As a college student with a family and a job, I am often asked how I manage to balance all three. The terms "marathon," "circus," and "pressure cooker" most often come to mind.
While I have not attended classes full-time except for a couple of semesters, my part-time courses have included lab classes almost each semester, which account for 10-12 hours a week. Add in some other classes of shorter duration, and you suddenly have a 20-hour a week schedule.
The co-operative work requirement (320 hours over a 16-week period) meant that I needed to work 20 hours a week. It might not seem like much. When I look at some of my classmates who work not only their co-op, but another job too, I often wonder how they do it!
I tend to think of this crazy life of family/work/school as having three children who all need you very much. It usually works out that the "child" who "screams" the loudest gets the most attention.
Sometimes, there are family issues that require your total and utmost attention. An ill child, a death in the family, or Aunt Betty's surprise 90th birthday party. Could you really not be there at those times?
An effective way to deal with the juggling (there's the "circus" part again), is to make a list of priorities and goals. It's always good to plan ahead, but sometimes there's a log-jam. You might find yourself with a paper due tomorrow for a class, but you got called in to work, and there's your child's music lesson that has to fit in (this is a bit of the "marathon" part), oh and by the way, what exactly are we going to have for dinner tonight?
Admittedly, there are times when it all just seems overwhelming. The house isn't "company-ready," the family is (once again) eating convenience food for dinner, there's that homework assignment I totally forgot, and we're fishing our clean clothes out of laundry baskets instead of dresser drawers (this would be the "pressure cooker" part). But at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself. ... are the laundry baskets full of clean clothes? The world will not end if those clothes didn't make their way into the proper dresser drawers. Did my family eat dinner tonight? Yes, even if it wasn't a five-star meal, there were vegetables involved!
There are some times I look at the upcoming events for the next two weeks or so, and I actually schedule a "day off" two weeks ahead of time. "Two weeks from Friday, I have nothing on the calendar, my homework is on target, I'm not scheduled to work, and I will take the day off."
Of course, a day off usually includes laundry, cooking, and housework, but still, it's a day that I dedicate to a little "me" time. If you are going to school, working, and raising a family, I think it helps to keep things in perspective. It helps to remember the fact that the marathon you are running, the circus of which you are the ringmaster, and the pressure-cooker environment you're experiencing all lead to better employment opportunities, achieving a higher level of knowledge, and the satisfaction of being able to say "I DID IT!"
Just focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Keep things in perspective, and that light just keeps getting brighter.
Contact Martha Everhart at martha_everhart@student. owens.edu.
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