I celebrated two “first days of school”this past year. One in the heat of August for my first grader- complete with a monogrammed backpack, dinosaur lunch box, and freshly sharpened pencils.
The other was my own first day, with a slightly less ferocious lunch box.
Going back to school in my 30s with two young kids- this may be my craziest idea yet. I decided a few years ago this was something I wanted to do. I wanted to start a new chapter. Conceptually it was brilliant. In real life, it’s been the hot mess you would expect. I’m in month 3 of Physician Assistant school and I’ve already learned so much. Academically, sure, but also just how to make this work. Allow me to enlighten those of you that are just batty enough to be considering this.
1: You will feel old.
My fellow students range from 23-34. I’ll let you guess where I fall in that range (I’m currently telling myself you assumed 23) Going back to school as a full-blown adult will make you feel old as the hills. You will be jealous of all the free time the young “kids” in your class have. You will be seen as an enigma for having this exotic thing called a “mortgage.” Roll with it. Enjoy the perks that come with your advancing years, such as communication skills, a savings account, a developed self-esteem, and the ability to tell the mountains from the molehills-general life wisdom.
2: You will be better at time management than everyone else.
Speaking of perks of life experience- if you are a mom of littles, you are a rock star at time management. This will be your secret weapon. Your classmates will ask you when you possibly manage to get work done. You will laugh to yourself thinking that managing 22 credit hours is nothing compared to navigating the grocery store with a cart in one hand, a kid in the other, and a baby strapped to your chest that’s also nursing. The youth will revere your mad skills.
3: Get ready for required screen time.
Does anyone remember when people wrote things down in school? Pens, paper…that kind of thing. It’s all gone. It’s power point after power point after google slides presentation. Prepare your eyes now to stare at the screens all.day.long.
4: You will feel guilty.
You will feel mom guilt. You will feel guilty about dropping the kids off at daycare or signing them up for after-school. Or, if you are like me, you will thank your stars that you get to dip out of the house early and listen to a podcast in the car sipping coffee for a blissful 45-minute commute. And then you will feel guilty about that. There’s no winning. When the mom guilt rears its ugly head, acknowledge it-but realize that your children will remember their mom chasing her own dreams. This might even inspire them to be dream-chasers themselves.
5: You will need your people.
Having a community is always important- but now it is absolutely essential. Ask for and accept help from family, friends, and anyone who offers. Don’t feel guilty about needing that help (we just talked about this). If that means having grandpa pick up the kids every Wednesday so you can go to the gym, great. If that means having your husband hang with the kids Friday nights so you can have margaritas with your friends, even better.
6: Remember the WHY
When you first start back to school your motivations will be strong and not yet jaded by late nights and research papers. Don’t forget those motivations! Hold on to the “why” of returning to school. For me this is in the form of sticky notes on bulletin boards that say things like: “be grateful for the challenge” and “PAs save lives!” When the going gets rough, remind your self of why you got going in the first place.
To all my college-going moms out there- may your coffee be strong and your babysitters be punctual. Study on, mamas!
Are you headed back to school? Give us your best tips to juggling all.the.things. We’d love to hear from you!