Last summer, it had been over a year since I was in school.
I had just come off of my one-year maternity leave, I was back at a part-time job that wasn’t fulfilling for me in the slightest and I was now a single mother to a one-year-old depending on me. I desperately did not want my life to be reduced to being “just someone’s mom”. I don’t want that to come across as shaming, as being a mother is one of if not THE hardest jobs in the world – but motherhood alone wasn’t “it” for me. I felt like I owed myself and my daughter so much more than the part-time job I was working just to get by. I refused to allow motherhood to hinder me from working towards and achieving the life of my dreams. So I decided I would not become my circumstances.
I never did and still don’t view school as a mandatory requirement for career success, however, I’ve come to realize that in this society, having a degree certainly can help grant access to better career opportunities. I knew that I had to return to school to complete my degree despite having dropped out multiple times in the past. My daughter lit the fire beneath me.
From there, I decided I was going to re-enroll back into my program which was set to begin in less than a month. I was aware that I was in for a challenging year and that I would have to work harder than ever before. The first step was simply accepting the challenge, committing to tunnel vision, and focusing on my goal. Between being a full-time student, having a job and being a mom, it was a challenging year but nonetheless I did it and finally graduated, with my baby on my hip!
Graduating university as a single mother is most definitely achievable and I learned a lot along the way that was critical to my academic success. I’ve designed a list of tips for all single parents out there who are either doubtful of their ability to go to school, considering going, or currently enrolled. These tips were incredibly helpful for me and I’m certain they will benefit any single parent reading this.
1. Minimize days spent at school
If possible, try to limit the days you go in to school. This is important for single parents as we need time to work so that we can pay our bills and take care of our children. Luckily for me, I was able to create my own schedule based on the available days and times for each course, so I crammed all five of my courses into two days out of the week so that I would be available to work on the other days. My school days were long yes, but it was a small sacrifice for only a short time, so it was worth it.
2. Set a strict bedtime
It was important that I had my daughter in bed by 8pm so that I could have the necessary quiet time to give my schoolwork my undivided attention. I gave myself four hours every night during the week to do homework so that I could go to sleep by 12am since I had to be up early every morning. Keeping a consistent bedtime for your little one to by asleep by is pivotal to having time to yourself.
3. Accessible childcare
I was able to have my daughter in daycare which took a load off and relieved me of having to care for her in the day so that I could work and go to school. Thankfully where I live, in Ontario, parents who are unable to afford the very expensive costs of childcare can apply for a childcare fee subsidy in order to potentially qualify for entirely free daycare or have majority of the cost covered. The waiting list is lengthy and can take several months so if needed, it’s best to apply as soon as possible. To get more info and/or apply visit the link here.
4. Accepting and asking for help
Asking for help used to make me feel very uncomfortable, but upon beginning the school year I realized I needed to get over that shame. If there are people ready and willing to help, let them, the task of getting through school as a single parent isn’t easy, so embrace any and all help that you can get. I’m grateful to have had my mother babysit my daughter once a week when I had an evening class and wouldn’t be done in time to pick her up from daycare; work with those around you to help ease your load, you’ll thank yourself.
5. Be present in class
Being present in class can truly make the difference between passing or failing. During my earlier years in university, I had a bad habit of skipping my classes often, which caused me to feel even further disinterested and constantly confused with what was being taught. Upon starting school this time around, I vowed to be present in all my classes unless I couldn’t be there because of an urgent situation. I remained committed to a flawless attendance which reflected in the high GPA I finished with.
6. Communicate with your professors
Transparency between my professors and I saved me many times throughout the school year when I was feeling overwhelmed between the loads of homework I had and being a mother. For a while, I was scared to reach out to my professors for help or for an extension on an assignment until I finally did and realized that they were understanding and were more than willing to grant an extension if provided with a fair explanation. There were times that I’d be up past midnight when my toddler was sick and couldn’t sleep, so I’d be unable to get any homework done, but my professors (some being mothers themselves) completely understood and one even informed me that taking care of sick kids without penalty is a human right and that I was protected under the prohibited ground of family status in human rights legislation, which is something important for parents to know.
7. Look up Ontario grants for single parents
I’m grateful to say that I live in a province that recognizes the financial difficulties that can and often times do arise when parents decide to enroll in school, which is why you can qualify for OSAP, a program administered by the government to help students pay for college/university. If you are a single parent making less than a disclosed amount, OSAP will provide a generous grant that you keep which can cover costs such as tuition, living expenses, child care or books to support you in keeping yourself and your family afloat throughout the duration of your schooling. The financial aid from OSAP was incredibly helpful and took a load off of me financially so that I could focus more on school. If you’d like to look into applying for OSAP, visit their website.