I’ll admit – after my son was born (baby number 1), I was terrified of going back to school, and for several reasons, For starters, I was always a full-time student, since the beginning of my college career. So when our son was born, I was nervous about how we would arrange care for him, how my schedule would fit in with being a new mom, how I would balance homework and motherhood, how it would affect nursing my son, how my son would handle/adjust being away from me for several hours a day, etc. So many thoughts of angst were running through my mind as my return to school got closer. But, thanks to my loving and reassuring husband, supportive in-laws, and some motivation, I was able to adjust to, and balance being a new mother, with college life. Let me tell you how!
*Note: Please keep in mind, everyone’s circumstances are different. This is just my personal experience, and what worked for me.
To begin, let me explain some of the circumstances surrounding my situation. The plus side was, my son was born in May (end of the semester), so I had the whole summer to be at home with him, before going back to school in August. This is a luxury that many mothers probably do not get to enjoy, if they are attending college, so I was very grateful! Also, this was my final semester, which meant I was looking forward to graduating in December (yay!). My husband’s work schedule also played an important role in the caregiving arrangements, which I will get to shortly.
So, because I had summer break to enjoy bring home with my son, he was around 4 1/2 months old when fall semester started. As you can imagine, as the semester got closer, I was becoming increasingly nervous about leaving him. At one point, I told my husband I wanted to take the semester off, but he comforted me, and assured me we would figure something out. Not to mention, if I took off my last semester, it would be even more challenging to go back later – it would be better to just get it done and graduate, and he was right. One of the things I was most worried about was, who would take care of our son when I was at school (and my husband at work). Since my first semester in college, my schedule had been Monday-Friday, which worried me when I found out my son did not qualify to attend the University daycare. However, this ended up being okay, because I was not comfortable with the idea of putting him in a daycare at such young age, but I thought it was our only option at the time.
Well, thankfully I was able to create my schedule to be Tuesdays and Thursdays only (on campus), with one online class, and I was still able to be a full-time student. With this schedule, it was much easier to figure out childcare arrangements – my husband’s work schedule at the time included Tuesdays as one of his days off (bingo!), and my in-laws were able to take our son on Thursdays. Let me tell you guys, this schedule brought me so much-needed relief! Of course, I was still nervous about leaving him on those two days, balancing homework, etc., but I was beginning to feel a little more at ease, knowing I would only be on campus two days a week. I also felt relieved that my son would either be with my husband, or his parents, rather than at a daycare with people I did not know.
I’m not going to lie, the first day I left my son to go back to school was tough. It was a Thursday, which meant he would be with my in-laws, and I definitely cried when I left. But, I did feel a little better throughout the day, when my mother in-law was reassuring me that he was doing just fine (I was worried he wouldn’t be able to sleep without nursing). As time went on, and I realized he was adjusting okay, whether with daddy or grandparents, it got easier to go to school without feeling anxious all day. Plus, being able to send a quick text to check in was very helpful. Also, the more I kept reminding myself that this was temporary, and every day was one day closer to graduation, adjusting got easier, and my motivation increased.
Nursing was another important factor in going back to school. For one, I did not want my milk to completely dry up, since I knew I would be nursing less often. Secondly, I did not want it to affect my son’s ability to nurse, and I was worried that he would need the comfort of nursing when I was not around. However, my son also took a bottle, so when I was gone, he did not have a problem taking, either, pumped breast milk, or formula. I also learned that my son did not struggle to sleep without nursing – in fact, he slept even more for my husband, and my in-laws, than he did when I was around. This definitely gave me some comfort when I was at school.
At home, the challenge was getting homework done, while also caring for a new baby, and taking care of our home. Now that my son is a toddler, I realize that it probably would have been even more challenging, had he been older at that time. Since I was on campus two days a week, I utilized some of that time to get homework done, when I could. I had a pretty long break between two of my classes, so I tried to use that time to grab some lunch, and work on assignments. If I didn’t do homework during this time, I would pump in my car for a portion of my break, to keep my milk supply from decreasing even more. When I did do homework at home, I would try to work on it during nap times, or if he wasn’t sleeping, when he was calm and not demanding as much attention. If need be, I also tried to get work done while nursing. (Tip: a nursing pillow is a must for this!). If my son was fussy, I would put him in the sling/baby carrier, and that would usually calm him down. My husband also helped with preparing meals and/or cleaning when necessary, and being home more than I was at school was a definite advantage!
In the end, I did not regret going back to school when I did. As a matter of fact, I probably would have regretted taking the semester off, had I not listened to my husband’s advice. Like anything else that comes with being a new mother, I was nervous, and had to learn to adjust. Nevertheless, I was able to overcome the challenges (with help, of course), and did graduate at the end of the semester in December 2014!
So, overall, my advice for moms trying to balance a college career with motherhood is:
- Try to work out a good schedule that works for you and your spouse (or whoever may be assisting with childcare). Remember, adjustments might have to be made, at some point.
- Introduce the bottle before returning to school/work.
- If you are breastfeeding (and want to continue), pump during breaks in your day to prevent a decrease in supply, and nurse your baby as much as possible when you are with them.
- Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for help when you need it!
- Stay positive!
- Stay motivated, and remember that you will learn to adjust, and so will your baby.
How have you adjusted to going back to school/work after your baby? Leave your comments/questions below!
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