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Spotlight on Walden // Mar 20, 2012

Full Plate: Advice for Single Working Parents Returning to School

As a single parent who is also a working professional and student, Dr. Savitri Dixon-Saxon, associate dean for Walden’s School of Counseling and Social Service, understands the juggling act that occurs when parents try to balance family, work, and education. For many working adults, the decision to return to school and pursue an advanced degree is an opportunity to refocus their career, enhance their skill set, and increase their earning power. However, for a single parent, this task may seem daunting and cause additional stress.

“Caring for a child, working, and going back to school can make a single parent feel increased stress,” said Dr. Dixon-Saxon. “It’s important to remember that you are one person, not a village. Communicate your desire to return to school with your friends and family so that they are invested in your success and can support you and lend a hand during your educational journey.”

Dr. Dixon-Saxon offers Walden students who are “going it alone” a few words of advice about balancing commitments while pursuing a degree online.

  • Identify a support network. Identify and surround yourself with a support network of people who understand and appreciate your decision to return to school.
  • Ask for help. Even if your impulse is to do everything yourself, it’s important to get support from family and friends during this time. We live healthier lives when we live interdependently.
  • Hire help if resources permit. Resources are often limited for single parents. However, hiring someone to watch your child for a few hours while you catch up—complete an assignment, get a little “me” time in, or even clean your house—can help you feel organized and less stressed.
  • Child care sharing. Offer to watch your friend’s child for an evening in exchange for your friend watching your child another evening.
  • Evaluate your priorities. Re-evaluate your current responsibilities and make any necessary adjustments to manage your workload. For example, if you have previously led the PTA at your child’s school, look to support the PTA in another way while you are going back to school.
  • Take time for yourself. This is one of the biggest challenges for single parents. Take time for yourself and attend to your mental and physical health. You and your child will be happier and healthier for it.
  • Celebrate the milestones. By including your child in the celebration of a good grade or the end of a term, you not only get to spend quality time with him or her, but you also get the opportunity to demonstrate the commitment, perseverance, and sacrifice it takes to achieve a goal.