ensue) thinking about the privilege it is to be able to study this. But this didn’t come easy, and I most definitely didn’t do it alone.
So here is what I have found necessary to surviving going back to school, as a mom:
FIND YOUR PEOPLE
I tell everyone I can, when talking about this going back to school thing as a mother, that I could never have done it without my husband. Whether it is family, spouse, friends, a super-reliable baby sitter, or a mixture of these, you need a support system. Your kids will always take precedence over studies when rubber meets the road, so lining up your support system as soon as you know you will be going back to school is a must.
SAYING “NO” TO ALL THE RIGHT PEOPLE.
While I was trying to rack up observation hours in an occupational therapy setting and boost my chances of getting into grad school, I thought one way to do that might be to work in a rehabilitation hospital. I applied and a few weeks later I got a call for an in-person interview. This was my first job interview in over eight years! I was so nervous, I didn’t eat that morning which is saying a lot for this breakfast-loving girl. During the interview I was asked what is a lesson I have learned recently, to which I replied,”learning to disappoint the right people.”
Truthfully, I first heard it worded this way at a blog conference from speaker Jeff Goins. But those words have stayed with me, because how true is this? We are always going to disappoint someone, even with the best of intentions. And trust me when I say, I am by nature people-pleasing. My lesson, especially in going back to school and changing careers, is to make sure I am disappointing the right people. Learn the power of “no”, own it.
My sweet husband is always assessing how much I am putting on my plate. He will usually give me his advice on what I should or shouldn’t take on. I like to stay busy, that is part of the problem (how I was made???) but when school came into the picture, I began implementing both my husband’s advice and the wisdom from Goins. Saying “no” becomes surprisingly easier, the clearer (and the closer) your goals become.
REMEMBER YOUR END GOAL.
I spent at least a year researching what exactly I wanted to do instead of teaching. I love the whole teaching students elements of design and design principles, but there is so much that goes along with teaching in general that I don’t love. I knew that I could do it for the rest of my working life, and learn to do it well but I wanted more. This wasn’t the only reason for going back to school, but it was definitely a contributing factor.
Somewhere along the way I discovered occupational therapy and fell in love. The chances of actually getting into Occupational Therapy school was slim (for anyone) so I kept searching but in my searches, I kept running into this field again and again and again.
I learned in my search for my new career, that the Occupational Therapy motto is “Living life to it’s fullest”. That sealed the deal. If this wasn’t my life mantra, I don’t know what is. I decided to dive in, and gave it all I had.
I had found what I loved. Every time I ran into roadblocks (I’m looking at YOU, Statistics!!), I set my eyes on my end goal of being an real OT, and decided hating or loathing or complaining about the roadblock was a waste of energy. School takes energy, school as a mom takes all your energy and leaves you in the negative, so I learned to be super stingy with my energy. I had to conquer these roadblocks, not the other way around. And I did, with a “B” in Statistics, the hardest class of all time!
LEARN WHAT FILLS YOUR CUP (AND WHAT DOESN’T)
There will be brief moments in your back to school routine where you are wondering, I know I must be forgetting something!! And – how do I actually have nothing to do for school? Between Anatomy I, Anatomy II (summer class), two Psychology courses and Statistics, those moments were short-lived, but they did exist. I learned to use this time to fill my cup. For me, that was usually doing next to nothing at home with my favorite people in the whole world.
Pete, being super thoughtful, would offer to watch the kids so I could go to yoga, relax at a coffee shop, or meet up with girlfriends. Those things would have sounded DIVINE in my former, no school life. But being home is my sanctuary. Where my kids, my own food, my comfy spot on the couch and my fun-to-read books are. There was maybe once I did take him up on his offer and went to a yoga class downtown and I did meet friends a couple of times, but these moments away from my family were rare.
I found what fills my cup in those down times. And when it was time to hit the books again, I was more than ready. In fact, I found myself missing studying.
EMBRACE THE CHAOS.
When I started classes, it was initially overwhelming how different school life would like, now that I was a mother. I knew study time didn’t start as soon as I was out of class or off of work. It had to be squeezed in, among all the doctor visits, school functions, family stuff, bed time routines, cooking, cleaning and on it goes.
The first two weeks were like boot camp. I dove in with a “let’s do this!!” mentality, ready to unplug from social media, postpone replying to text messages unless I absolutely knew it could not wait, and make social sacrifices altogether. Everything but family took the back burner. I concluded that I would have no life for a few years and that it would be all worth it. Going in with this mentality of having no free time made any free time that did present itself an amazing and unexpected gift!
I have ultimately decided that moms make excellent students.
We juggle well, for the most part. We learn to own our mistakes. We know our boundaries. We are really good at loving what matters. We might be able to relax like no one’s business on a Sunday afternoon, but we also know how to get stuff done. We aren’t afraid of late nights, and while we don’t love early mornings, we have been waking up many times a night on top of waking up early, for years. We know how to do lots with the least amount of sleep. We have mastered the six-minute makeup routine and some days play the “makeup optional” card.
And while it might look like we don’t appreciate the now (because God knows how much people like to remind us to “enjoy these moments, because they go so fast!”), we really, really do. We know how short time is. We remember when our kids were born, and here they are, however many years from birth and we can only conclude that this feeling of sweeping time magnifies as the years roll by. We know what we are committing to when we register for school as a mother.
We don’t make this decision on a whim, lightly, and definitely not alone. And for most of us, the decision to go back to school is largely based on our kids and family.
I start my classes for my Master’s next month!! If you have any questions or insight, please leave it in the comments 🙂