Advice, Parents, Single Parent

Single parent of three kids? Haven’t set foot in a classroom in 20 years? Cristyn shares her tips for making the leap

Smiling white woman with red hair, in business attire
Cristyn Alspaugh, NU Scholar, Scholar of Stamina Bachelor of Business Administration

As the single parent of three preteen kidsand as someone who had not set foot in a classroom in over 20 yearsI have to admit I was a little afraid to go back to school. In fact, one could say I was petrified! I had the desire to go back to school, and I knew that I needed a college education if I was going to make a better life for me and my family But college seemed so daunting, so impossible. How would I be able to add school to an already full schedule? I have a fulltime job and my evenings were spent handling my responsibilities as a parent. My weekends were spent trying to find interesting and fun activities for my kids so that we could spend quality time together. Oh, and don’t forget cleaning the house, shopping, cooking, doctor and dentist appointments, school events, sleepovers, sports, and finding time to drink enough water! How would I ever find time for school? 

There were a thousand reasons for me not to go back to school. Time, money, my age, my insecurities about fitting in or even remembering how to be a student. I wanted to turn away. I would hear myself saying things like, “You can’t do this, it’s too hard, it’s too scary.” However, even as I heard myself piling on these negative thoughts, I could also heard my grandma’s voice in my head. Whenever I had been afraid to try something super scary (like broccoli) she would encourage me, telling me to “Be a brave girl.”  When I crossed my arms, pouted, and said “No, I can’t,” she would smile and explain that “Being brave isn’t about not being afraid. Everyone is afraid. True bravery is about being afraid but doing it anyway.” It’s funny how seemingly small lessons can have such a huge impact on our lives.  

Cristyn Alspaugh Blog Post picture 2
Cristyn & three of her biggest supporters

The encouragement and wisdom of people in my life like my Grandma helped me take the leap to return to class, and I have now been a National University Student for over a year. I was amazed by how quickly I remembered how to be a student, dusting off the cobwebs on my study skills and hitting the ground running. I don’t want you to think it has been easy: Coffee and I have become best friends, and I have had to make some sacrifices; my house is a little dirtier, my shopping lists are a little longer, and the circles under my eyes are a littler darker. However, I can gladly accept these inconveniences when I compare them to how much I want a diploma. 

Happily, and to my surprise, one sacrifice I did not have to make was spending time with my kids. While I have needed to be more strategic with my scheduling, I find that I don’t miss out on my quality time with them. In fact, since I started at National University, my kids and I have a new thing in common: We are all students! I ask them about school and what they are learning about, and they ask me the same thingWe talk about assignments we find interesting, or classes that are difficult for us. They have listened as I have read my research papers out loud, appeared in some video submissions, made unintentional appearances in collaboratives, and even gave a thumbs up to this blog post. Best of all, they are learning every day how important higher education is, and how hard work is worth it in the end.  

If you are thinking about going back to school, no matter how far away you are from a degree, you can do this! I am convinced that single parents can do anything. If we can get little disgruntled people up, ready for school, fed, and dressed in a lastminute Halloween costume made from household items before 8am, we can do anything!  Remember, being brave isn’t about not being afraid, it’s about being afraid and doing it anyway. 

Cristyn Alspaugh Blog Post picture 1
Single-parent magic: Would you have guessed that this Halloween costume was assembled with five minutes notice?
adult learner, Advice, nursing, Parents, self care

2020 Goals: Self-Care in the New Year

By Stacey Beaver, NU Scholar (October 2019 Cohort)
Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Smiling young white woman with brown hair in professional attire
Stacey Beaver, NU Scholar

My life as an adult learner is filled with a seemingly endless to-do list.  Day-to-day responsibilities extend well beyond reading assignments, projects, tests and clinical hours for my nursing program. Even with the help of my supportive and understanding husband Scott, between childcare drop-offs, home maintenance, laundry, and other housework, I don’t have a minute to spare.

With all of this busyness, it’s no surprise that I have not made enough time for self-care.  Self-care is emphasized over and over in my nursing program as a vital tool for managing stress, achieving a sense of calm, and re-energizing one’s self.  Between having a daughter and starting my nursing program, I had let many of my previous self-care habits fall to the wayside.  My daughter is almost two years old, so it’s been a while: Almost two years of driving by the gym I pay too much for, eating an embarrassing amount of fast food, and taking no time to indulge in the things I love most like warm baths or the sauna.  So, I am making a commitment now to treating myself better. I encourage you to join me in my first self-care change: ditching my fast food habit.

