According to the U.S. Department of Labor, on an average day last year, an employed adult with no children enjoyed 4.5 hours of leisure activities per day. That’s 65 minutes more than a worker living with a child under 6 years old. Although not documented, care to take a guess at how much leisure time is available to working parents who are also earning their degree online?
While sacrifices and compromises abound for those who aim higher, many Walden University students and alumni have said it’s all worth it. And Heidi Mammarelli, who juggled a full-time job and a family while earning her Master of Science in Education (MSEd) with a specialization in Integrating Technology in the Classroom, is no different.
“My biggest motivation was my son,” says Heidi. After taking some time off from her studies to plan her wedding, she then had a rough start to her pregnancy and took some time off. She resumed her online classes when her son was just three days old. “Nothing was going to hold me back from continuing my education,” she adds. Not even a kidney stone. Just two days after classes began, Heidi had emergency surgery and still logged in to her Walden course while waiting in the emergency room at the hospital.
As an educator, Heidi needed more credits to maintain her certification. “I always had a master’s degree as part of my long-term plan,” she says. “When I started at Walden, I was about to get married and buy our first home. With this in mind I knew that online was the way to go.”
Life with a newborn is challenging enough, but with the addition of her Walden courses, Heidi wondered what would happen when she went back to work. Following her maternity leave, she began her transition from being a seventh-grade math teacher to a fifth-grade elementary school teacher in Aberdeen, Maryland. She says her Walden family helped her transition into her new position thanks to her online classmates’ feedback and range of teaching experiences.
Her husband and family also helped. “The biggest struggle at home was just the exhaustion after work and then trying not to fall asleep so I could log in and discuss coursework on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. My husband would go on ‘baby duty’ so I could focus on my studies.”
Like many Walden students, Heidi and her family developed a scheduled routine. “My husband worked retail at the time and so he was off two days of the week and worked weekends. My mother stepped up and watched my son the other three days out of the week. It was actually nice because on Fridays I would go to my parents’ to pick up my son and would have dinner with them.” In addition, while her son was napping, Heidi took time to read and research her assignments. “Sundays were nice because my husband only worked until 5 p.m., so when he came home he watched our son and I finalized my assignments and discussions.”
That focus and dedication has been paying off. As a result of earning her Walden degree, her performance has had an even greater impact on her school and her students. Heidi’s lessons are consistently ranked by her administration as effective and highly effective across all four domains of the common core and student learning objectives her school uses.
“I have been able to apply what I’ve learned in my classes to my lessons with my students, who can now blog online, type more effectively, and research and understand websites more accurately. I am continuing to find ways to add more technology and student-based learning into my classroom,” she adds.
For Heidi, the feeling of fulfillment from her master’s degree is both personal and professional. “I love that I can share my story of getting my degree with my son when he gets older. I know that he will look up to me, and I hope that he will be proud of me for obtaining it.”
For additional tips to achieve a balance while earning your degree, read Finding Life-Work Balance and Full Plate: Advice for Single Working Parents Returning to School.