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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
so tell me your advice.....
what is the one thing (or a few things, perhaps) that you think is crucial to your success as a single student mom? i am in summer classes, but only two, and my full time, real deal schedule starts in 4 weeks and i am getting anxious.

so, here's where i think i stand, but i want to know what i haven't even thought of that could help set me off on the right foot.

i have a really great support network.
i have found a really great daycare for my kids that they actually love.
i have the finances mostly worked out. (like most anyone with kids, working or studying, i have to budget, and we have our "on austerity" times, but we ain't goin' hungry or cold! (at least not yet!)
i have a really reliable car and others to borrow if it came down to it and public trans is okay, and i also have a trusty old bike.

so hit me with your nuggets of wisdom, collegiate mamas! what are your best secrets?
 

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Ok, I wasn't a successful student mama. I had to drop out, but I think wisdom can be found in my downfall.

Work out a plan for what you will do if you or your children get sick! Sick kids can't go to daycare.

Talk to professors BEFORE you sign up for their classes and find out how the feel about you bringing a sick child to school with you. Also research school rules regarding missed classes, excused absenses and incompletes. Chances are this will come up at least one in your education.

And Good Luck!
 

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I found getting the kids on a schedule to be a major help. Everyone in bed by 9pm so by 10pm I'm hitting the books and can be in bed by 1am. I'm also switching my classes to online this semester because I found the 1 hour commute each way was killing me and I can't afford $1000 a month extra for all that gas and sitter fee's and it allows me to deal with sick kids and stuff.
 

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It sounds like you have a great handle on the logistics. My only additional suggestion is to spend a little mentally preparing yourself. The most important thing, I found, was to be able to switch gears quickly and let go of school while with my son. It's hard because school is one of those things that is always lurking in the background (there's always something you could be doing for it). It can really ruin your ability to enjoy your time with your children (and they you) if you let it.

So, prepare to compartmentalize.


Oh, and enjoy. I loved being a student mama. Even though it was stressful, it allowed me so much more time with ds.
 

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A great support network is the most important thing and it sounds like you alreadt have it. For me, the biggest problem has been finding something to do with DS when he is sick. I've had to stay home this whole past week because he had pink eye and an ear infection.

I think it is important to establish a relationship with your professors before something happens. In another thread a mom suggested telling your professor you are a single mom in the beginning - I think that migh be a good idea. Then maybe the professor will be a little more understanding of absenses. My professor was VERY nice when I told her I was a single mom and DS was sick. It turns out she was also a single mom for many years. She met me before class (with my DS) and photocopied all the notes for me that I missed. I'm glad I talked to her and told her everything. I HATE doing that because I don't like feeling like I'm asking for special treatment, but some times you need to do that.
 

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Hi!
I'm single and in my second year of Law school. I only have one kid, but I think you sound pretty well set. The sick thing is true, I've been very lucky, but I've also been very open with my profs about my life and have encountered nothing but support and respect. I do make sure during finals that I have friends "on call" should Maddy wake up with a fever and I have a final in 2 hours. So that's important for me. Make sure you have enough big blocks of time. It's not a problem for me to keep up with day-to-day reading, but sometimes big projects require extra-long blocks of time. I'm lucky that my ex-has her most weekends. Also, food in the freezer and making lunches the night before are CRUCIAL. I find that house-cleaning gets the shortest shrift. But that may just be me. Good luck! You're setting a great example for your kids.
 

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I look at school as something I will finish, in time. I make sure I don't overwhelm myself. This semester I'm taking 3 four credit classes. That keeps me at full time, but amount of work is less. I tell professors I am a single mama with two children, one of whom has special needs on the first day of classes, that way they know ahead of time. I also have to remember that a B is NOT a bad grade. I'm somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to school, but sometimes I remind myself that although I know I can do better, no one is really going to care about my grades all that much once I graduate.

Have fun at school!
 

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You should also contact your school's HR and/or student-life dept. Many of the bigger public schools are slowly, grudgingly coming to accept that they have "nontraditional" students, and that some of "nontraditional" means "mother" and even "single mother". At some schools, they're trying to fold this into whatever underpowered work-life office exists on campus. What I'm saying is there may already be some official structure in place for notifying profs of your status, and some preferred way the university admin wants you to approach them. There may even be a committee you can get on.

