To start, remember that you have got this! You are starting an adventure that will have lasting impacts on you and your family, regardless of your starting support network size. You can do this.
Here are a few tips to make the transition a little less stressful as you go back to school:
Start Building a Support Network
The more support you have through your college experience, even if it is just for yourself, the better it will be in the long run for you and your kids. We’ll talk about some support network ideas for the kids in just a moment.
Begin in your school’s student success center. In the business school, they have been a great resource for me. They have assisted me with my resume and they have been an encouragement for so much of the hard steps.
They even made a way for me to have access to career fairs that would have been difficult to attend with my daughter. The first semester of the evening career fair, they even offered to watch her! The second semester, they asked a MISA (Management Information Student Association) member to watch children for the event. That is an amazing resource! They have been incredibly good to me. They would not have known my need, however if I had not taken the first step to meet with them.
Meet with your Professors
I cannot stress enough how vital this is. Your professors want you to succeed and want to help you!
Every professor in and out of my major has been wonderful. I do feel like I was incredibly blessed haven chosen the MIS degree path. My professors have supported, encouraged, given hard advice, and pushed me to be the best I could be and not limit myself because of the fact that I am a single mom and a non-traditional student. I have signed a contract for an amazing career, before I graduate, because of my professors.
They did things that made it easier for me to succeed. For example, I brought my daughter to class on the days when she was out of school in the middle of the week.
Here is the truth though, I emailed or talked to my professors to make sure it was okay to bring her with me. I never wanted them to think I took it for granted and I wanted them to have an option to say no. They have never not allowed me to bring her with me. Every time I have needed to bring my daughter, all of my professors have been gracious towards me and her.
Do Not Limit Yourself to Just Your College
Ask about resources that will help you succeed in your learning and then follow up and utilize them. Need help with writing? Go to the writing center. If you have a kid that is young enough to go to ASUM childcare, utilize that resource. If you need help with almost any high fail rate class, there is a study jam or tutoring to be found in the evenings or in the Lomasson building.
The generosity of faculty, staff and other students, was one of the things that most surprised me in this experience as a non-traditional single parent student.
Support For Your Child
How Do You Balance Homework And Parenting?
My daughter was 8-years-old when I began school, so we were able to have conversations about what it was like to be in college from the start. We do a lot of talking through her feelings when it gets hard and she feels like she is not getting the level of attention that she needs. I try to be as validating as possible about how challenging it can be for her, too.
We make compromises as well. So, for example, I will set a timer for ten minutes and I will stop working on homework once that goes off just to be present with her. I will sometimes set another timer to know when to get back to my assignments.
How Do You Handle Out Of School Days While Still Having Class?
I typically take my daughter with me. She gets screen time during the classes, which is a treat for her. Plus, I let her know that I am excited that she gets to attend class with me. Like I said before, my professors have been very kind to her and I have also found that other students make her feel welcome to be in the class.
Another option, here in Missoula, are drop-in daycare centers. The one that I will use on occasion is very loving and my daughter feels safe there.
How Do You Handle Your Child Being Sick?
The university does not have a great solution for sick kids. However, after growing my friend base and support group, I have found that there are some faculty, staff and other students are willing to help me and not just from my own college. I have also found that my professors have been very understanding through the process of having a sick child. So seriously, talk to your professors!
The building of a support network is very important to your success as a student. I believe that if you are willing to put yourself out there and be friendly, you will be able to have the support group that you need. I have found that the University of Montana’s faculty, staff and students are an incredible group of people that, on the whole, want to be in your corner as you pursue your educational goals!
Mandy Fischer is a single parent to an amazing 10-year-old daughter. She will be graduating the Spring of 2020 from the University of Montana with a Business Management Information Systems degree. She recently accepted a position with Deloitte that begins after graduation and is excited for the future!