4 Things all moms going back to school should know
Going back to school after spending time away from the classroom can be difficult for anyone. When you have children to care for, there’s often an added layer of consideration. Many mothers wonder if they’ll have enough time to dedicate themselves to a degree program without it taking a toll on their kids’ well-being.
But the rising trend of moms going back to school can be reassuring. It begins to seem more attainable when you consider that the number of mothers returning to school after having children is higher than ever. According to an analysis published in Population Research and Policy Review, 17 percent of mothers in the U.S. complete additional education after their kids are born.
It’s also worth digging into just how many students who double as parents are women. While approximately 22 percent of all undergraduate students are raising dependent children, The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports that women make up 70 percent of all student-parents. And, roughly 43 percent of the student-parent population consists of single mothers.
If you count yourself among the many mothers considering going back to school, you might want to hear from women who’ve walked that path already. They’re often the best sources of inspiration, tips and advice for aspiring students like you.
4 Important messages for moms going back to school
Before taking a look at the advice from moms who went back to school, it’s worth it to examine how furthering your career can benefit your family. A recent Harvard study reports that daughters of working mothers completed more years of education, were more likely to be employed as adults, occupied more supervisory roles and earned higher incomes throughout their lives. Additionally, sons of working mothers are more likely to share the load when it comes to general household duties like childcare.
When you realize that pursuing a thriving career after graduation can also set your kids up for success, any guilt you feel about devoting time and energy toward advancing your education may begin to subside.
But that doesn’t mean your journey as a mom going back to school will be without its challenges. Consider the following four pieces of advice from women who found success after heading back to college.
1. Find a support network you can count on
Brandman University graduate Dr. Marilyn Martinez Saucedo grew up learning the importance of leaning on loved ones for support. Her parents are Cuban immigrants who were always working to build a better life for their children, and they frequently relocated. Through it all, her family supported her endlessly in her pursuit of an education.
“I became the first person in my family to go to college, to graduate and to earn a master’s degree,” Dr. Martinez Saucedo says. “I credit my parents for that. They reminded me regularly that they believed in me and not to expect less from myself than what I was capable of.”
Eventually, Dr. Martinez Saucedo saw that she had an opportunity to return to school once more. But she was riddled with questions that held her back:
“Should I really be going back to school at my age? Would I be neglecting my amazing husband, my wonderful family and my dear friends? Did I want to burden my family with the financial challenges of a doctoral program at this point in our lives?”
Dr. Martinez Saucedo overcame her doubts about going back to school by relying on the primary lessons her family taught her. They always warned her to stay away from individuals who would dissuade her ambitions. Her message is simple:
“Associate instead with people who see the greatness in you and who encourage you to grow, to learn and to live a purpose-filled life,” she says.
With a support system by her side, Dr. Martinez Saucedo earned her Ed.D in Organizational Leadership from Brandman University. She later went on to become the director of college and career readiness for the Beaumont Unified School District in California.
2. Don’t fear failure
When considering going back to school to earn her degree, Stacey Smith’s biggest source of inspiration was her family. The single mother of four struggled to provide the quality of life she desired for her children as she relied on her minimum wage job to pay the bills. She knew her educational journey wouldn’t be easy, but Smith refused to let her perceived shortcomings hold her back. Her persistence to move forward paid off as help poured in from a number of different sources.
Smith’s mother stepped in to cover childcare during her long hours of studying and coursework. When she realized she couldn’t afford her final semester in school, Brandman University nominated her for a scholarship through Alaska Credit Union. Add to that the flexible program offerings at Brandman, Smith was able to reach her goal of graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work. As she reminisces on the doubts she faced in pursuit of her degree, Smith urges others to persevere in the face of adversity.
“Life can make you feel very high at times, and other times it can beat you up,” Smith says. “You should never view challenges as disadvantages. The weakest moments are what strengthen us as humans.”
With the right resources, Smith believes all challenges can end in success. She’s proud of her achievement and what it means for her family.
“No one I knew believed in me and a lot of people said I was going to fail. But I proved them wrong, and what makes me happiest is knowing that I have been an example for my kids,” she explains.
3. Never lose sight of your end goal
Graduate Ashley Seling began her higher education journey with Brandman University in early 2014. When her first son was born midway through 2015, she opted to take time off from work and pursuing her degree to become a full-time, stay-at-home mom.
It was during that time that Seling was inspired to start her own business focused on connecting moms and their babies with resources to enhance physical and emotional development. Her vision for the business grew after she had her second child in 2017, and it reignited Seling’s desire to complete her bachelor’s degree. Though returning to school with two young children was no small task, Seling remained determined by continually focusing on her end goal.
“Believe, and you will achieve,” she says. “Completing coursework while running a business and being a mom was hard. You must continue to believe in your dreams and yourself.”
Seling eventually earned her Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership. She had plenty of wisdom to share with her graduating class in her 2019 spring commencement speech.
“Never give up. Life will challenge you. People will challenge you,” Seling reflects. “And each time, you must remain clear on your dreams.”
4. Your hard work and persistence will pay off
The road to earning a bachelor’s degree was a long and winding one for recent Brandman University graduate Ruth Narez. It began when she dropped out of high school at age 16 after an unexpected tragedy took the life of a loved one.
“I had no desire to continue my education,” she recalls. Instead, she worked a handful of part-time jobs to keep herself busy.
While she wasn’t interested in pursuing any educational endeavors, Narez did have the desire to land a well-paying job. But with no high school diploma or college degree, all of the possibilities felt out of reach. It was when she became pregnant with her first child, however, that her perspective toward education truly began to shift.
“I knew right then and there that I wanted to give the little soul growing inside me the best life possible,” Narez shares. Nearly a decade after walking away from the classroom, the now 25-year-old single mother felt determined to give formal education another shot.
Narez worked full-time while attending classes to obtain her GED, and then her associate degree in criminal justice. From that point on, she headed right back to the classroom every time she ran into roadblocks in her pursuit to land a fulfilling and lucrative job. While Narez always felt that a bachelor’s degree was too far out of reach, she completed 10 years of nonstop college courses while maintaining full-time work. In that time, she not only had another child, but she also amassed an impressive six associate degrees.
Determination and persistence continued to drive Narez forward. When she discovered an affordable bachelor’s degree opportunity at Brandman University, she dove right in.
“I doubled up on classes and designed my weekly routine, reading on lunch breaks, while the kids watched TV, while on vacation…you name it, I did it,” Narez recounts. “It wasn’t easy, and at times there were tears of frustration. But I knew there was a light at the end of this tunnel, and Brandman University would guide me to that light.”
In June 2019, she accomplished her goal. She graduated from Brandman with a Bachelor of Business Administration with an emphasis in Human Resources. Narez is now able to look back at all the times she wanted to give up and be proud of her resilience.
“Anyone can give up — but to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart is when you demonstrate the power of true strength,” she urges. “It was the best feeling in the world to walk into graduation dressed in my cap and gown, and hear my children yell from the stands, ‘We love you, Mom! You did it!’”
Moms going back to school: Return to the classroom with confidence
Perhaps you’re feeling empowered by the above statistics and advice to join the ranks of moms going back to school. Committing to your own educational goals can clearly benefit both you and your children. You can now make your decision to go back to school with confidence.
Between managing your family’s busy schedule and maybe even balancing multiple jobs, you’ll want to be sure to find a college with ample resources that can help you be successful as you pursue a degree. Learn about how Brandman University’s coaches, advisors and other specialists can walk you through every step of your journey by visiting our Dedicated Resources page.
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