From what I'm hearing on academia blogs & seeing here, the admins tend to have much less problem with the idea of single-parent accommodations than the older tenured profs do. A lot of those old guys tend to think you shouldn't be in school if you can't give it your full attention, and the women can be even worse, since they came up in a time when it was almost impossible to have children and career simultaneously; you certainly couldn't seek accommodations. And the old tenured profs still hold lots of power, so the admins are dealing gingerly with them. Take-home is it could help to do it the administrators' way; at least that way you have friends on one side. Possibly high up in the admin...because there's a funny number now of 40-50something single mothers who fought their way up the ranks in university admin. Maybe it was friendlier to motherhood than tenure-track was.
 

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I found that I was most successful when I did online classes, but that was mainly because I always worked full time, too. I just hated being away from my kids pretty much every waking hour during the week. With online classes, I can do school after the kids are in bed. Even now, when I have a partner, online classes are still a lifesaver & allow me to get family time in after work.

The main piece of advise I can give you is make a plan - and then NEVER STOP TO THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE DOING.
Seriously, re-evaluate your situation once a semester to make sure you're staying on track, but as soon as classes start, just put your head down and keep moving. Whenever I took time stop and look around the "what the heck am I trying to do here?!?!" thoughts would start to creep in and I'd get burnt out.

AND do something enjoyable every day, even during finals week. Make sure you're putting energy back in, because school is going to be taking a lot of energy out. If you're going to be up late studying, take an after-dinner walk with the kids.

OH! and take unpleasant classes during the summer. I did 25 credits this summer - it's only 6-8 weeks - you can do anything for 6-8 weeks (even statistics
)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
this has been some great stuff and so i am replying to thank everyone who had contributed and to bump b/c i bet there are some more student mamas out there who are in summer classes and haven't even read MDC in the last few days! the advice i'm getting is too good to let this thread fall to the bottom, so please 'scuse my selfishness!
 

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Keep everything else simple. My kids often eat pb&j during exam studying or paper writing weeks. I also tend to get them a new toy or movie for awhile to help them be happily pre-occupied when I've got those really big projects due and need extra time.

I agree with someone else who said housekeeping gets the short shift. I try to keep up with the mess and as the kids get older, they certainly help more. I find that immediately after the semester is done....I spend a week cleaning out cupboards and drawers, going through things. But, at least it gets done!!!

I also agree with the person who said do something fun, even during finals. Sometimes, it's been good for me to just put all the studying aside and go outside with the kids for an hour...I come back feeling quite refresed and ready to give it my all again.

Good luck.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by mammakerry
I also have to remember that a B is NOT a bad grade. I'm somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to school, but sometimes I remind myself that although I know I can do better, no one is really going to care about my grades all that much once I graduate.
TRUE!! I let go of my "4.0 dreams" when it started to stress me out to the point that I was considering quitting. Being a single parent (hell, being a parent at all) is about balance. If you have to let school slide once in a while (for a sick kid, total lack of sleep, child's b-day, etc) - don't feel guilty. Do the best you can and still maintain a healthy mix of school and family.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by woobysma
TRUE!! I let go of my "4.0 dreams" when it started to stress me out to the point that I was considering quitting. Being a single parent (hell, being a parent at all) is about balance. If you have to let school slide once in a while (for a sick kid, total lack of sleep, child's b-day, etc) - don't feel guilty. Do the best you can and still maintain a healthy mix of school and family.
umm...yeeeaa....this one is gonna be a toughy for me! i am a perfectionist and put way too much into this stuff. i have been working on telling myself that just doing my best is fine and in the end, most people don't ask their doctors or lawyers or kids' teachers or architects (etc, etc) what their GPA was in school. buuuuut then i get all paranoid, like "what if i'm down to a cutthroat competition for an internship and i miss it all because of a few GPA points? i can drive myself crazy with this stuff!
:
 

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I am taking summer classes right now, but tomorrow is the last day!! It is SO hard to get that balance, where school doesn't suffer, but my daughter gets enough attention. I think I had two mini nervous breakdowns because I placed so much importance on school, when in reality, the reason I am going to school is to make a better life for the munchkin and I. On the bright side, I am doing amazing, because finally my head is in the right place. I did so bad all through HS and the first year of college, but now I have some real goals. I'm curious what everyone is going for! I'm trying to decide, English or Reading Education, but I'd really like to teach college eventually.
 

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I could have sworn I'd already responded to this thread but apparently not!


Crunchyconmomma -- I think my main pearl of wisdom is simply to walk in the direction you want to be going. The path probably will take you places you couldn't have envisioned, but you'll get there, if you keep walking ...

