Advice for Single Parents Going Back to School for an MBA
As a single parent, you already have to be a consummate juggler to balance work, home, and relationships. Adding business school to the mix, particularly if you're pursuing your Master of Business Administration (MBA), can make life even more complicated.
Complicated, however, does not mean impossible. With a little extra planning and foresight, you can earn the MBA you need to create a better future for you and your kids and still keep your life in the present running smoothly. Here's how.
Track down your Resources
First, check with your college or top choice schools to see what resources are available to their MBA students or that they recommend, particularly when it comes to financial aid or child care. Then, broaden your search.
There are several organizations that offer programs to help single parents earn their MBAs. The Forté Foundation, for example, offers a 10-month MBA prep program that pairs women considering an MBA with support networks and coaches. One of the program's participants herself founded a website that collects resources for single parents in one online portal.
Search for other single parent support organizations, and you're likely to find even more resources for aid, whether financial, emotional, or academic.
Keep your Kids in the Loop
Before classes begin, sit down with your kids to explain what you're doing and why. Even if you plan on cramming your studies into the hours after bedtime, take the opportunity to frame the changes you'll be experiencing in a positive light, before your kids witness the effects of an all-nighter on your mood.
Help your kids understand that the changes are temporary and that the harder you work now, the better the future will be for all of you. That way your kids can have your back, even when a long study session leaves you extra sleepy one day.
The Family that Studies Together, Stays Together
If your kids are also in school, establish a family study time. Seeing you dedicate yourself to your education can actually motivate your kids, while providing you the opportunity to make your time at home more efficient. Plus, studying as a family is a great way to ensure you spend time together, even when you're all busy with school.
If you can convert an area of your home into Study Central, having a dedicated space can help everyone in the family settle into a studying routine. If not, just gather your books and supplies around the kitchen table, which will encourage you to feed your bodies in addition to your brains. Remember, a well-fed brain functions better!
Be Prepared for Problems
Child care will fall through. Kids will get sick the week your capstone project is due. Sometimes it's easier to take problems in stride if you anticipate them. There's no need to persistently predict disaster, but learning to abolish procrastination and planning for a little leeway will help prevent a bigger crash when complications do crop up.
Of course, it's easier to handle problems if you have a strong support network in place. Now is not the time to try and do it all yourself. Tell your friends and family that you're going back to school, and ask if you can have them on speed dial in case of emergency. The people you keep in your support network should be eager to support your goals and step up when you need them.
Don't Forget to Have Fun
If your family has a tradition like a weekend trip to the park or family dinners on Sunday, save the date no matter how pressed for time you might be. Regular bonding rituals keep families close. Not to mention the fact that good old-fashioned fun is a great release when pressure starts to build.
Without doubt, single parents face pressures that other MBA students do not. With great planning – from finding resources, to creating backup plans, to setting up systems for accountability and connection – your children will not only survive but thrive as you work toward a better future that all of you can enjoy.
Written by Ashford University staff