Written by: Valerie Hazelrig
Wondering how to raise children and study at the same time? At some point in your parenting career you may find that you need to study at evenings & weekends to keep your career on track. Completing a professional qualification on top of bringing up kids and running a house may sound impossible, but other people have done it, and so can you. Here are some tips to keep you sane:
In order to juggle a hectic family life and busy study schedule, you must be self-motivated, and above all, organised. Some people approach their studies like a full-time job, keeping regular 9 to 5 hours, allowing for family time in the evening. Students with no responsibilities or families (remember those heady days?) can keep irregular hours, and burn the midnight oil. However, if you have responsibilities at home, you won’t have this luxury, and you will need to be much more efficient with your time management. Create time tables, and stick to them. Get lunches packed and uniforms ready the night before. No matter how tired you are come the end of the day, you still have to think about tomorrow.
It can be tempting to snooze that alarm for an extra 20 minutes, but getting up early and beating the crowds is a surefire way to cram in an extra half an hour on a project. If you are a brand-new mother, this could even be in the middle of the night when your baby is sleeping, but you are not.
Work absolutely EVERYWHERE
It’s incredible the amount of work you can do when you’re driving or taking a walk. Work on theories in your head, solve problems, plan essays. Carry a notepad, or use the dictaphone on your mobile phone. Any idea that pops into your head, record it.
Do homework together
The perfect time to study is when your child is doing their own homework. With a bit of luck, they’ll have their head down quietly, meaning you can grab some quality time with your essay. And best of all, you can dip into their art supplies to doodle and draw – it’s amazing the ideas you can unleash when you sit down and scribble.
Manage your finances
Before you start studying, you need to know if you have enough cash to pay tuition, and simultaneously handle your household bills. If you need to send your children to daycare, factor this cost in as well. Download an accounting app and start managing your expenses and resources.
Set ground rules
You need peace and quiet to study, and your family must respect this. Post your schedule on your office or fridge door – this can be a great way to develop a common understanding, and to stop resentment from forming. Make your family aware of the times when you are available, and when they shouldn’t disturb you. There’s no harm in pinning a Do Not Disturb sign to the door.
You may need to set boundaries for the children, and educate them as to what qualifies as an essential interruption. For instance, a Barbie blocking the toilet is cause for a worthwhile interruption, whereas a fight over the Nintendo handsets is not. This is a two-way street though: During your off-hours, you need to be available to your family, and give them the attention they need. Trust needs to be built and you need to be available when you say you will be, which means your family will have to be more willing to wait.
Plan some leisure time
It can be all too easy to get sucked into your course, and studies can get intense. Don’t forget to come up for air and have fun with your family. Set aside a family play night, or a date night with your partner. Meditate, take a long shower, learn to swallow swords – anything to break the study cycle, and to relieve stress.
As a studying parent, you will find yourself with less time, and even less energy. This means if you have a big dream, you need to take bigger risks to get the payoff you deserve. But still, don’t sit around waiting for the stars to align: Take chances, pursue the course of your dreams and go big. There’s only one failure, and that’s NOT trying.
An increasing amount of home/university courses now have Family Friendly policies. These can include financial assistance, mortgage subsidies, maternity leave, and childcare.
Juggling family life and study can be difficult, but if you persevere, and manage it correctly, the payoffs can be great. All the best with rearranging your life to fit around your education: Countless parents have managed it, and you can too.