Mastering the Trifecta: Work, School, and Children

By Robin White Ellis

My neighbor and friend flitters back and forth much like the hardest working bee in the hive. As my living room windows face her door, I often see her comings and goings with awe. She is a mother, a worker, and a student. Truly, I muse over how often she gets to sleep, much less eat a meal or relax with a book. She has moments of triumph, bumps in the road, success, and stress…a great deal of stress. Throughout all of this, she has persevered and her child has flourished, watching a strong woman make the best of a truly difficult situation.

Being a parent is tough, even in the greatest of circumstances. Today, more adults are choosing to return to school to further their educations or change careers. In doing so, they have to find a balance between working to support themselves and their families, classes and studying, and maintaining time with their children. It can be delicate and precarious, at times shifting from well-organized tranquility to manic chaos. The guilt involved for a parent can be overwhelming. After all, most parents want to be available to their children constantly and the journey of an education, while admirable, takes time. Here are some tips to aid parents through these busy, hectic moments:

  • Have a family meeting – It is important to share the whys and wherefores with your children. They need to understand that this for the betterment of the family. Involve them in the process.
  • Be realistic – It is impossible to have the ability of perfection in everything. It is fine to leave the dishes in the sink occasionally. The bed does not have to be made every day. In a pinch, soup and sandwiches make great meals.
  • Make a complete schedule – Plan ahead for everything, if at all possible. Block out a couple of hours during the week to prepare several meals. Crock pots become your friends! Freeze these meals for easy suppers. Mark dance lessons, softball practices, doctors appointments, et cetera on your calendar and work them into the schedule. Trust me, simply winging it is most definitely not an option.
  • Delegate and multitask – Set up a chore list for each family member and do not try to do everything yourself. Study once the children are in bed for the evening. Clean up a bit while supper is cooking (or being reheated). Do not leave a room without taking something with you to put away. Let the laundry run while you are in class or at work. There are many shortcuts to open up your time.
  • Learn how to say no – Sometimes, parents want to take it all on, much to their detriment. Realize that while you may want to make four dozen cupcakes for a party, you only have time to provide the cups and plates. It is okay to say no to the cupcake fiasco!
  • Map out priorities – In your schedule, there are some commitments that must be set in stone, such as work and time in class. This should also include birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates. Prepare ahead of time for these vital moments.
  • Ask for help – You are only one person! Ask family and friends for help when you need it, such as assistance with household tasks and babysitting.
  • Designate family time – The most important thing upon which to focus is your family. Under no circumstances should you begin living separate lives on constantly differing schedules. Time with your loved ones will also recharge you to take on the next days with zeal.

Mastering the trifecta of work, school, and family may seem an impossible task but it can be done! Focus on the positive outcome of stability for your family and just place one foot in front of the other. In later years, you will be happy to have improved yourself and your family’s situation.