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.