Finding a way to study while being a parent can be a challenge… but a very achievable one if you are prepared, organised and more than just a little bit flexible. These quick, easy and practical tips will help you navigate blending the pressures of uni with raising little people.
Firstly, forget finely tuned schedules. Kids will get sick, schools will announce last-minute events and weekends will magically fill with three birthday parties and soccer training. Things will come up and there is nothing you can do but get creative with your time management. Think blocks of study time rather than small bites (that can easily dissolve with other distractions), and allocate 20 per cent extra time – this will enable you to deal with the urgent situations as they arise without feeling like your precious study time is evaporating into thin air.
Find your third space. Not at home. Yes, of course you will study at home, but also you will benefit from enhanced productivity if you can swing a couple of work sessions at a café, at the library or at a work space on campus that removes you from the gorgeous distractions that are your children.
Prioritise your well-being. Combining kids and study is a massive undertaking and one that requires reserves of energy that come from adequate sleep, nutritious food and regular exercise. To parent well and to study effectively you must look after yourself. Investing in your own health will boost your ability to deal with all spheres of your life.
Get clear on your intent – and then share it with your family. Make sure you know exactly why you are studying; how is it going to benefit you and maybe even your family? Talk to them about what you are learning and make them a part of your journey. When you all know the why, you will be better equipped to manage the challenges along the way.
There will be times when you get exhausted and it will be HARD. Rather than pushing harder, be gentle with yourself. Take some time to get quiet and think about what you need to make the situation a little easier. Can your partner take the kids out for half a day on the weekend? Do you need an extension on an assignment? Slowing down in the middle of a busy patch and chatting to a partner, friend or even a CSU counsellor can really help.
Work smarter, not harder. Work when you feel most alert (this may mean swapping late-night study for early morning sessions). Have clear goals for each study session so you don’t waste time, turn off social media, take workshops to improve your skills and utilise technology such as listening to recorded lectures or relevant podcasts while you drive or are at home. On the home front, take 10 minutes and think about what tasks you can either delegate or eliminate. Can the kids help around the house? Can everyone cut down on one extra-curricular activity to make some space?
Let go of your unrealistic expectations. You cannot do everything, and guess what – you don’t have to. Your kids will be fine if they eat frozen pizza and fruit for dinner. Saying no to some social invitations so you can spend some quiet time with your kids after a hectic week of exams is reasonable. Gift yourself a little flexibility with your ‘have to’s’ and feel some space open up.
Celebrate your successes (big and small). Whether it’s your favourite takeout and a movie, a quiet bath or a family day trip, sprinkle little morale boosters throughout the session and plan for a really big trip or party when graduation day rolls around – you more than deserve it!