Mirabella -- my plan is to go on to grad school in Gender and Women's studies after earning my BA in same (next May whoo hoo!). I plan on doing research, writing, and teaching at the college level.

Grades and GPAs are a funny thing ... on the one hand, I couldn't care less because I'm not doing this for anyone but myself; plus my personal educational/learning philosophy runs more in the direction of unschooling and that's how I'm raising my kids. But on the other hand, of course the GPA matters a lot if I want to get into grad school! So, yeah, odd as it sounds (to me!) my goal is as many As as humanly possible!
 

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As far as grades go, it does depend on the program you're in. My business program is not competitive and there are so many MBA programs in my area that a lower GPA will not mean I don't get into grad school, but just might mean I have to go into the more expensive program.
If you're in nursing, you'll have to get that 4.0 (at least around here).

I guess, for me, I realized that the difference in energy I have to put into a 4.0 as opposed to a 3.6 is HUGE. So, I slide with a 3.6 and I'm fine with that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
mirabella -
I'm going to school for psych. It's a LONG road, but I want my PhD. And interestingly, it's a gender-studies thing that has me most intensely focused at the moment, but overall the idea of human-mind-as-the-next-frontier-to-conquer and "why we think and act as we do" have always held me captive. Since my, now estranged, husband came out to me as a closeted transsexual, I have been obsessed with understanding as much as I possibly can about gender identity and sexual indentity and everything associated with those concepts. And I also am fascinated to know just what is wrong with him that he is not simply a transsexual, but a crazy person to boot! He has lots of problems that stayed deeply buried beneath the surface during our marriage. So learning about issues of the psyche and ways that they remain hidden (as in "sociopathic ex!"
) is going to be exceptionally fun because it hits home.

Zyla - you actually attend school yourself and unschool 3 kids?!?!?!?
How I wish I had it together enough to do that! Everything your post said was right on par for me. I also feel greatly compelled by the unschooling way, but typical college seems to see only grades and teaching-to-tests and everything I feel is wrong about formal ed. But I LOVE the opportunity to learn MORE with other people that this is affording me, as well as the idea of the doors that will open simply by having that diploma!
and your "pearl" was beautifully stated and also exactly in line with my life. I have given up with trying to navigate. I just do what I can with what I have. Life has thrown me too many unexpected, sometimes uninvited, dilemmas to think I can do any more than simply the best I can as each new challenge presents itself! A wonderful guiding principle amidst the rockiness of college and single motherhood......
 

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I have a Bachelor's which has opened MANY financial doors for me. I had to quit the Master's program but I was doing a correspondence program and was very excited to find out that I COULD do the work. I was buying my house at the time and couldn't manage everything. Right now I am working part time and homeschooling and I feel my daughter needs me around. But we think maybe we'll go to college together. So my advice is keep your eyes on the prize and once you have decided how to achieve your goals DON'T QUIT, anyway, that's what got me thru nursing school, and I just shifted my goals about the Master's. I doubt if I could hold a Master's level job anyway cause I am just not that dedicated to my career (whatever it is). My goals include doing the best I can to build a decent friendly life for us two and be as kind a person as I can and own my own house and have it be cleaned up at least once a year and have some fun and self respect and its about all I can manage just to do that.
 

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This thread is awesome... I'm going back to school this fall, majoring in social work. I have everything in place, finances, daycare, registered for classes etc. The only thing I didn't think about too much was sick kids, so thanks for that heads up. I'm working on a plan for sick kids, hopefully I'll have a list of people I can call and I'll talk to my professors about my situation. My classes are spaced out nicely so that even if I do have sick kids and can't find anywhere for them to go, I shouldn't miss much school.

I'm thinking of getting my masters right away after the bachelors. I feel like I should do it right away if I'm going to do it because with my situation right now, I'll get all of school paid for. But if I get a job that pays more money than I've ever made in my life, I'll end up having to pay for the masters if I decide to do it. Plus, I'll get myself in a job and then think it is good enough and wouldn't want to stop to go back to school again. I have 3 years to decide though.
 

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I agree with the routine/schedule for the kids. Plus, I'd suggest having a speacial dta enight or family night once a week that focuses completely on what the kids want to do. My kids and I do a "movie night" on fridays with their choice for dinner and treats and we play games, etc... It helps a lot and gives me an excuse to slack on my homework for a whole 24 hours withough feeling guilty.

I am one month away from finishing my master's degree and I agree with you about going for it as soon as you are done with your BA. I went directly into my graduate program when I was done, but I am taking this year off to travel with my kids and then going back for my PhD.

Good Luck!
 
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