Here is how I plan to do it:

Eat Real Food:

I will try to incorporate as many unprocessed and unrefined foods into my diet as possible.  Examples include fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains.

variety of vegetables on display
Step 1: More fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

Meal Prep:

Too often, I have used the excuse that I don’t have time to pack a lunch before I head to clinical or lecture.  Meal prepping will allow me to spend less time every day worrying about what to eat, and instead dedicate a specific time to planning and preparing meals for an entire week.

flat lay photography of three tray of foods
Step 2: Prep multiple healthy meals at once

Drink Water:

I know it’s time to ditch the super sweet coffee and soda.  It’s so easy to take in unnecessary calories and added sugar in drinks, not to mention the cost!  I have a tough time drinking plain water so I will try to dress it up with lots of ice and a sprig of fresh mint or slices of cucumber.

sliced lemon fruit in glass picher
Step 3: Get fancy to drink more water and less soda and coffee

I hope that building this habit of making my own nutritious meals will nourish my body and mind, not to mention help my pocketbook. I hope this post inspires you to join me in making this change, or to commit to your own self-care goal. While it can be hard to justice the time at first, I promise that taking care of yourself will recharge your batteries and ultimately give you more strength and time as you move through your academic program at NU.

 

 

 

 

adult learner, Military, Navy, Parents, Undergraduate, Veteran

Going Back to School as a Veteran

Kevin Matzke headshot

Kevin Matzke, Bachelor of Science, Biology

San Diego Region

U.S. Navy Veteran

https://portfolium.com/Kmatzke88

The decision to go back to school as a veteran was not a difficult decision. The military always pushed education and the need to better oneself. Knowing the large veteran population attending National University helped in making my mind up to attend. The challenges that came with working full time, studying full-time, and maintaining a family were not what I expected. When I first started at National University, I was married but had no children. The transition into becoming a student was fairly streamlined, and because of the way the military uses intensive training, the 1 month compressed format of National Universities classes seemed natural to me. As a veteran it is sometimes hard to find common ground with people who haven’t had the shared experience of military service. I have often found myself feeling alienated or uncomfortable because my time in the military had changed my way of viewing things. This sense of alienation was one of my biggest fears going into starting up as a college student. I quickly found that a large portion of my classmates were also prior service, or active duty, and shared the same struggles as I did. The veteran community at National definitely helped in smoothing the transition from being fresh out of the military, to being a successful student, while supporting my family.

As I progressed in my education I also was growing my family.  My first daughter was born in 2016, and my second in 2018.

The addition of children definitely adds new stressors and time demands on top of the already busy work/ school schedule I was maintaining. There are days where it can be overwhelming, and on those days I remind myself that completing my education will help to provide a better future for my children. It has not always been easy, but the faculty has been very accommodating and understanding of the fact that many of us attending are parents, working to support our families while attending school. The smaller class sizes allow me more interaction with the instructors, and a makes learning and understanding the material easier, when everything outside of class is trying to distract me from my studies.

Military, Navy, nursing, Parents, self care

Meet Pam: Veteran, Nurse, Parent, Student, Scholar!

Pam Schreurs White Coat Ceremony
Pam at her White Coat Ceremony, four months after writing this blog post – Congratulations Pam!

Pamela Schreurs

Bachelor of Science, Nursing

https://portfolium.com/PamelaSchreurs

https://www.instagram.com/pamela_schreurs_nuscholar/

Greetings! My name is Pamela and I am a mother to two wonderful children, as well as a nursing student at National University.  I am also a US Navy veteran, and my husband is currently active duty.  It can be a struggle being a full-time mom and nursing student (especially if a spouse is deployed!), but I have felt very supported since starting my journey at NU.  In my downtime I enjoy spending time with my kids, volunteering with Girl Scouts San Diego, and taking time for myself.  One big take away from nursing school has been that self-care helps make you a more present nurse and parent.  I feel blessed to have had fabulous instructors who incorporate integrative therapy into the classroom, and I am excited to weave meditation, aromatherapy, and guided breathing into not only my nursing practice, but also my home life.

In July of 2018, I was accepted into the NU Scholars Program.  Through NU Scholars, I have been able to support peers’ community service projects, and am planning my own project hosting wellness workshops for elementary-aged girls.  I will also be hosting SafeZones LGBTQ literacy training for NU staff, faculty, and students to help promote a safe and welcoming environment for all who attend NU.

The NU Scholars Program has a strong emphasis on goal-setting, and I have learned a lot about how to set and structure concrete short- and long-term goals. My short-term educational goal for this year is to fully commit myself to the last two weeks of my psychosocial nursing rotation.  This is perhaps the most important rotation in terms of therapeutic communication and empathy, and I want to absorb everything I can before beginning my next rotation.  My long-term goal is to graduate with an excellent GPA in July – nursing school is tough, but I pride myself on putting in the work I need to maintain my GPA.  I cannot wait to have my kids help me put on my white coat in a few months, it is going to be one of the best feelings in the world!  After achieving this first long-term goal, my next long-term goal is to continue my education at a master’s level, focusing on pediatric mental health.

adult learner, Graduate Student, Military, Navy, Parents, Study Abroad

Studying Abroad as a Parent

Brent Harris headshot

Brent Harris

https://portfolium.com/baharris123

Creative Writing MFA

29 Palms Region

“Freeeedddooooommm!”

