Advice from a NP Student on Balancing School, Work and Family

By: Guest Blogger Sophia Mulliner for All Things NP

When people find out that I am in grad school, have 3 young kids (5 1/2, 4, 2 1/2 yr) and also work they often ask, “Wow- how do you do it all?”.  Well, the answer is, I don’t do it all.

Many days I feel that I am giving every part of my life about 33.333% because I’m stretched so thin.  There is no magical formula for juggling the demands of grad school and a family.  I will say that there is no way I could do what I’m doing without an incredibly supportive husband.  He has been by my side since I began my nursing career many years ago and has always encouraged me to continue my education.

I think that a few things must be in order before attempting an endeavor such as school and a family.

Reliable, trust worthy childcare.  First, you must set up a childcare situation that you are happy with.  Fortunately, my mom lives nearby and takes care of our youngest two children when I have class, clinical or work.  Our oldest is in kindergarten and my husband takes her to school every morning.

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Set realistic expectations.  I learned early on in grad school that I have to maximize my time as much as I can.  Unlike most of my single peers in school I don’t have the luxury of studying hours on end, through the weekend and basically whenever I want.  I have to schedule time to go to the library if I want some peace and quiet or I wake up at insane hours (4:30 am) to study.  Also, if I don’t do as well on an exam as I would have liked, I have to be okay with that.  I have to remind myself that I am the only one in my class with 3 small children.  I can’t obsess about not being an A+ student all of the time.

Family and schoolwork don’t mix.  When I come home each day I set my backpack down and I don’t open it again until after the kids are in bed.  I’ve tried working on projects or studying while they are around but as you can imagine, I am constantly interrupted.  I can’t blame them- I’m their mom, they have no idea why I’m sitting behind a computer and not playing with them.  Our evenings are busy just like many other working parents and are filled with a mad rush to make dinner, do homework, practice piano and our weekly activities.

Make time for yourself.  I try to hit the gym or go running at least 4 days each week.  I have always been a morning person and I know this might sound crazy, but I absolutely love waking up early.  I’m usually up by 5:30, work-out, shower and have all this done before most of the kids are up.  This is my time to clear my head, energize my body and do something for myself that I enjoy.  If I let too many days pass by without exercising, it really affects my mood.  I need to do it for my own sanity.  If exercise isn’t your thing, then find something that is and fit it into your schedule.  You will be better for it.

Going back to school and juggling the demands of a family has not been easy but I know when I am finished, it will definitely be worth it.  If you’re thinking about taking the plunge it can be done.  I will complete Penn’s NP program this summer and will start job hunting soon.  I’m excited about the possibilities that will come my way as a result of going back to school.


About Sophia:  Sophia Mulliner has worked as an ICU nurse for 7 years and is currently attending the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program at University of Pennsylvania.  She will graduate this summer.  Sophia blogs at All Things NP.

7 thoughts on “Advice from a NP Student on Balancing School, Work and Family”

  1. This is great to see someone who is working, and is still able to balance school and little ones in the family. Such an important part of who YOU are and much more important to keep everyone involved as well.

  2. Great guest post. Sophia is awesome, what a great inspiration to those of us wanting to get our graduate degrees. Of course I love Midlevel U as well 🙂

  3. Thanks for this post. I am a single mom, in FNP school and working full time in a busy emergency department. Most days, I’m not sure what time it is or even what day it is. I rely heavily on my smart phone calender to get me where I need to go ontime. It is nice to see that someone else is in the same boat as I am. I remind myself everyday that I am doing all this for myself and my family. Thanks again.

  4. Good posting Sophia. I hope you are proud of yourself because you deserve it for your hard work and because you serve as an inspiration to a lot of people. I work full time as a firefighter in NYC and I went back to school to get my RN while my wife was pregnant and we bought our first house. My last semester my daughter was born and it was the most challenging part of my adult life. It can be done! I am so thankful to my family and supporters and I am really proud of my nursing degree. We do it for our families and we enjoy the ride and the countless learning opportunities that nursing provides us. I now work per dime at a major academic medical center in the step down unit and plan to continue my studies to earn a MSN next fall. Keep the good stories flowing!

  5. You’re amazing! I have been out of school for 4 years and I do not have children yet. I applied to a Adult/Gero NP program at the beginning of the month and while waiting to see if I get in, I have been so nervous! How am I going to balance working full time and going to school?! Yikes! But, you article is a huge inspiration. It’s possible!

  6. I am almost finished with my BSN degree and have been heavily debating my next step. I am really considering pursuing the FNP route next year. I know it will be difficult because I will still have to work full-time but it helps to hear inspirational stories of other families that are doing it and succeeding. Great story!

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