A Mother’s Guide to the MSW@USC


Close-up of diplomaA mother knows that there is nothing better than the sound of little feet scampering about the house on a Saturday morning. She knows how a peanut-butter-and-jelly-smeared face coming in for a kiss can lift her spirits after a draining day of classes and field practicum work. A mother knows that the sounds of a child’s laughter can make her all but forget that only a moment before, she was fretting over a looming deadline. A mother also knows how hard it can be to tackle school, work responsibilities, motherhood and the complexities of family life all at the same time. A mother in graduate school knows the difficulty of having to miss a soccer game every now and then, and how guilty she can feel for not having the time to build that fort made of Lego blocks with her son. These are some of the challenges that a mother faces when she has made the choice to earn her Master of Social Work through the MSW@USC.

Fortunately, learning to strike the balance between school and home life is not as problematic as one would assume. I’ve found that speaking candidly with my children has helped to manage their expectations and to alleviate many of the difficulties they experience as a result of my many obligations. Children who understand why changes are happening, as well as how those changes will affect them, are more likely to adjust well. When children are too young to understand what’s going on, they face additional challenges that can be overcome by an adult being creative. For example, finishing up the week’s reading assignments while snuggling with a sleepy child is a great way to accomplish two important things at once. In addition, I have found it helpful to schedule time to focus all of my attention on my children. Classes are very important, but looking after my children’s happiness and well-being will always come first. I’ve also learned not to underestimate the power of ten minutes; taking just a small amount of time to stop what I am doing and pay attention to what they have to say means a great deal to my children. Sometimes it’s not the amount of time one spends that matters most, but rather it is the quality of that time that is most memorable.

I came home the other day to a house full of happy children fresh from their day at school. They were each eagerly sitting at the kitchen table working through their day’s homework with mischievous grins plastered on their faces. As I put my bags down and uttered a sigh of relief that the day was over, my daughter looked at me and said, “Mommy, we have a surprise for you!” They pointed me in the direction of the family room and followed me as I headed there in anticipation. I couldn’t help but cry when I realized what my children had done. On the end table were handmade cards of appreciation, and one torn-up paper of scribbles from my 15-month-old son, created to express their love for me. Although to some this may not seem like much, it was everything to this mother. As I took a moment to let the sweetness of what my children had done sink in, I realized that I am the luckiest mother in the world to have children who offer such unconditional love and understanding while I work through the Master of Social Work program at USC.


Lazette Nalder is currently a foundation-year MSW@USC student. She was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia and currently lives in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Prior to applying and being accepted to University of Southern California, Lazette earned a Master of Science degree in Psychology. Lazette is a proud wife and mother of five children, and in her free time she enjoys playing a variety of instruments, writing music, enjoying her favorite football teams, cooking, and spending time with her family. Lazette Nalder has chosen Mental Health as her concentration at USC, and plans to utilize the skills she will learn to help individuals and families live happier and more-productive lives.

  • Lara McKinley

    Mrs. Nalder thank you so very much for sharing your inspiring story. You are an inspiration to your children and an amazing role model as a mother. As women, we need to find a balance within our families, always knowing the importance of self care and the role of communication. I find myself returning to school, I am 46, after 15 years in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman. I see myself within your story, i too have children, a son who is 8 years old. The have been many a day I have picked him up from school and he has said “do you have to study momma.” ( I am finishing my degree Spring ’13 at Chapman University in Social Work, with a minor in Psychology.) Then there are those days, when we study and do homework together always maintaining that connection. It is refreshing to hear your amazing story of love,commitment and to know there are strong women out there following their dreams. I have applied o the MSW@USC program entering this Fall 2013, hopefully our paths will meet.
    Fight On
    Lara McKinley

  • Caroline

    I have had many anxieties over what it may be like to enter graduate school. This brings it all home and reminds me of my sweet moments with my family. Your story lets me know that it will all be worth it to enter and finish graduate school as a mother. Thank you for sharing!

  • Katie McDaniel

    What kind of time commitment are you expected to put into this? There seem like a lot of classes. The last school i went to were 2 10 credit classes a quarter and you were expected to put in approximately 20-25 hours per class per week. I have a full time job and I am a mother of 2 young children and I am trying to gauge if I can fit it all in right now.