Shout that in your best Braveheart voice, for that’s the euphoria I felt as I stepped onto the curb, kissed the wife and kids goodbye, and sauntered into the Palm Springs departure terminal.

In January, my Navy wife went away on deployment – for seven months – leaving me at home with two kids, a Master’s program, community volunteer projects, and a perpetually empty cup of coffee. Those months were challenging. My daughter had ballet twice a week and a residency in Anaheim, my son had Toddler Tumbling and was not yet in school. I was teaching on Tuesdays, in between two back-to-back scripts for school.

A break loomed.

The NU Scholar’s program offered a study abroad opportunity to Tijuana. A weekend away from the kids, a break when there was none, to go down South of the Border? Sign me up! I dutifully did the repeat photography assignments, finding pictures of the past to compare with pictures from today. I was all set. And then my son got pink-eye.

I couldn’t go.

The joys of parenthood.

Flash forward several months, and I was afforded an opportunity to visit Vancouver to study abroad. And I’m so very glad I did. Vancouver is a beautiful place with beautiful people. It’s not an old city, but it is rich with culture and vibrant nature. Had I gone to the city by myself, as a tourist, I would have failed to see the splendor beyond the tourist traps. Going as part of the NU study abroad program, travelling with others, allowed me to see parts of the city most would have passed. An amazing coastline, foggy bridges, strange statues, a shower of autumn-red maple leaves, and buildings with a history all their own. The food was great, the people better, and at the end of each day, our phone cameras were full, and our feet were worn.

While there, my first feelings of Freedom! slipped away as the greatness of the experience enveloped me. It was no longer a trip to escape, but the forging of a new friendship. Vancouver will be with me forever.

Parents

Making Time for School

nicole alexander

By Nicole Alexander, NU Scholar (April 2018 Cohort)
Master of Science, School Psychology with PPSC School Psychology
https://portfolium.com/nicolealexande4

Most of us here at National are attempting the impossible, the school-work-family juggle. But I assure you, it’s possible. Find your motivation and really get to know yourself, and you can crush it. My motivation is my two daughters. I want to raise strong, fearless, hard-working women and the best way I can think of is to practice what I preach. Find what keeps you going, because when you’re writing a report at 1 am and you have to get up for work at five, you’re going to need it. Once you are good and fired up, get to know yourself. Here are some things I’ve discovered about myself: I can’t study at Starbucks because I get too distracted by people-watching, my brain stops functioning at 11 pm, I do my best work with a side of sushi, and studying in bed = naptime. Once motivation and self-awareness are ironed out, you can focus on figuring how to override the laws of the space-time continuum and manage to get it all done. If physics isn’t your thing, here are a few tips to salvage some time for coursework without abandoning your family and your sanity:

1. #to-do-to-done  

This may come as a bit of a shock, but not everyone uses a planner… I know, it’s crazy. I can barely brush my teeth without my planner. Not only does it keep me from forgetting important dates, it houses my bevy of to-do lists. Yes, lists. I make daily and weekly goals that fit perfectly into their corresponding days. I also find it helpful to make a separate work list, school list, and home list. OK, maybe I’m the crazy one, but it’s easier to accomplish a few things per day than stare at one formidable, mile-long list. Many prefer having it all in their phone—I’ve tried it, it’s not for me. I do however like the “Stickies” program on my laptop for my to-do lists, if you’re the techy-type.

2. #solvesmallproblems 

This trick is definitely my favorite. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t accomplish any significant progress in my school work in those little intervals while on my lunchbreak, or waiting at the DMV, or while helping my kids with homework. I can, however, schedule that dentist appointment, or pay my phone bill, or drop that bag off at Salvation Army that’s been in my trunk for a month. Solving small problems throughout the day will clear your mind, your to-do list, your car, and your schedule for more meaningful chunks of study time later. Added bonus: the tiny rushes of adrenaline from accomplishing tasks will build momentum for that report that’s waiting for you to write it.

3. #sorrynotsorry 

Caution, this one can become addicting. Say no. Sounds simple? It’s not. This one is H-A-R-D but worth it and quite liberating. I enjoy painting, and baking, and creating. So, when someone appreciates my talents and asks me to help them paint their living room or bake my (amazing) cookies for a party, I struggle to say no. But there are only so many hours in a day, and it’s OK to put your priorities first. You have decided to accomplish the amazing feat of going to college, put some other stuff on the back burner, and go with the store-bought cookies.

