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Balancing Act: Juggling Kids, Spouses, Bosses and Professors

(Continued from 1)

  • Make time for the two of you. Dedicate one night a week to your spouse, no exceptions. This doesn't need to be an entire night; just getting a sitter for a few hours while you go have dinner is often enough time to remind yourselves that your relationship is solid. And unless you have something due the next day, go to bed together on date night. Reading those chapters can wait.
  • Let them know you appreciate their support. A partner who is willing to pick up the slack is a godsend, and should feel like their hard work is noticed. Preparing dinners, handling bedtime duties and taking the kids out when you’re on a deadline are all huge contributors to your success as a student. It is all too easy to fall into the mindset of expecting these things, when a simple thank you or token of appreciation here and there can let them know you are grateful (it doesn't hurt to praise their support to others, either).

Such simple things can help ease the tension that studies can create between couples. As stated, they are things that we should all be doing in our relationships anyway. But if one half of a couple has returned to school, they become absolutely essential.


If you are lucky enough to have a supervisor that you’re on good terms or even friends with, it can be a great help to obtaining your degree. For those who aren't so fortunate, there are still things that can be done to make the work/school balance a little smoother.

  • First and foremost, remember that despite the fact that you want more for your future, you have a job to do right now. Underachieving at work is no way to get the support you desire when you need time off for an exam. In fact, putting in extra hours or going above and beyond your duties can go a long way when requesting alternate hours or leaves of absence for school. Additionally, many companies have policies and programs that encourage employees to further their education; learn what the opportunites are and use them to full advantage.
  • Remember that if your immediate supervisor isn't accommodating with something, the next level of management may be more knowledgeable in ways to help with less hassle. Of course, there are supervisors that will not budge for an employee regardless of the cause. Remind them that what you are working toward is valid. Share with them your excitement for learning and demonstrate how it will benefit them as well. The more involved others are in your success, the more they will be on your team if you need them.


If you are married with kids and returning to school, you are likely to fall behind at some point. Luckily, most of the professors you’ll ever meet in your life would actually like to see you succeed, and allow the occasional transgression. Many of the professors I’ve encountered worked towards their Masters or PhD’s with young families. This helped immensely when I submitted an essay that appeared as if it was written by two different people (the last few pages were written while on two hours sleep, causing the rest of the work to suffer). Knowing my situation, the professor of the course stated he’d rather give me a day to re-submit the paper than bring my average down. It was a much-appreciated gesture and showed the support of the faculty.

Another option students have is to ask for an extension. Not that this is something to make a habit of, but most professors and teacher’s assistants have no problem granting extra time to students who are really in a bind. In cases like this, it helps to have a bit of foresight. If you know that the second half of the month is going to be particularly hectic with the kids’ sports, various appointments and other commitments, ask for an extension right away. Don’t wait until the day before a deadline and risk not getting it.

It is important for those returning to college to realize that they will face more stress than the average student. We can’t stop being parents, companions or reliable workers simply because we’re trying to better ourselves. The workload is tough and the balancing act is daunting, but success is attainable. Just remind yourself that sleep is going to be limited and that you have people around you for support. It’s simply a matter of rolling up your sleeves and getting to work!

Ryan Copithorn holds a Bachelor of Professional Arts in Communication Studies from Athabasca University and is involved in video production and marketing for broadcast media in Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

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