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A survival guide for parents who are going back to college

By Summer Lane

Photo: Deposit

If you’re an adult who has decided to go back to college as a parent, I salute you.

It’s no joke to try to juggle work, parenting, and school. I managed to somehow do it myself, and it was the most stressful period of my life. Balanced between two jobs and heavy coursework, I sometimes wondered if it was humanly possible for me to fulfill all of my work and school obligations while simultaneously tending to the needs of my family.

I’ll be honest: sometimes, I didn’t do so great! Life got overwhelming on more than one occasion, but as someone who has fought through the stress of going to college as a working adult and a married parent, I have good news for you. It ends. You will get through this. And, best of all, you’ll emerge on the other side of this trying experience with a sense of self-confidence, because YOU DID IT!

Protect family time

When I was going to school while working two jobs, it became extremely important to make sure we carved out special time as a family to do something fun. While traveling was out of the question for a while (our schedules made it impossible to get more than Sunday off…if we were lucky!), we established something in our house that our daughter could look forward to. We called it “Friday Family Night,” and on this night, we put the work phones and homework down, made a special meal, played a board game of our daughter’s choosing, and watched a family movie together. It became a special tradition that my daughter loved so much, that we’ve chosen to continue it! Sometimes we might go OUT to dinner, or sometimes we might skip the movie altogether and instead roast some marshmallows outside around a backyard bonfire. Whatever it is, we make sure to stop and take time to BE together and check in with each other!

Have a routine

I am a creature of routine, and it’s not because I’m a control freak. It’s because I’m practical! If you want to be able to handle heavy, heavy workloads, then you’ve got to have a structure in place that will facilitate your success. In my case, I had weekly classes and weekly assignments that were always due on Sunday night. I also had weekly work projects (for reference, I was pulling about 150 writing projects per month in addition to my homework load). I felt crushed. So, I stuck to a very stringent schedule. I always took Monday night off from homework, and then I hit work projects and homework projects hard between Tuesday and Thursday.

Friday was an off night from homework, and then Saturday or Sunday afternoon was a day to focus on my homework again. I rarely – if ever – deviated from this schedule. To deviate was to invite failure! It meant that I had to miss out on some fun social events, sure. But I knew it was temporary, and I just had to trust my friends and family to understand that!

I strongly encourage other parents to do the same – have a firm routine that your family can depend on you to stick to. They will know when you’re accessible and when you’re not!

Do something special with your kids even on ‘boring’ weeknights

Kids need special one-on-one time. They just do. They’re precious and they grow up so fast! I went back to school when my daughter turned one, and I didn’t graduate until she was nearly five. For her entire life, she watched her mom work, work, and work some more. Still, I found time to do special things with her, and I’m so glad I did!

If she was home with me during the day, we’d do a few fun activities throughout the day in 20-30 minute bites, like painting a watercolor picture or reading a chapter of a book during breakfast, snack, and lunch. Also, when she got a little older, we began reading middle-grade novels together before bed, and it fostered a love of reading in my little one.

Just this year, we’ve read Heidi, The Wizard of Oz, White Fang, The Call of the Wild (and many other classic novels) Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Desperaux, and we’re working on A Wolf Called Wander.

I cannot overstate how IMPORTANT it is to make sure you get that one-on-one time with your kid. Go on walks together, feed the chickens together, bake cookies together. Just get out and be TOGETHER!

To add to that…I highly recommend getting outside and going on a walk, a run, or just a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood with your family if you can. Some of the conversations that I have had with my sweet daughter while we have been on a walk have been the most memorable we’ve ever had!

Stay in the Word

This is something that I struggled with, in all transparency. I sometimes was able to handle reading the Bible, and I sometimes wasn’t. When I couldn’t read (I was so exhausted and my eyes hurt – yes, really!), I did my best to LISTEN to the Bible with audio or catch Biblical podcasts on my way to pick up my child from preschool three days a week. I did the best I could. It’s all we can do, right?

Focusing on the Word of God definitely filled up my heart and soul – and if I didn’t focus on the Word? My weeks were much harder, much darker, and much more chaotic. In the end, we’re running a race with endurance because of Jesus, and even in the middle of the hurricane of life, we have to remember to go back to the SOURCE of our hope and salvation.




The opinions in this article are specific to its author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entire Counter Culture Mom team. This specific article was written by Summer Lane, and may not be reproduced, except to quote for reviews or interviews, without the express permission of the author. 

Photo credit: Contributed, Blonde & Blue Photography



Summer Lane is the #1 bestselling author of 30 books, including the hit Collapse Series and Resurrection Series. She is an experienced journalist and columnist who reports on news within the U.S. and abroad. She is the Associate Editor for Right Side Broadcasting Network. Additionally, she analyzes politics and policies on The Write Revolution.

Summer is also a mom and wife who enjoys rural country living, herding cats, and gardening. She is passionate about writing about women’s issues, parenting, and politics from a theologically-grounded perspective that points readers to the good news of the gospel.

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