4. #adultingishard 

Having fun is important in maintaining mental health. Definitely make time for guilt-free frivolity but be sure to get the work done first. How much fun can you really have with that deadline looming over you while you’re trying to bowl a perfect game?

5. #igetbywithalittlehelp 

If you are a college student with no job and no kids, congratulations, please go enjoy a nap on my behalf. If you’re like me, you have kids and they are adorable –but– physically, literally, metaphorically, emotionally and mentally preventing you from getting any work done. TGFG – Thank God For Grandma. Chances are, she’s super proud of you for going to college, and maybe willing to take the children away for an afternoon so you can accomplish something other than snack detail??

6. #childswap 

No grandma? Another awesome way to get some child-free time is the neighbor swap. I was lucky enough to have a neighbor with kids similar in age to mine, and we would swap kids. I would take all the kids for two hours, then she would take them for two hours. When you already have one or two of your own, what’s two more? Playdates keep the kids entertained, and you get work time without putting anyone out or paying for a sitter! Swapping is also a good alternative for when you’re contemplating getting rid of your kids all-together. (JOKING…mostly)

7. #theresanappforthat 

Utilize resources. I know, everybody says that, but actually do it. I once had a gal from the writing center sit on the phone with me for over an hour while I re-wrote a paper. Need a resume? Well, Chris in the career center can tell you that yours is missing an objective, has too many bullet points, and your name is spelled wrong. Not only do these resources offer priceless feedback, but having a scheduled appointment provides accountability and is one more step in getting those items crossed off the aforementioned to-do lists.

8. #strikewhiletheironshot  

You won’t like this one, sorry. Usually the last thing I want to do after five hours in class is open that computer back up, but when the information is fresh, the work is easier and faster. And what a great feeling to have something done long before it’s due.

9. #dropitlikeitshot 

You will like this one, you’re welcome. When I’ve been wrestling over a single paragraph for the better part of an hour accomplishing virtually nothing, I give myself permission to close my computer and walk away. Even though it still needs to get done, I can make better use of my time and re-visit when I’ve given myself a brain break.

 

 

adult learner, nursing, Parents

Returning to school after a hiatus

Deborah Chambers_DSC07346

By Deborah Nabubwaya Chambers, NU Scholar (July 2018 Cohort)
Master’s in Public Healthcare Administration

I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya and did my undergraduate program in Psychology at Daystar University. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 2007, I wanted to continue with my education, but unfortunately, due to life events and other family responsibilities, I could not return to school as soon as I had planned.

After relocating to the United States in 2011, I finally enrolled in some prerequisites to complete courses that would make it possible for me to pursue a nursing degree. One of those classes was an epidemiology class, and I instantly had an epiphany that public health was exactly what I wanted to pursue. I had finally found a field that connected all of my interests in nursing, healthcare in general, and community development. My desire to help others, work in healthcare, and support underserved communities would still be supported by pursuing public health. I searched for graduate programs that I could pursue online while I continued working night shifts at a hospital in West Texas.

A little over 8 years later, I was back in school as an adult learner. I started my first class just before my family and I relocated to Illinois for work. Subsequently, I decided to be a stay-at-home mother and pursue my graduate degree in public health.

Returning to school in 2015 after a hiatus was certainly not an easy decision. It meant giving up a lot of free time and balancing everything to meet my educational goals. I did my assignments whenever I got a chance, at odd hours like during my children’s nap times and after they went to bed at night. No matter how busy I was, I made sure that I did school work every day so that I would not fall behind. Pursuing an accelerated program meant giving it my all right from the beginning, and I took classes almost every month for two years. My oldest child knows how to do a good impression of me using the computer to scale the mountains of assignments and research papers. One of my proudest moments of being an adult learner was taking my entire family to my graduation in San Diego.

Throughout my program, my family kept cheering me on, and gave me wings to fly. My oldest son tells me daily that he is so proud of me and that he wants to be like me. He says he wants to go to school and type on the computer like mama and help sick people. I know that I am positively impacting my family members’ lives, as well as the lives of many others in my community who will benefit from the global and community health research that I am actively participating in. This is all thanks to the knowledge and opportunities that I have received while attending school at National University.

After graduating in 2017, I still desired to advance my career and learn more, returning to school to pursue National University’s healthcare administration program. Even though I have been successful in an accelerated program before, I continue learning every day about how to balance my work, family, and school responsibilities. It has not always been easy but every challenge has made it a growth experience that is nothing short of marvelous. Who knew I would absolutely enjoy school this much?

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