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How to balance home life, work life, and school

“How to balance home life, work life, and school”

Kathleen Pinto PhD (c), MSN, RN


      Somewhere in the midst of my adult life, I learned to work smarter, not harder. The secret is multitasking and organization.  Multitasking is a skill that is learned, and when you have mastered the technique, you will find that your dream of graduating nursing school can be accomplished. Although it would be ideal for a nursing student to go to school and spend their evenings studying, we know this is not always possible. Our students work to support their household, attend school, and are responsible to care for their families. When CAN you study if you are ALSO responsible to work, cook, clean, do laundry, and help the children with their homework?

From personal experience, I can attest it is possible because I have had to work two full time jobs, while going to school, and raising a family. The laundry was always done, house clean, and food on the table. These are some of my tricks.

The #1 rule is keep life simple.

Meals: Sundays is my cooking day. Prepare your meals for the week. Rachel Ray has some great tips on to do this. Appliances such as rice cookers and crock pots will cook the food while you are at work. If you like to bake, prepare the meals in disposable foil containers and freeze them. Pull them out of the freezer in the morning and the first kid home from school can put it in the oven. Crock pots are dishwasher safe and foil containers are disposable, so you also save time on clean up.

Laundry: Put all of your clothes on hangers as soon as they come out of the dryer, that way you save time on ironing.

Work: Private duty homecare nights was my savior. Your patients are sleeping, so you may have to turn and position them every 2 hours, give medications, suction, etc. In between you can study and do your bills. You can work as an LPN, companion, or CNA.

Power naps: When you are overtired, you won’t retain what you are studying. Go to sleep and set your alarm for two hours. When you wake up, make yourself a cold drink with ice and tell yourself, “Just do it”

Quality time with the kids: Technology is a wonderful tool for the working mom or dad in school. It’s okay. Don’t feel bad. X-Box 360 is good for hand/eye coordination and if they have “live” they are socializing with others. Parallel play is a wonderful multitasking tool for quality time as well. As you are on your laptop doing your PREPU assignments and studying, your children can be on theirs playing their games or doing their homework.

Take a walk with the kids when you have a chance without your cell phone. This way there are no distractions and you can make sure that you haven’t missed anything important in their lives with school or friends that they need to talk about with you.

The Guilt: Nurses spend their life caring for others, so we have this strong guilt when we are doing something for ourselves. School is not forever. Your family loves you and they will still be there when you finish school. But remember, now with your new degree comes new opportunity to spend real quality time with them because you won’t have to work as many hours to pay the bills as you will generally earn better pay as a Licensed Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse.

Homework: If I couldn’t be home for homework, I used “Oovoo, Skype, or Facetime video chat”. If you haven’t used them before, they are interactive video chat apps that allows you to see the person over the internet that you are talking to. My son likes to enlarge his screen so I can see his homework questions.

Keeping the house clean: I keep my house simple. The more you have, the more there is to clean. If you don’t use it, consider if you really need it. Maybe you could box up some items until after nursing school. That way there is less of a mess when you do finally arrive home. If you are a person that is very attached to all of your “STUFF”, remember that the more time you have to clean, the less time you have to spend on quality time and studying.

Organization: Keep a calendar and write down everything including your homework assignments, exams, quizzes, papers, bills, household tasks, and birthdays. As you cross out each item you have completed, you will feel accomplished. This will motivate you to do more.

Take care of yourself: Eat right and drink plenty of fluids. The memory functions better when it is nourished. Pay attention in Nutrition class and apply everything you are learning to your own health. Lack of sleep will decrease your immune system making you higher risk for illness. There is no time to be ill, so be proactive with your diet and rest. Additionally, lack of sleep keeps toxins in your brain; while you sleep brain cells decrease in size allowing for the cerebral fluid to wash away these metabolic toxins which helps you think more clearly.

Even though it seems there would be no time left for you, you have to have “me time”. Self-reflection is one of the most important things you can do. Try setting your alarm early each morning to be awake before anyone else. The house is quiet and you will have a few minutes to think about your plans for today and if you accomplished all of your goals yesterday.

These are just some of the tools I have used to be a successful working mom and student. Many of your instructors are students as well, and can also share their tips for success with you. Remember to keep your eyes on the prize. If becoming a nurse and furthering your education is your goal, you can do it. As I stated earlier, your family loves you and they will still be there standing behind you at your graduation. Remember that you are also a role model for your family and you are showing them the importance of hard work and education.


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