mom and student kathy williamsLet me introduce you to someone who is raising three children, running a household and going back to school: My friend, Cathy Williams.

I asked her to give me some insights on how to balance my own educational needs with those of my family… Cathy is becoming an interior designer (and she’s already working a little bit for friends and local realtors where we live just outside of Metro Detroit.) She is from England and her husband’s job was transferred here in 2007. They have boys with the oldest in kindergarten and the youngest just turning 1.

Check it out – and let me know if you have any more questions for Cathy. She’s a wonder.

Q: Why did you decide to go back to school?

A: When we first moved to the States, my visa did not allow me to work, so I felt I had an opportunity to do something else instead. We were also living at my husband’s company’s expense and renting out our home in the UK, so we had a little spare cash to be able to justify me doing the studies. (That’s not quite the case now, but we have a little tucked away that is allowing me to continue!)

Q: What did you decide to study and why?

A: I study Interior Design. A subject I have always loved, but even more so since I became a home owner. When I went to college straight after school, interior design was not particularly a subject that was taught (in the UK at least!), so the opportunity wasn’t really there then.

Q:  How do you balance motherhood and school?

A: I first started doing it at night school, when the children were in bed, and my husband was home from work — this was quite a casual class, and I took this to see if I wanted to take it further and get a formal qualification. I decided I did, so started at Baker College. I had just two children then, and I took two classes a week — both boys went to day care for the two mornings I was at college.

In order to do the homework, I worked during their naptimes, in the evenings and at the weekends — grabbing an hour or two here and there!  However, then I had a third child and I felt this is it, I’m going to have to quit now. I’d only managed three classes and I was pretty gutted, to be honest, but I couldn’t see how I could juggle it with three kids! We were also in limbo about whether we were staying in the US, or returning to the UK — so we needed to decide that first! We did make the decision to stay on in the US, but I still didn’t see much hope in getting back to school.

However, one day I got a call out of the blue from my tutor. She was so lovely, saying she really wanted me to come back, thought I was a great student who showed such promise, etc etc…..please call!!  Flattery gets you everywhere, so I called her back to see what she had to say. I told her I now had a 6-month-old baby, as well as the other two boys and I just didn’t see how I could work it at the moment.  She made me an offer I couldn’t refuse………..until I was able to get back into college (i.e. I felt Josh was old enough to do some daycare, as I had done with Harry and Charlie), she was willing for me to take her classes and actually do them from home! I was delighted, and took her up on this!

So my fourth class in the degree was actually done from home, with her help via email and phone calls. I went in just for an exam and the presentation at the end. By this time, we had actually found a babysitter for the boys too, and she was able to help me out on days I had to go in. Now I am going back into college, but only doing one class again. The babysitter works for me the morning I am in college. Again, homework is done as and when I can get to it! It is going to be a very slow process getting all the classes done, and I am in the process of trying to transfer some credits from previous education, as this would help greatly! However, of course, I have British qualifications, so transferring credits is a little more complicated! I am just thankful to be getting out and doing a little something for me – not to mention using the brain again!

Q: How hard is the juggling act between motherhood and school?

A: It is not straight-forward juggling the two things to be perfectly honest!! That said, I think it is easier than working and motherhood, because if the kids are sick and I can’t get to class, unless it is an exam or presentation, I’m not really letting anyone other than myself down — do you know what I mean? I can call and get the notes from someone in class, and I have my final project list already, so know what I have to achieve by the end of the semester. If it was an exam or presentation, I don’t know quite what I would do! Fortunately I haven’t had to deal with this yet — but the babysitter seems pretty reliable — which is why we did a sitter and not daycare this time round. First, I don’t have to get three children up and out of the house by 8 a.m,, and, secondly, if they are sick, they are home anyway, the sitter comes to us!

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