Life is a series of balancing acts. We all make decisions on how long to spend at work or school, to go out with friends, or stay home. We balance our life goals with what we have to do to take care of ourselves every single day.
One of the major choices we make is whether or not to go to college. This choice can be even harder for those of us who are older than traditional students.
As we age, our dreams change and grow, often including spouses and families, which can make going back to school even more difficult. Some argue that starting a family while trying to earn a degree is too tricky and that trying to do both means you won’t do either well.
Some may say that the only option for parents to return to school are online schools. But is it really necessary for parents to sacrifice a traditional school experience, or continuing their education entirely?
Running a family is difficult at any point in life. Children require near constant attention when they’re small, and as they grow, they have school and other activities that they need to go to. This can take an extreme amount of time and effort even for someone who is not attempting to complete a rigorous academic course.
Graduate programs take a lot of time and effort to complete. The work for any program is intensive, and for many, students will be expected to attend conferences or conduct research at a library away from your home.
Those requirements are fine for someone whose only focus is school, but for someone with family responsibilities, it could be nearly impossible.
A choice would need to be made to sacrifice the chance to increase your presence in your chosen field or sacrifice time with your family.
Even if making that choice doesn’t cause a problem, constantly going from activities, work, class, and completing homework could leave you feeling drained, but it isn’t impossible.
By talking to your boss and professors, and having a support system of friends or family, you will be able to receive your degree and be there for your family.
Choosing to wait may feel like a better option. You would be able to focus on school and advancing your career without feeling guilty about missing a school play or important game.
Waiting to start a family might also increase your performance in your program, since you won’t have late nights caring for an infant or sick child, allowing you to get better sleep and be more alert during classes.
The problem with choosing to wait is that graduate programs can take anywhere from two to over seven years to complete. For people wanting to start a family, that can be a very long time to wait.
For anyone who took a few years off between finishing their undergraduate and beginning a graduate degree, waiting could put them well into their thirties, or even forties. That is a long time to wait for anyone but can cause health concerns for women who want to have their children.
Another option could be to wait to return to school until your children are older. By postponing your schooling, you can focus on your family while your children are young.
Generally, once children are in their teenage years, they need less attention and assistance from their parents, giving you more freedom to focus on school and any necessary travel for your program. You would also have more time to focus on your young children and wouldn’t feel like you were missing important milestones by focusing on school. But to delay schooling to raise a family means putting your dreams on hold for ten years or more.
For many jobs, having an advanced degree is the difference between getting a promotion and not, so delaying your schooling can affect your family and your future retirement.
There are many options for anyone wanting to go back to school with a family, and none are going to be right for everyone. Raising a family is never an easy thing to do, whether you’re on your own or in a committed relationship.
Earning an advanced degree also takes a lot of work and a large time commitment. Trying to do both may feel nearly impossible, but meeting someone and choosing to have a family are normal parts of life, and nobody should feel they have to put any of that on hold because of school.
Sacrifices will need to be made, no matter what you choose, but if you have a solid support system and determination, it is possible to earn a degree and raise a family.
Sarah has been a freelance writer for the past year. She worked as a trainer for a telecommunication company for 2 years, before returning to grad school to work towards becoming an English professor. She has a focus on Creative Writing and plans to share her love of writing with her future students while writing her own novels.