Mum guilt is not uncommon amongst most mothers who decide to go back to school for various academic pursuits, while managing their family responsibilities.
No mum should subject herself to guilt, self-doubt or indecisiveness about taking up further studies or listening to that little voice in the back of her head that whispers—what would people say? Are you not rather old? Or, won’t you look like a bad mum? Or, it’s a bad idea.
Granted, going back to school can be challenging after having children, and especially if you’ve spent several years outside the four walls of a classroom and you now have a family to care for, not forgetting your busy life as a professional or business woman. It might be challenging, but not impossible to combine with other aspects of your life.
More mothers are now completing their education after becoming parents. According to a study done in the USA, of certain college students, 26% were parents and out of this number, 76% were women. This statistic is rather encouraging for mothers who feel trapped or guilt-tripped by mum guilt.
Moreover, the decision to go back, fosters a stronger relationship with family members and partners. Also, the likelihood of children pursuing a college or university degree is higher when a mum makes such a decision to go back to school—she sets a positive example for her children to place importance on education and embrace lifelong learning.
My mum greatly inspired my siblings and I, when she went back to school after having us, to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Physical/Health Education and master’s degree, in Exercise Physiology. Today, we are all the better for it.
So, if you’re experiencing mum guilt or still jittery about taking that step, here are some tips to deal with this feeling. Just remember, it is a feeling and feelings can be fleeting, therefore, subject to change.
What’s on Your Mind? Mum guilt?
As a man thinks in his heart, so he becomes. “You have power over your mind, and not outside events.” This is not mere positive self-talk, 9 out of 10 times, if you think you can’t do something, you won’t do it. What you feed your mind, is what it would give back to you. You need to change your mindset. Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations of what you can accomplish, irrespective of the surrounding circumstances.
Remind yourself that going back to school, in the long run, would benefit your family and—definitely you!
Develop Muscles and Backbone
Not physical muscles of course, but internal strength. Choose to put on a thick skin against all odds and unsolicited advises. You will probably receive an earful; so be ready. Develop your confidence and emotional strength. Focus on your goal and why you want to go back. Be strong and courageous and you would accomplish what you have set out to do.
Be Realistic and Manage Time
Yes, be realistic with yourself. Juggling multiple roles can be daunting, so set achievable goals. You don’t need to be a super woman or put on ‘the perfect mother’ or one-man show for anyone. Plan your time well, and apply Eisenhower’s principle. This principle helps you decide tasks that are important and not important, urgent and not urgent.
When you are able to balance your varied roles and manage your time, it would reduce guilt.
You need to make out time each week to take care of yourself: physically, emotionally and mentally. This will help you deal with challenges and stress that may arise. Such self-care exercises include, exercising the body, eating a healthy meal, reading a book, listening to music or just getting enough sleep. When you take care of yourself, not only do you benefit, but your family benefits, too—you are less likely to be labelled a grouch or harridan by your family members.
Plan to have open discussions with your family about your academic goals. Let them know why it is important to you, at that point in time in your life to go back to school. When you start making progress, make them part of it. This leads us to the next tip.
A Support System is Key
A good support system would help you in achieving your educational goals and managing your time. And of course, this begins with your family, partner and friends. For instance, you can enlist the help of an older child or your partner to watch the younger child/children for few hours while you dash-off for that evening lecture on campus.
There was a time my mum was writing her exams at the university for her bachelor’s degree and my dad took seriously ill, to the point of being admitted at the hospital. I was on a short break from the university at that time, so I stayed with him at the hospital, while my mum concentrated on her exams.
Never Lose Sight of the End Result
This is so significant because you will face challenges on your educational journey, but you must never lose sight of what you want to achieve. Have the end in mind even before beginning—see yourself getting that degree, holding it—and even being the one to make the speech on graduation day!
So, there’s really nothing to feel guilty about if you decide to go back to school. Tell yourself—it is one of the most normal things to do in the world and ditch the guilt garb!
All the best!