How To Thrive As A Single Parent Student

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.

Photo by Laurent Peignault on Unsplash

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!

Conclusion

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!

Photo by guille pozzi on Unsplash

 

 

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!

5 Reasons Why You Need to Ride in Montana

You know how everyone from Montana says “Montana’s the last, best place”? Well they also say “Montana’s the last best place to go horseback riding”.

Conway Tweetie glancing at wild flowers

Here are the reasons why you need to mark “a horse back ride in MT” off your bucket list.

1. The connection that you feel between the horse and the wild Montana landscape, it feels like it all becomes one.

2. You have the one in a million chance to feel the freshness of all four seasons in a single ride.

3. Sun- gaze at the big sky filled with blue and cotton ball clouds that are above you.

Montana Sunset

4. Riding in MT will increase your love for life while peeking over the breath taking scenery.

 

5. As the great Dixie Chicks would say the “Wide Open Spaces” makes MT irresistible.

Rio Warbar grazing fresh green grass

“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life” -Dolly Parton

By Desiree Altmaier

10 MUST HAVE stops on a PNW road trip!! Secret spots straight from locals!

4 girls set out on college budgets to see the Pacific North West, stops are listed in the video along with videos of the beautiful scenery!

by Teresa Zortman

Start: Sacramento, California

We then stayed in the Redwoods in Arcata, California. After one night, we woke up the next morning and got on Highway 101.

We then camped in Lincoln County on the coast of Oregon. The campsite was nice- but crowded. We usually back-pack to our campsites so this was a change.

Then we did another big haul up the 101, this was a big driving day but we took many impulsive stops to break it up. We arrived in Seattle in time to eat an over-priced lunch!

We spent some major time exploring the city, surprisingly one of our favorite parts was not the space needle but the wheel on the Seattle Waterfront!

Next was Canada- the border crossing. It took us about an hour to get over the border, even though we tried crossing late at night.

We woke up to a sunny, bright day in the land of maple syrup. We stayed in Burnaby, just outside of Vancouver. We had breakfast, biked, and went to Granville Island! (I rode a tandem bike, and wore a fanny pack. Representing America well to our Northern neighbors.

Sadly, we could not stay in Canada. So we drove down back into Washington where we conquered Mount Baker and tested the speeds of the Ford Fiesta that we had all crammed into.

Our final stop was Portland. We got followed by homeless men cat-calling us but other than that it was great!

The original plan was to camp one more time at a remote site by a River South of Grants Pass, but an epic rain/thunder storm killed those plans. So we settled for a Dutch Bros stop.

I would HIGHLY recommend this trip and these stops! I wish we could’ve taken a longer trip than 10 days.

What Losing Friends Has Taught Me

By Gianna Pagano

My Sophomore year of college I met a girl and we instantly connected on so many levels. From that moment forward we became best friends and we were practically inseparable. We did everything together, and I literally mean everything. She was the person that I looked up to for advice on family, friendships, boyfriends, and even academics. Not only was she nice, but she was smart, loyal, spontaneous, hilarious, and most important, she always supported me whenever I needed her.

As we get older and mature into who we decide to become, we often grow out of friendships or lose touch with them. A lot of the times these falling outs can be completely unintentional. Whether we get busy with school, work, family, new relationships, or we simply just change, the truth is that this is just the reality of life. 

I’m sure many of you have experienced something similar, and you can relate that it isn’t easy. There was never an argument or a huge fight that ended our friendship, we simply had a falling out. The past few months have been extremely difficult for me, and I feel that both my friend and I have missed out on being there for each other for many important events.

Having a falling out with a close friend can be emotionally draining, so here are 5 recommendations that helped me and can help many others going through the same process:

Give yourself time to process your emotions and understand the situation

A breakup with a friend can be just as tough as a breakup with a significant other, and it is normal to experience a wide range of emotions. To cope with your emotions, start by giving yourself time to grieve and assess your feelings about the situation so you can come to terms with the reality of losing a friend. During grieving, ask yourself: Are our problems beyond repair? Did they do something unforgivable? What caused this to happen?

Since the breakup with my friend, I have experienced about every emotion possible. I initially tried to brush it off and pretend I did not care. However, as weeks turned into months, I realized I was genuinely hurt by the situation and I missed her. I experienced a range of emotions: jealousy, anger, disappointment, loneliness, and confusion. I cried, A LOT.

It is important to remember that it is okay to feel vulnerable during these situations. You might force yourself to hold in your emotions, but bottling up your feelings is not healthy and it is normal to cry it out. 

Look at the situation from their perspective

Everyone has flaws, even you. Try to be more self-aware and understand you might have been in the wrong too. If you both equally contributed to the falling out, then you cannot throw all the blame on them nor should you hold a grudge. It is better to ask yourself: Why did the friendship end? Should I have tried harder to maintain it? Remember, friendship is a two-way street and it takes two people to communicate.

You should take into consideration how they are feeling. When you lose a close friend, it is likely that they are also experiencing the same or similar emotions as you are. And guess what, she probably misses you just as much as you miss her.

Do NOT make your mutual friends choose a side

I cannot express this one enough. A good friend would NEVER try to put their other friends in an uncomfortable position by forcing them to take a side. This problem involves two people, and no one else. Your mutual friends might be hurting too because they’re conflicted and feel they now have to split their time. Making your friends choose a side will only cause more drama and could ultimately make you lose those friends too. 

