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Renee Jones on Social Pressure, Motivation, and Parenting as a Returning College Student

by: Andreas Chenvainu Renee Jones, a former student parent, shared that balancing writing, grad school, and parenting is, without a doubt, a juggling act. 

Jones, author of “50 Things to Know About Going Back to School while Parenting,” hoped to pass on wisdom and help other prospective or current student parents on their journeys during her talk on campus last month. Some key points she made were the importance of a healthy sense of self-worth, resisting social pressures to be a perfect parent, and how she manages her time.

Jones stressed the importance of having a life outside of the home in relation to parenthood. 

“Maybe I’m juggling all of these things,” she said of the difficulties of student parenthood, but emphasized the negative consequences of devoting too much of her life to domestic work. “Like, I need to feel accomplishment, otherwise I noticed that slowly I just start resenting my husband because, you know, he had the audacity to go for his dreams, or my best friend, or my own kids.” According to Jones, the remedy to this is to keep a sense of individual sense of self-worth. “My kids are incredibly valuable, but so am I. I get to be a part of my family, and so whatever my goals are–whatever makes me feel good–that also gets to have value.” She says it is important to balance time raising and getting to know your children with one’s life-goals.

Far from being a detriment to one’s children, the pursuit of these personal ambitions as a mother can have benefits, Jones claims. She hopes her story will give parents more confidence to follow her lead and shoot for their college goals because a parental figure who pursues their passions gives children something to look up to and someone to learn alongside of, she believes. Drawing from her experiences from grad school, Jones laid out advice for prospective or current student parents with ambitions in higher education. One of the key points of advice she offered was the ways she systematizes her work schedule, a method to which she credits much of her ability to manage her time. 

“It felt hard some days,” she said of her time in grad school, “But really with a good system and giving yourself some grace, it felt manageable most days.” A technique she uses is to choose smaller, more manageable goals, such as writing a segment of a larger paper, more manageable objectives and focus on them. Importantly, this requires letting go of the impulse to always be everywhere and do everything all at once. 

The session ended with a Q&A, where Jones and co-hosts Lark Lo and Katie Conte responded to questions about student parenting and discussed attendants’ stories of college as parents. Conte, an Education Major, addressed the need for programs to assist adults with special needs. Lo, a Coordinator for CCAMPIS (Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program), raised awareness about the program, and gave information for anyone in attendance who was interested or might be in need of assistance.

Throughout the session, Jones stressed the importance of pushing back against social pressure and letting go of self-doubt. She said an important step of her journey was rejecting perfectionism and learning to accept being “good enough.” 

“I gave up the idea of being the perfect all things–the perfect wife, the perfect mom, the perfect teacher…I took away the negative connotation.” This was an important step in her journey, Jones says, and she hopes the wisdom and knowledge she’s gained will inspire others to do the same.

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