How to Survive College With an Infant
Most people wait until they graduate from college to get married. Well, my husband and I say screw the norms. We got engaged after ten months of dating and got married after three months of engagement. Two years later, we had bought a house and had a baby. And all the while, I was going to school.
I won’t try and tell you it is easy or that I had a great time with it. I hated it. I hated having to leave my daughter at home with her grandmas when she was ten months old. Every day I would come home from student teaching dreading to hear of the “firsts” I had missed. I worried that I would only experience her first words or steps through the secondhand stories of her babysitters. And oh how I hated pumping milk during my lunch break every single day!
But despite all of this, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about those months because we grew as a family. Plus, I graduated from college! And you too can graduate college with an infant.
Why Did I Do it?
I was one semester away from getting that diploma, a goal I had been working towards since I was 16 years old. My decision was not a selfish one, although I deliberated over it enough. When my daughter is old enough to understand, I want her to value all aspects of her own betterment, including her education. I want her to know that anything is possible if you truly want something.
Do I Use My Degree?
Heck yes! With my elementary education degree, I plan on homeschooling Genny as well as tutoring and teaching classes when she’s a bit older. Already, I use what I've learned to explain the world to my inquisitive daughter. She's only 18 months old now, but she can already identify three letters of the alphabet.
When I decided to stay at home, I knew I wanted to do some kind of business. Joining two of my greatest loves, learning and my family, I created a blog that could help other mamas the way I needed help. No matter what your area of expertise, you will use that diploma!
How Did I Do It?
While fulfilling the reward, the journey was BY NO MEANS EASY! I wanted to come home and cry some days. One day after all my kindergarteners had gone home, I laid down right on the floor of the classroom for a few minutes because I was too exhausted to think about gathering all my things and heading out the door just yet. My house was frequently a disaster-area, and even when I was able to come home by 3:30, my time was quickly consumed by preparing meals, grocery shopping, or spending time with the baby.
Okay, now that I’ve given you a reality check, here’s the silver lining: that time did not last forever! Like a runner finishing the last mile of the marathon, my body [and heart] ached, only to taste that sweet victory at the finish line.
And you can do it, too.
How to Graduate College With an Infant
Here’s what I learned and how you too can survive college with a baby!
- You have to compromise. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, so some things will have to take precedence over others. This includes cooking meals and doing dishes, much to the chagrin of your spouse. Sit him down and clearly define the responsibilities you both have when it comes to taking care of the house. You will need a lot of help, so if you’re single and living alone with your kiddo, ask for help from a parent, friend, or family member. Just get ANOTHER WARM BODY in there to do those dishes!
- Talk about everything with your significant other, to the point of exhaustion if need be. There is so much stress that you are handling right now, and it’s common for relationships to reach real breaking points under this tension. When you’re tired and cranky, you probably don’t want to have a heart-to-heart with your spouse, but think about it as a long-term investment in your marriage. People need to talk in order to maintain a healthy relationship. It’s also a good practice to provide a disclaimer before such talks, such as, “I’m very tired, so I might be a little emotional right now.” (Yes, it’s okay to admit you are emotional. Ladies, let’s just calm down and be confident with our sex and its beautiful emotional chaos.) Make sure that you reach a point where you are willing to take a breath and let it go, too. If you hold onto things that are annoying you, bottle them up, and never let them go, that can be damaging to your health as well as to your relationship. My husband and I have this great, annoying policy of never going to bed angry. This has caused many a late-night conversation (and yes, late night tears) before we finally turn out the light, but let me tell you, I am so glad that we do that. We have never let an argument, disagreement, or heart feeling continue on to the next day.
- Don’t spend every waking moment at home working on school. If you have fieldwork this is difficult because your time at home is also your study time, but it’s very important to spend time with your little one. The mama/baby bond is crucial especially in the first three years of a child’s life. You are providing safety, comfort, and stability to your baby, and when you have been gone all day, repairing the damage that has been done to your relationship during your time apart is what strengthens that bond and creates a securely attached child. Spend at least 2 uninterrupted hours playing with your child, and if possible be there when he goes to sleep and when he wakes up. These little things may sound insignificant, but the value of creating a strong mommy-baby bond far outweighs the cost in the course of the child’s life.
- Have a life outside of school and home. Even if it’s one friend you go to coffee with every other Saturday, you need to have "you" time. For the good of your family and your own piece of mind, having some time to focus on yourself is crucial to not losing it. I would text my friend during the day a little distress signal that I needed to get away and forget about lesson plans, classroom observations, dishes, and laundry. Once school is over, you want to have a life to go back to as well. Even if you will be working outside the home after graduation, there is additional stress when you have paper deadlines between you and that black tasseled cap.
- Keep your after-graduation goals in sight. I was very shallow and focused my attention on the impending Christmas season. The whole semester, I drove everyone crazy by chirping, “Christmas is coming!” That was the fuel that was keeping me going; the finish line I could see so that I wouldn’t run out of steam as I approached graduation day. Another reason this was good was it gave me some extra time to decide what I wanted to do the next year. Maybe you know what you want to do once you have that degree, but it’s also nice to have some buffer so you can make arrangements for the long-term.
- Most importantly, remember this is a season that will end. Enjoy it where and when you can, and know that you will be a mom forever, not a student.
So What Do I Do Now After Graduation?
If you want, you can use the term “stay-at-home mom.” I think it’s laughable though because it heavily implies that all I do is stay at home and take care of the baby. Have someone who is not a stay-at-home mom switch places for one day, just one day, with someone who is. Mmmhmm.
Let’s be real, being a stay-at-home mom entails cook, maid, babysitter, chauffeur, event planner, doctor, nurse, therapist, plumber, mechanic, gardener, teacher, mom, wife…to name a few.
When I tell people I stay home with my baby now, sometimes they get that look on their faces and say, “Ooooh.” To be fair, I never thought I would be that person to graduate then become a stay-at-home mom. But these are the lemons I’ve been given, and damn if I ain't making some fine lemonade!
Having a baby is not the end of your dreams! Sure, the future looks different, but make sure you aren’t giving up something you truly desire. Your baby comes first, but you need to take care of mama, too.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.