Being a parent can be challenge by itself, as is being a college student. When you combine the two and then add the “single parent” aspect, you’ve got a highly complex situation. To successfully attend school, be a good parent, keep a job and maintain some shred of your sanity, you must be tactful about how you live, learn and love.
Establish a schedule. You will need time management skills to be successful in this endeavor. Pull out the calendar or a planner and write down all of your obligations. Use different colored ink for different tasks. For instance, write out your school schedule in blue ink, work schedule in green ink, appointments in orange and your child’s activities in black. Red ink can be used to indicate high-priority items, like exam days. More important than a highly organized schedule, always remember to take at least 10 or 15 minutes to spend one-on-one time with your kiddo. Just that little bit of time can help you stay close and connected. Studying with your school-aged child is also a multi-purpose way to be together.
Create a budget plan. Being a single mother means you have half the income of a two-parent home. Make meal plans, write up a shopping list and stick to it. Include haircuts, clothing, toiletries and household supplies in your budget. Writing it all out can give your situation some perspective.
Explore your financial aid options. Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid online. Not only will the FAFSA help you determine what federally funded student loans and grants you qualify for, your college may also have scholarships and grants that are specifically designed for single parents. These can help you decide how to pay for your education.
Figure out your childcare plan. You can ask relatives or friends to babysit while you study. If your chosen college has an affordable, on-site childcare program, look into that. When this is not an option, find a childcare facility that is close to your college, near home or on your way to school. If you are a low-income single mom, you may be able to qualify for a public assistance daycare program, like Head Start, or get a grant to pay for your childcare expenses. Look on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Care and Head Start websites for further information on these programs.
Consider online or blended courses. This may be a viable option if the courses you need to take don’t fit into your schedule or you can’t afford childcare.
Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself for not always having the house spotless. Take time for yourself to recharge, like a hot bath after a stressful week. Use encouraging self-talk and affirmations.
Involve your children. Talk openly and honestly with your children about your situation, expectations and feelings, if they are old enough to understand. As an article by Brigham Young University points out, single parent homes are often more interdependent, and parents and children must learn to work together to approach problem-solving and daily living. Ask your school-aged child to take the garbage out or your preschooler to pick up his toys.