Going to college alone is not easy but adding that you have two children being homeschooled is even more frightening. The question that I get asked all the time is, how do I get everything done? Between homeschooling, my schoolwork, housework, grocery shopping, exercise etc., it’s definitely a lot to balance.
In 2018, my husband and I decided that I would go back to school to have a career and, therefore, better economic stability. I started this new journey in February 2018. At first, it was difficult for me to adapt to the new role as a student since I had not studied for more than a decade. Trying to balance school, work, home and children was a challenge. Still, it was something that I could have under control in one way or another since I studied while the children were in school and while they slept at night. I worked very hard during that year; I didn’t even have a summer break. I took all the classes that I was allowed to take in one semester. Thank God, I completed my associate degree in one year. Thanks to my high GPA, I was able to transfer to a private four-year university. The majority of the population of students who go to that university are students that had just graduated from high school, so I felt othered in the sense that nobody else was really living in the same lifestyle as I am. The workload was a little heavy and there were times that I wanted to give up.
Everything seemed genuinely impossible to handle. I didn’t have time for myself. There were days that I was so stressed out that I didn’t even want to do any of my homework. Maybe you feel tired, exhausted, and want to give up just like me because you think you can’t do it anymore. The first thing that I’m going to tell you is DON’T GIVE UP! Our minds are what control our emotions and feelings. From my personal experience, I will tell you that our minds are capable of more than we think. From the moment we wake up, everything starts with how we talk to ourselves and how we plan our day.
Despite feeling anxious about juggling all of these responsibilities, old and new, I created a schedule for myself to evenly divide my time for schoolwork, housework and taking care of my children. This routine gave me the balance I needed to succeed. However, the pandemic began during my last year of school. Suddenly, everything changed. The kids weren’t going to school, which was when I was able to do the majority of my own schoolwork. I searched online to see if I could get some strategies or advice on how I can do homeschooling and go to school at the same time. Unfortunately, the search was unsuccessful. I didn’t find anything. Week after week, my responsibilities were getting more challenging to keep up with since I couldn’t balance my school, the children’s school, housework, etc. At this point, I was going crazy, and the best option was to drop out of school. This was the perfect opportunity. However, from a very young age, I was always a very persevering person. What I started I liked to finish, so I decided that we would do this together (my husband and the children). The days still go by whether we want them to or not. The first thing you have to tell your mind is what you want and what your reason is for wanting to achieve it.
The most challenging task is putting your priorities in order. As a mother, we are all over the place, and setting priorities can be very hard. Being a mother is hard since you want to put the well-being and happiness of your children before your own, so I understand what you are going through. A mother’s love is difficult to understand, and it can only be contemplated. Many days, I felt like I was neglecting my children for my studies and my goals. I felt that I was being selfish focusing mostly on my schooling for the past few years while they have been growing up so fast and when I finally realize they’re all grown up, it would already be too late. Now was the time they needed me the most and I understood that. I found time to connect and be with them, even if it was just for brief moments each day. I couldn’t entirely compromise my scheduling out of guilt, and the balance between work, school, and play was key in me finding time for these small moments together. Fighting with my mind was an intense battle, but once again, having my priorities defined helped me focus on what matters and not just what I believe. The quality of time is always more substantial than the quantity (although in a perfect world, we would appreciate both).
There were definitely many obstacles facing me before I could reach my goals, but the real question still remains: How did I do it? Well, the first thing was God because, without Him, nothing would have been possible. I don’t want to sound overly religious, but we talk about priorities, so in our world, many things get out of control, and if we do not know how to put our priorities in order, it is almost impossible to move forward. So, the first thing was knowing that I have nothing under control. I believe that the creator of the universe has everything in his hands, so from there, we start with a renewed mind resting that there will be things that will go out of control, but since I have my creator, I will embrace both the good and the bad things. With that mentality, it takes me to my second step, talk to your family and make them a part of the schedule. Let them know that they will have to step forward and help in the house during this time. Thank God my husband helped me a lot, so there were times that I didn’t have to do the grocery shopping, cook or do laundry. My son was helping me every week to vacuum as well as to clean the bathroom. My daughter helped me pick up the mess around the house from day-to-day activities. It was a collaborative effort from the whole family. Lastly, make a schedule the night before, plan your day and see where you are spending more time and where you can make some adjustments. I used this website, collegestudysmarts.com/free-study-planner-study-less/, to create my daily schedules and keep myself on-track with what I needed to accomplish.
Honestly, during this journey, my children were my greatest inspiration; I wanted to leave a legacy for them to understand that education is not negotiable. I wanted to demonstrate it not with words but with actions. There was no better satisfaction for my children when they saw me graduate from a community college in a single year with honors. I knew I couldn’t stop there and needed to complete my education. Despite this very demanding and uncertain year during the pandemic and the other hardships before that now seemingly can’t compare to these new struggles, I’m just a few weeks away from graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology and a minor in Communication.
Although these past three years I have slept very little, surprisingly, this last year I felt physically and mentally better, and it is because I have put my priorities in order. It is difficult but not impossible. The most important lesson to learn is how to effectively prioritize your life. Once you know exactly what tasks need to be done in what order, you will put to the side the ones that can wait. Learn to say “no” or reach out to others when you need help– you are only one person; there is only so much you can handle on your own. Ultimately, stick to your schedule so you can have a productive and happy life even when you feel that the odds are entirely against you.