13 Strategies For Moms Who Are In School (Part 1)

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I was driving home from class one evening and instantly burst into tears. Feelings of exhaustion, inadequacy, and doubt swept over me. Why had I chosen to go back to school? Is being married, having a full-time job, managing my personal blog, and chasing my two-year-old around not enough? Who do I think I am? Didn’t I just have a mental breakdown several months ago after returning to school, which lead to me having to take 4 quarters off? How will I do it? I don’t have the capacity. I am not smart enough. I do not have time. I am tired and I am only one week in. I cried and I cried and I cried.

Moments later, I received a very encouraging text from my pastor that stopped me right in the middle of my pity party.

He didn’t say much, but his timing was perfect. He sent a text sharing that one of my professors had shared uplifting words about me to him. He went on to share more and I went from 0 (emotional wreck) to 20 (did I mention words of affirmation is my love language?).

When my doubt and exhaustion clouded my judgement of my ability to manage school, encouraging words reassured me and restored my joy. In that moment, I believed that God would sustain me. I believe God will sustain you too.

Yes, we are exhausted from staying up late to finish homework. Yes, we are sometimes scatterbrained and forgetful because of all the things we have on our plate.  Yes, there are days when we cry and seem unsure of how it will all work out, but I know it will. Now, we can’t just magically expect everything in our lives to fall into place and work out just fine. In reality, we plan, prepare, and work hard! This is a season of life where we will probably have to work our hardest and let me tell you, it will not be easy. There’s no easy way out.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have found several strategies that work well and would like to share them with you. I hope this information will be helpful for moms who are currently balancing work, family, and school. You are not alone. It is hard and it will continue to be hard, but you can create  a game plan to ease the load. It’s all about creating a healthy and steady life rhythm that works for you.

1. Prepare for classes weeks in advanceBe proactive! This is not the time to wait until the last minute. Weeks before classes start, review syllabi online, order books, and use your planner to write in assignments, quizzes, tests, and research papers. I was able to do this for both of my classes, which helped me tremendously. Normally, during the first week of classes,  I am still waiting for my books to be delivered and it puts me behind every time. This quarter, I ordered them early and was able to get a head start on reading assignments.

2. Meal planning & grocery shopping- This has been a huge help for my family. On the weekend, I take a good 45 minutes to meal plan for the week and to create a grocery list. I complete my grocery shopping before the week starts and post my meal plan on the fridge. It helps because I’m not spending time during the week running back and forth to the store or trying to figure out what me and family will eat. There’s already a plan in place. Meal planning saves money and time!

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3. Plan 1 self-care day every other week- Please don’t say “I don’t have time,” because I will challenge you! Make time for what’s important. You are important. Your mental health is important. If you don’t take time for yourself, no one will give you time. You will inevitably start to feel overwhelmed and stressed if you don’t take time to love and nurture yourself.  Take an afternoon or evening to just be alone and do things you enjoy without any interruptions. Every other Monday, my husband and I switch off with self-care days. This past Monday was my self-care day. I got my eyebrows arched. I also treated myself to 2 outfits and a pair of shoes (much needed). I felt great afterwards. However, your self-care day doesn’t have to involve money. Trust me, we are on a tight budget too and don’t have much wiggle room, but there are days when you will just need to treat yourself to something nice. Use discretion based on your budget.

4. Use a planner- I was feeling scatterbrained and so stressed. There were so many things to keep up with and I felt like my brain was going to explode. I realized right away that I needed a planner. I highly recommend Day Design planner by Whitney English. She designed a fabulous planner for mamas (she’s a mom herself). The planner has space for you to create goals, to brainstorm the BIG PICTURE of your life, and to document daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. My planner helps me to stay organized. You can purchase the Day Design planner at Target for $8.99-$9.99.

5.Use break time at work I have worked at my job for a little over 7 months and have not taken advantage of breaks. I’m crazy, right? I work in a residential home and a few of my youth are home every day, which makes it difficult to take a break. Well, now I take breaks. I will sit in my office for 15-20 minutes and tell my youth not to bother me. I use this time to read assignments, order research books, or respond to discussion threads! You’d seriously be amazed at how much you can accomplish in 20 minutes when you are intentional about your time.

6. Intentional date nights- My husband and I have opposite work schedules, which means we miss each other a lot. We say a lot of “hello’s and “love you’s” in passing. I start to feel super stressed out and anxious when 85% of our conversations are text messages. I need to see him face-to-face and have conversations, which is why we plan date nights. They don’t happen as much as we’d like (babysitters are hard to hunt down, lol) but we try to have a date every other week, even if that means dating each other at home. This past weekend we talked, watched a movie, and ate popcorn right in our living room while our daughter slept.

7. Bucket list for your children- You ever have those days or weeks when you start to feel sad because you haven’t created intentional moments with your children? I know that feeling all too well. I have started created seasonal bucket lists to help me plan out fun and intentional moments with my sweet baby girl, and I love it! I just posted our fall bucket list on the fridge. It has little things like: do a fall craft, play at the park, visit the museum, pick apples, drink apple cider together, and jump in a pile of leaves. These are doable, fun, and cost efficient! We try to cross 1 to 2 things off the list per week.

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Mamas, I know this could seem like another “Be More,” “Do More,” “Be Better” list. The purpose of this post is not to tell you to add more to your “to-do” list, but to provide strategies that may help provide balance during extremely busy times. Take away what you can and do what you have the capacity to do. Do it well. Do it with joy. Do it with the power and strength that comes from the Lord.

Sometimes, as moms, we put our dreams and passions on hold in order to care for our family. Later on in life, we can regret that decision because we realize that we were so busy caring for others that we forgot to care for ourselves. Moms, we can do BOTH! We can care for our family and take care of ourselves, while pursuing our God-given calling, whether it’s returning to school, starting a business, or serving on a ministry team. It is very possible, but it is not easy. This journey is not for the faint at heart. It will require some sleepless nights, organization, wisdom, grace upon grace, and lots of prayer. But guess, what? We can do this!

If you have been putting your education and dreams on hold, I want to encourage you to dream again! Put strategies in place that will help you navigate through all of your responsibilities. Be flexible and gracious with yourself. If everything does not fall into place all at once, it’s okay. I have just come to the realization that I will need to make some adjustments to my life rhythm because it’s not as sustainable as I thought it would be. That’s okay. I will keep planning and strategizing until I figure out what works best. I will not give up. I believe that God has called me to seminary and I will finish strong. My hope is that you will too!

I will post the remaining six strategies tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Photo Credit: http://www.pixabay.com 

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