As a parent of young children, you already know that most of your decisions affect your little ones. Going back to school is no exception. At first consideration, you may feel like earning a degree is “doing something for me.” But multiple studies suggest parents with higher levels of education tend to raise children who go onto higher levels of education.
Your personal educational journey can become a catalyst for your children in many ways. As you make your decision, it’s important you don’t overlook the long-term positive effect going back to school can have on your children.
Getting over the guilt
Even for the most self-motivated parents among us, a little nagging voice pulls at the back of our minds whenever we take time for personal pursuits. One family expert feels that parental guilt is natural and can be seen as a positive attribute.
In fact, a 2011 Psychology Today article explains that guilt demonstrates a strong commitment to our children and, in some cases, can be a sign of love.
As parents, we often need to coach ourselves into thinking long-term and accepting that while the little nagging voice might not go away, it can be drowned out by the resolve to build a better future for our family.
Author and mother of two, Tomi Tuel, reflects on how guilty she felt for earning a master’s degree while she had a son in kindergarten and a 3-year-old at home. At the time, all she could see was the time she was spending away from her family. But now, neither of her adult children even remembers her being away—all that heartache and the kids hardly noticed!
“If you’re going to have children and go to school, get it over while they are young,” Tuel says.
Setting an example in education
“My passion for learning has transferred to my sons. They recently taught me things I didn't know about the Battle of Gettysburg as we toured the national park there.”
Mike Jacob, father of a 4- and 5-year-old, witnessed firsthand the positive present-day outcome of his decision to go back to school. He realized that his rigorous study habits and dedication to school work impacted the way his sons viewed education.
“My passion for learning has transferred to my sons,” says Jacobs, a history major. “They recently taught me things I didn't know about the Battle of Gettysburg as we toured the national park there.”
Cassie Thayer, a single mom who became pregnant as a senior in high school, has already seen the impact her decision to earn a degree has had on her 2-year-old son.
Thayer earned a four-year degree in 2 ½ years and she insists her dedication and perseverance rubbed off on her little one. “He is motivated to achieve even the smallest task,” she says. “He won’t give up until he reaches his goal.”
Making the right decision for your family
There are no directions on how to make the most of going back to school with kids at home. What works for one family will most likely work differently for your own. But when you’re considering earning a degree, keep in mind these simple steps.
1. Consult your spouse
Steve Schleicher, a Boston doctor and co-founder of , is now back in school with a 1-month-old at home. His advice is simple: Get on the same page with your spouse. He and his wife have worked out a system that allows them both to spend time with the baby and meet their individual needs. But it takes effort on both sides.
“As long as both of you are equally invested in your education as a means to improve your professional and family life,” Schleicher says, “then together you can make school and raising a child work.”
2. Discuss the decision with your kids
It may seem silly—especially if the kiddos are very young—but it’s still worth the effort. Even vocalizing to your 8-month-old what this change might mean can help it seem more real for you. Especially with the slightly older ones, consider how to help them prepare for a lifestyle change. Maybe mommy will be gone more often in the evenings. Perhaps daddy will need a bit more peace and quiet while working in his in-home office.
The bottom line is: talk to your kids. Help them understand how your education will improve their lives as well. It’s very possible that your children won’t even remember you going back to school when they are adults. But for now, it’s still vital to include your family in each step of your journey.
3. Review your long-term financial goals
Again, thinking short-term is not the solution. Short-term thinking will leave you focused on what you see immediately like student loans or an additional payment leaving your checking account. Think about the future. Calculate your salary after you earn a degree and make that a factor in your academic decision-making. Remember, bachelor's degree holders earn about twice as much as those with a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And those with a master’s degree typically earn even more.
Your next step
Now that you’ve read about how others conquered their financial fears, got over the guilt, and made the plunge into an education that they’ve found to be beneficial for themselves and their family, perhaps you’re ready too.
If you’re ready to join the increasing number of parents going back to school, or even if you’re just curious what’s out there, check out the degrees—both online and traditional—offered by Rasmussen College.