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Balancing Act: Graduate School and Children

Balancing Act: Graduate School and Children


school-guidance-milspouseBy Rebecca Alwine
Alumna, American Military University

Parents are superheroes, plain and simple, consistently putting their children’s needs ahead of their own. So how do they go back to school? The secrets to success involve securing a support system, taking it one day at a time, keeping focus, and balancing school and family commitments. Here are some examples of great parents who mastered the balancing act.

Missi Hayes, an American Military University (AMU) alumna, spent four years working on her master’s degree in environmental management and policy. The extended timeline was due to childbirth, moving several times, having a newborn, and life. Missi finished her degree the same year her husband was working on his master’s at the National Intelligence University.

Taking it slow and balancing the school workload with parenting and her spouse’s demanding schedule allowed her to finish. Her priority wasn’t the degree during those years, it was her family.

Steph Tanner also had two children while completing her MBA at Troy State University, one right after she started and one right before she graduated. Steph took a semester off when her first child was born and graduated just five days after the second one was born.

Taking that semester off was key; there was no reason she needed to add to the sleepless hours and stress of a newborn. Stephanie recommends others in that position take some time as well. She then walked in her MBA graduation, taking a quick break during the ceremony to feed her newborn baby.

AMU alumnus Aaron Brodniak completed his master’s degree while balancing family life and children. “I did most chores and almost all of my homework while the kids were in school. I also did some volunteer work.”

Aaron’s advice is to figure out the best time to study and work and capitalize on it. “I would complete grocery shopping in the morning and then dive into homework,” he remembers.

SFC Joe Riddle is pursuing his master’s in education Liberty University while on active duty. Joe recommends sitting down with your family and talking about the sacrifices that everyone will have to make to get it done.

He encourages everyone to remember, “Every once in a while assignments have to take a back seat to opportunities you have with your family.” Joe doesn’t know that he really balances well; sometimes he feels like it’s going well and sometimes he feels like he’s trying to bend everything to his will.

He credits most of the balance to his wife, Kristen, who somehow manages to encourage him, keep him accountable for his family responsibilities, and remind him of why he’s going through this.

And I did it, too. I finished my thesis paper for my master’s degree at AMU right before having my second child. There were some times during that period where I wasn’t sure how it was going to happen. When my husband deployed and our son was three months old, I moved in with my in-laws, worked 36 hours a week as a 911 dispatcher, and took two eight-week classes at a time. It was rough.

When my son was about a year old, I started the 16-week thesis project to finish my degree. I found out I was pregnant during that time and my husband deployed again. If it wasn’t for the awesome support system I had–friends always willing to watch my son so I could write–there’s no way I would have made it through.

About the Author

Rebecca Alwine has been a military spouse for over 8 years, traveling the world and learning about herself. She’s discovered she enjoys running, loves lifting weights, is a voracious reader, and actually enjoys most of the menial tasks of motherhood. Rebecca earned her Masters of Disaster from AMU and a BA in Geography from the University of Mary Washington. Her writing has been published both in AUSA’s ARMY Magazine, Military Spouse Magazine, and multiple digital magazines and blogs. You can follow her on Twitter and at her personal blog.



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