Finding Academic Success and Balance as a Postsecondary Student Parent

Written by J. Sparks – Redefining Traditional Team Member

“How do you do it?”  As a postsecondary student parent, other parents have asked me this question.  When you are a parent, the idea of taking on more responsibility by going back to school can feel discouraging.  “How can I do it?  Can I be academically successful and take care of my family?”  I had asked myself these questions and deliberated before enrolling in graduate studies as a student parent. 

How do you do it?

While my family are my biggest responsibility, they are also my biggest supporters.  Now years into my degree, when I am asked, “How do you do it?”.  I say, “With my family’s help!”  For example, when I became a student parent I found that I needed new academic strategies in order to be successful at both home and school. I could no longer procrastinate until the day before an assignment was due or pull an all-nighter in order to prepare for a final exam. I needed additional flexibility in my schedule in order to balance the needs of school, home, and work. I also had to plan my academic work and schedule it around my family responsibilities.  When I became a student, my family had to modify their schedule too.  

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What has really worked for me as a graduate student parent is adopting a daily writing practice.  It is an approach I learned from the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity’s Dissertation Success Program [].  In general, the premise of daily writing is to work on your academics at least 30 minutes a day, Monday to Friday, no matter what!  For example, at the beginning of each week, I often take 30 minutes to plan out my academic work by breaking it into smaller 30-minute tasks and then I plan out when I will do my work backwards from the due date.   If I don’t have any assignments due or a test, I still do at least 30 minutes each day of academic work.  When I am close to a deadline, then I work more frequently throughout the day but in shorter periods of time, so that I am able to take breaks.   

How has this helped?

Daily writing practice has helped me to stress less and do more at both home and school.  My family has become accustomed to my daily writing routine as well.  They know that I will be focused on my academics for a short period of time (at least 30 minutes).  They know that if I am working, I will take a break soon.  They know that with a little patience, in a few minutes, my focus will return to them.  In a few minutes, I can help to prepare a snack, catch up on household chores, take my kids to the park, etc.   

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By doing my academic work daily and in shorter periods of time throughout the day (i.e. 30 minutes at a time), a daily writing routine has allowed me to balance school, work and family time.  Daily writing has also helped me to be on top of my academic deadlines and to be less stressed.  When I am less stressed, I am a better parent and a better student.    

My daily writing is supported by my family.  It has become a part of our household routines.  Help from family has really made my academic success possible.  If you are open to trying a new academic success strategy, I encourage you to try adopting a daily writing routine.  Have your family support you in working on your academics everyday, but in shorter periods of time throughout the day.  Experiment and see what works for you and your family.  Together, you can be an academically successful postsecondary student parent!  

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