For mom-entrepreneurs, the demands of running a business and raising a family can make going back to school for an advanced degree seem like a pipe dream. Running your own business is, after all, more than a full-time job; depending on your industry and the needs of your customers, you can easily find yourself working much longer than eight hours a day.
Then, there’s everything that needs to be done at home: bills need to be paid, dishes need to be washed, and kids need attention. When you have such a busy schedule, how can you find time to fit in earning another degree?
The answer could be going to school online. Online degree programs are designed to cater to adults with busy schedules, so they offer the flexibility you need to keep up with the demands of running your business and your household.
Of course, you’ll still need to practice some solid time management skills and take advantage of all resources at your disposal. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Here’s how.
Enroll in an Online Degree Program
Distance learning isn’t what it used to be. You can now take classes from dozens of reputable—even prestigious—schools online, without ever setting foot on campus. A lot of students use online coursework to make going back to school more financially feasible, because it lets you continue working full-time as well as avoid many of the incidental costs of going to school, such as moving and commuting to classes.
If you’re a female business owner looking for a way to squeeze a degree into your schedule, an online program could let you take classes at times that work for you. Professors upload video lectures, readings, and other course material to online portals, so students can learn and complete assignments when they have the chance, whether that’s at 3:00 p.m. or 3:00 a.m. You can study when business is slow, on your lunch breaks, early in the morning before the family wakes up or late at night when they’re in bed. You can block off evenings, afternoons, or weekend days for completing coursework. The choice is yours.
You’ll have plenty of choice when it comes to specific degree programs, too. Whether you aspire to finally earn your MBA, flex your creative muscles with a Master of Fine Arts, change careers with a Master of Science in Nursing or learn how to be of service to others by taking social work courses online, there’s a great school out there offering a program that’s right for you.
Manage Your Time Wisely
The key to staying on top of a busy schedule is to exercise time management skills. As a mom and an entrepreneur, you’ve probably already had plenty of practice managing your time. As a graduate student who owns a business owner and is raising a family, you’ll need to be even more strategic when it comes to time management.
You may need to start by carving more hours out of your day. Many working graduate students get up earlier or stay up later to get class work done. A common strategy is to block out time to study—perhaps you set aside four hours on Tuesday and Thursday evenings to review course material and complete assignments, or perhaps you set aside your entire Saturday each week to get schoolwork done. Of course, you’ll also need to schedule time to run your business, help your kids with homework, make dinner, exercise, sleep, and see friends and family.
Excellent self-care is a must during this period of your life, but you’ll also need to make sacrifices. Get friends and family on your side, so they can help where they can and, where they can’t, at least be understanding of your limited schedule and energy. Take it easy when scheduling your course load; it’s probably a good idea to go back to school part-time, at least at first. If you start to fall behind, talk to your professor immediately—most are understanding and will do what they can to help.
Take Full Advantage of the Resources Available to You
The more help you ask for, the more you’ll get, and the easier it will be to manage the demands on your time. Take advantage of resources available to you through your school, but don’t be afraid to look for other resources to tap.
Consider getting extra help with childcare or housework from your spouse, older children, family, friends, or even a professional. Subscribe to a grocery or meal delivery service or order takeout a little more often. Hire the kid down the block to cut your grass, or enlist a professional dog-walker to take Fido out once or twice a day. The cost may be well worth the extra time you’ll have.
Going back to school while running a business can be a daunting prospect—and that’s before you add the chaos of children. This endeavor is certainly not for the faint of heart, but by working hard and managing your time well, you’ll soon find that you’re exceeding even your own greatest expectations—and that’s the best feeling in the world.