When both of you are in the wrong, you must be mature and refrain from speaking negatively about them. In my situation, I know that the girl was and still is an amazing person, so I never could say anything bad about her. Talking crap to your mutual friends puts them in an even more difficult position, and frankly, it will make you look petty.

Make new friends

Moving on is never easy but making new friends can be when you put yourself out there. While you may think that no one will ever compare to your lost friend, surrounding yourself around different people can fill the void and offer you new friendship qualities. Evaluate which qualities you look for in a friendship, then find the courage to expose yourself to new people.

I used to struggle when it came to making friends, and when I was younger, I honestly did not have that many. After my falling out, I decided to put myself back out there because I was tired of feeling left out. I ended up meeting a few girls recently that welcomed me in with open arms and have since become people I could not imagine my life without.

And finally, reach out when you are ready

If you are as stubborn as I am, this will be the hardest part. This requires you to be the bigger person and to take initiative. If you realize that you still want them in your life, start by apologizing or reaching out. If the two of you are still unable to resolve your issues, then at least you know you did everything that you could.

I found myself reaching out many times during the first few months, but I eventually stopped because nothing was changing. We would agree that we both missed each other and wanted to resolve our issues, but after each time I reached out, I never heard from her again. It turned into a never-ending cycle and only caused me more pain. I finally had to accept that when she was ready, she would let me know. 

If the friendship was genuine, remember that this is only temporary. Eventually you will both come around and have the opportunity to discuss the situation, but for now it is going to take some distance. In the meantime, be patient, focus on yourself, and understand that sometimes people change.

Expectation is a Curse, Unless it Isn’t

How often in our lives do we find ourselves over analyzing or even mourning the circumstances in our lives after some situation or, more often, some person doesn’t live up to our expectations? Then again, how fantastic is it to be in the middle of a moment that so far exceeds anything you could have imagined that you almost have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s real? For what it’s worth, these are universal human experiences because we are all blessed and cursed with the ability to imagine what we want and then to desire that it comes into our lives.

Since it is a universal human experience, it probably means it’s also a necessary part of the human experience and one that has contributed to our evolution in one way or another. Without expectation of reward, positive or negative, why do any of us leave our houses in the morning and face the day? It is because we have expectations that the day offers something new and amazing, or that it will at least move our lives forward. Hope, after all, is just another name for positive expectation.

The dictionary says that expectation is both A) “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future” and B) “a belief that someone will or should achieve something.” I think this perfectly captures the dilemma of expectation. Expectation is a belief about the future and a belief is not necessarily a truth, nor does is guarantee an outcome. Expectations are sort of like goals, except that people rarely put effort into the creation of expectations. A goal is a decision injected with purposeful action, whereas an expectation is an idea mixed with varying levels of conviction. For the most part, goals are actively pursued and expectations are passively accepted.  

I believe that the way people understand and manage expectation is a defining factor, if not the defining factor, in the quality of their lives. Expectation can act as a guide, allowing us to move through the world with some evolving hope about what we may encounter in the world. Otherwise, expectation can become a liability when they are rigid and inflexible, eventually dragging us down into a fog of disappointment.

This topic has been at the forefront of my mind because I just experienced a wildly challenging period in my life. One in which I have felt my motivation, focus, energy, and self-worth drain out of me through the cracks that appeared in my well-being during this time. These cracks and the collateral damage they created in my life were all caused, in their essence, by my expectations. More accurately, it was my relationship to my expectations that lead to all this difficulty.

For the better part of a year, I have been grappling with various expectations that I let become a prison cell around my life. This time taught me a lot about how powerful expectations can be when they become too inflexible. One of the nefarious qualities of expectation is that when we commit to them too strongly, the doors of opportunity to anything else slam shut. For me, I had created a scenario in my life based on the assumption that when people say they feel a certain way, they will behave a certain way. As I read that sentence now, I see how ridiculous it is because I know it’s completely untrue. But I believed so overwhelmingly in what I felt and how I expected things to turn out that any reasonable perspective was completely lost.

Because of this, I pushed for things to be a certain way despite a horde of circumstances that absolutely required flexibility. I spent every day wanting things to be a certain way and then felt progressively worse as each day passed and what I expected never came to pass. This made every part of my life difficult, making me question my motivations, my abilities, everything. Needless to say, I don’t recommend letting this happen in your life.

If we allow expectations to exist with some lightness in our lives, free to evolve with changing circumstances, instead of hurting us, they can buoy us when things get tough. Strong, heavy expectations keep your focus in the future instead of in the present moment.

Here’s the challenge with adjusting your expectations: when someone says they have low expectations, what is your initial reaction? You probably react with concern, confusion, or pity. But this reaction is a mistake. Having low expectations is not the same as having low ambition. It also doesn’t mean a loss of faith in people. Instead, it means being ready to let people and situations unfold naturally without the need to push for particular outcome. I’m not saying people should stop expecting others to treat them with respect or fulfill their responsibilities, but if expectations get set of everything and everyone around us, whose fault is it when these expectations are not met?

The only person anyone can or should expect things from is themself. While this might sound sad, this is actually a good thing. First, others WILL show up for us, even if sometimes it doesn’t seem like it. If there is a time in life when it seems like no one is there or expectations won’t be met, turn to oneself to get through it becomes an incredibly powerful and transformational moment.

This blog post is just me scratching the surface of a pretty intense topic. Changing the way we manage expectations isn’t something that happens overnight. We have to shift our mindset and that should be done thoughtfully and at our own pace. But it’s definitely worth it.

For a more clinical breakdown of this topic, check out this link.

Written by Chris Jambor