Going into my third semester, I’m still not sure what the hardest part of the fall is: not knowing what to expect as far as school work-load or parent-load. Each semester seems to come with surprises from each.
My first semester began with me five months pregnant and hormonal. The stress caused me to eventually have trouble with my pregnancy, and I had to take maternity leave (it’s a medical leave, and I recommend avoiding them if you can!) until I had my son… which was the same day Spring semester started. Spring was a breeze, being online with a newborn. The sleep deprivation wasn’t as bad as I’d thought, and I thought that the semesters would be a breeze! But this semester I know that it’s only proven to get harder each year.
Now that my son is two, I don’t feel any more at ease about going to school. It hasn’t gotten any easier, and I don’t expect it to. However, I know what to anticipate and what has been (and not been) working so far. I’m not confident that something will jump up and surprise me, but I am confident that I’ll handle it better than I have in the past.
With that being said, I will tell you what has and hasn’t worked for me in hopes that you may be one step closer to the secret of (dare I suggest) an easy semester.
From pregnancy to toddlerhood, there are ups and downs. Some semesters are way easier than others, and with all of the other variables in life (like your kid’s personality, your parenting style, etc.) some of these tips may not apply to you at all. Try what you think may work, leave what you know won’t work, and let us know what you may discover so that we, the college parents of the internet, may figure out the formula to making the start of a new semester as a parent a cinch.
I’m not confident that something will jump up and surprise me, but I am confident that I’ll handle it better than I have in the past.
So, What’s Worked Consistently?
- A consistent bedtime (for both of us) has made the most noticeable difference in my academic success and our overall happiness. The easiest semester was when I woke up 30 minutes before and went to bed one hour after PD, but figure out which works best for you. The thirty minutes in the morning was the most helpful because I was able to get ready quickly and effortlessly, then focus on getting PD ready. This meant that I had to learn to resist the snooze button, but it was well worth the payoff.
- A (very) basic morning and bedtime routine has been great for me, which makes a better morning for both of us. I don’t worry about makeup or complex beauty routinesI still shower in the morning (can’t give up feeling fresh first thing), but only worry about a brow pencil, some leave in conditioner and my favorite Converse. PD’s father, P, picks out his clothes the night before so I can wake him up when I’m brushing my teeth so we can brush together before the first diaper change (wonder how that’ll change when potty training comes around).
- A minimal wardrobe has helped us get ready that much quicker in the morning. I’m not the most stylish person ever, so I keep it casual, versatile and easy. Accessories help me get the edge I generally like in my look when I feel like bothering with them. PD’s dad is completely the opposite, and it shows in our son’s wardrobe! He has a very complex closet with all of the new Nikes and all of the baby name-brand outfits. I don’t even try to pick out his outfits, but I get him dressed in the morning, so I have his dad pick out a great outfit the night before for me. PD is definitely the best-dressed in the family, but it works! If you’re more trendy than me, maybe try pairing your outfit the night before with the kiddo. Maybe it could be a great bonding ritual to include before bed!
- Daycare gives PD an opportunity to socialize and play while giving me a lot of necessary study time. I typically plan my schedule around his daycare hours, dropping him off at breakfast and picking him up about 30 minutes before close. Any hours I’m not in class or working on club activities (Yes, I do it all!) I’m in my favorite quiet area, working on homework I know I need the quiet to complete my work, and I’m brain-dead by the time we get home and in bed, so I save the post-night routine for my sacred time. School really is a non-paid 9 to 5!
So, What Hasn’t Worked?
- Random pick-up times seem like an awesome idea the day I do them, but I always regret it. It throws our schedule off and results in more fits and less study time. During the summer, we play it cool, but our school schedule (including weekends) are extremely regimented. As a former night-owl, it’s super boring, but we both have an easier time because of it.
- Not waiting for bedtime to study is one of the worst mistakes I always seem to make; at least once a semester. I think that I’ll use (or make) a little down time at home to study for a major exam or to work on a paper before bedtime, but it always ends up wasted time. Kids crave attention, and the one thing that’s so easy to put on the back burner while in school is that time. But it means that there will be fits and acting out later on. If you don’t break the daytime routine, then there should be plenty of time after bedtime to work or study if need be, but it’s easier to say be patient than to actually be patient!
- Hitting snooze is a bad idea for a number of reasons, like throwing off your body’s clock and having to rush. But it’s especially bad when you have to stick to a regimented schedule to get you and your kiddo to school on time. It really sucks (trust me, I know!), but just hop out of bed the first time the alarm goes off and shuffle to the coffee pot before your body catches on to your deceit. You’ll be better off for it.
- Not pre-planning your morning, study schedule, shopping list, etc., can mess you up quicker than anything. Trust me. When you have so much to do, you don’t have time to guess what the next step is. Taking time first thing in the morning, right before bed, on Sunday before the week starts—whatever works best for you—to map out what the next day or week will look like will really save you time and stress in the long run. I do mine right on my iPhone, which syncs to my main calendar on the computer. If I need to change the colors, I log in to the desktop, but generally it’s okay since my colors generally reoccurs for an amount of time. Planning right on my phone means I get a notification when I want and don’t have to spend too much time fussing over my schedule. I put in events as they come up, take time every quarter to plan the reoccurring events (like class time, daycare, etc.) and color code and review once in the morning as I’m “waking up” to know if anything unusual is happening.
- Forgetting to take care of myself is the easiest mistake I make every year… and the most detrimental to my health; don’t make the same mistake! More than anything, you need to make sure that you’re eating a semi-healthy, balanced diet, sleeping enough and taking time to de-stress and do things you like to do. Point blank. Take. Care. Of. You. Too.
If you’re a new college parent, I hope that you find this list useful for the upcoming semester. If you’ve been a college parent, what do you think? Would you recommend anything else for this list? Let us know!
Have a stress-free day ♥