10 Tips from Grad Student Moms on Balancing Life and Family While Earning a Master’s Degree

Woman giving tips to student

Moms are amazing. They are fierce. They are resilient. They are balancing a career, family, and life—and they are also getting master’s degrees at the same time.

At Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies, we are celebrating our student moms and telling their stories.

We asked our student moms how they try to achieve balance, and even during their hectic schedules , they found time to share these 10 tips for other moms thinking about going back to school:

  1. Build a support network. One thing that stood out across all the responses is that moms don’t do it alone. As Master's in Applied Intelligence student Priscila Brueggemann noted, “They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a village to help a student parent balance it all.” Students shared many stories about how their families, instructors, and classmates pitch in and provide support. For example, Master's in Global Hospitality Leadership student Tia Abner lets her professors know in advance that she’s a mom, just so they are aware of her obligations. And Master's in Project Management student Julia Furman recommends finding a fellow classmate who can serve as a “mom mentor”: “They have 'been there, done that' and can provide advice or even a simple pat on the back.”
  2. Embrace the calendar. One thing many students mentioned was the importance of carving out time in their schedules to make sure they are allocating time for everything. “In order to stay on task, I create a schedule that holds me accountable to life's deadlines. Sometimes that means finishing [a school or work] assignment days before the deadline just in case mommy duty calls, because ultimately, my child is my number one priority,” said Master's in Public Relations & Corporate Communications student Charmaine Jones.
  3. It’s okay to say no. As immensely capable women, it can be difficult to say no—but creating boundaries is essential to creating the kind of learning experience you want to get from the program. Saying no to less important things creates more space for the things that truly matter. “You can't do everything. You'll have to say no to some things, a lot of things. Enjoy this experience, and know it is only for a while,” said Tianni Craig, a Global Hospitality Leadership student.
  4. Prioritize. An essential part of being able to say no is knowing what is important to you—and prioritization is a big part of that. Knowing your priorities helps you figure out how to adapt when something unexpected comes up. “I try to plan as much as possible, but I also have to be flexible. There are certainly weeks where things do not go as planned. In those situations, I still prioritize. If it means I won't be able to clean up my home that week because I fell behind on homework, then I let it be and don’t stress out about it!” said Marlene Guevara, a student in the online Master's in Technology Management program.
  5. Practice self-care. Moms hear it over and over, but it is true: You have to take care of yourself in order to effectively care for others. That investment gives you the focus and strength you need to get everything done. According to PR student Gail Zuagar, “I know my limits, and give myself some quiet time when I need it—even if that means running a quick errand alone.” Julia Furman urges moms to take advantage of physical activity. “Get some fresh air and exercise. It is hard on the body to sit all day at the office only to turn around and to sit and study after the kids go to bed.” Master's in Sports Industry Management student Laurie Walborn abides by three important rules: “Be calm, take your time, and be patient with yourself.”
  6. Be present. When you are pulled in so many directions, it’s easy to get distracted. Our students know that being fully present is not only the best way to succeed but also the best way to truly appreciate the learning experience. For example, taking breaks with family is one way that students recharge and stay present in the moment. “I’ve learned to appreciate the times I dedicate to my work, my personal life, and my children. I turn off my mind from work when I get home and shift gears to focusing on whatever task there is to do, and if it's a day I have dedicated to spending with my family, I shut off my mind from any other task—and electronics—to be present,” said Marlene Guevara.
  7. Leverage your perspective. Students bring a wide variety of perspectives to the classroom at SCS—perspectives that shouldn’t be limited to lessons learned at work. Julia Furman encourages student moms to “take notes from your experiences as a mother or father and apply what those roles have taught you to your classes. I was amazed how many similarities there are between a mother who is the manager of the household and a project manager.”
  8. Take an integrated approach. “Allow your children to be a part of your Georgetown experience, whatever that looks like. Whether it’s through putting them to sleep by reading your papers to them, listening to class lectures in the car with them, or just by letting them witness your dedication and determination to become a better person in the world—you're all in this experience together,” said Julia Furman.
  9. Laugh. “Laugh it off. Sometimes our days can be so busy and stressful that all I can tell myself is to laugh it off. Things will get done somehow!” said PR student Tania Donovan.
  10. Take a step back to get some perspective. Through it all, remember that your children are witnessing you doing something amazing. As PR student Tina Kilroy shares, “Don't forget the example you're setting for your children. This balancing act can be challenging, but the fact that you're doing it—even though it can get a bit messy—shows your children that education is always a priority, that it's never too late to go back to school, and that you can achieve your goals with hard work. It also shows them that having a family doesn't mean you have to give up on other dreams—it just makes you work harder to fulfill them.”

Thank you to all our incredible student moms for contributing to this article. We are proud to have so many dedicated moms within our Georgetown community–your hard work, commitment to your family, and pursuit of knowledge truly embody what it means to do it all.

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