Many parents feel like tearing their hair out at times when their delightful offspring are screaming their head off in a red faced fury, but what if you were also frantically studying for finals in this stressful atmosphere?
After dropping out of University to work, I ended up having my beautiful daughter, Grace. As much enjoyment as motherhood brought me, I had resigned myself to the fact that my days of education were over. I mean, night time feeds with a baby and a hard core studying regime is hardly an appealing combination is it?
The day my daughter became nursery age I made the decision to ‘look into’ higher education courses and before I I knew it I was sitting through an admissions interview for Anglia Ruskin University.
I am currently half way through an intensive Journalism degree, which is no simple feat but I can guarantee it is an extremely worthwhile venture. There are no other parents on my course and it is often difficult being the only person with responsibilities and a house to run. I still enjoy every minute of it and feel like I working towards something better for my daughter and I.
Many parents are apprehensive about returning to education, receiving ‘helpful’ advice about how they won’t be able to fund it, it will be too difficult and they won’t cope. These are all untrue and if you want to have a go at juggling studying and parenting these are my tips for surviving education as a parent and surprising advice you won’t get.
Before you decide higher education is the route you wish to take, carefully research courses. Weigh up your options and assess what would fit into your lifestyle. A degree is going to have an intensive work load (subject dependent) while an evening college course will have a slightly more relaxed attitude and may be better suited for those working full time.
First, to get it out the way, you are likely to feel stressed at times. Studying or parenthood alone is hard work, putting the two together is going to be taxing. When you feel that stress is taking it’s toll on you, the worst thing you can do is bottle it up. Talk to someone as it can easily be resolved, remember that you are doing your course for a higher purpose and this feeling of stress is only momentary.
The thought of being a poor student may leave you mortified, but you can get funding for your course. If you are a parent studying for degree you are entitled to maintenance and childcare funding from Student Finance, depending on your financial situation obviously. I was awarded free childcare for all the time I am at University, along with money to help with bills and rent. Surprisingly I found I was better off financially than when I was a stay at home Mum! Visit www.direct.gov.uk/studentfinance to find out what you could be owed.
Make lists. Lists have been my saviour for the last 18 months. Each and everyday my daughter comes home with a wad of letters from her school asking for this that and the other along with the dreaded homework, combine this with the pressure of deadlines and you’re looking at a potential melt down. Organisation is your best friend in this situation- keep a diary. makes lists, charts, anything to give you brain a break from remembering everything. Keep a calender for your child and one for you, that way you will always know what is coming and will be one step ahead.
Allocate study time and try to stick to it. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it falls through, though. Being a parent is always going to be your top priority, if you are attending a University tutors will often be sympathetic if you explain your situation to them.
Use your time constructively, utilise hours when your child is on a play date/ with your partner/ grandparent to get work done. Evenings and night time are prime times to work as, realistically, it is near impossible to study with a child charging around, not to mention it is unfair on them and will cause you undue stress.
And finally, relax! Don’t let your studying regime take over your life. It is understandable that you want to do well in your chosen course, but your child’s happiness and well being (along with your own) is much more important.
So, if you are a parent looking for a new challenge, rest assured pursuing an education isn’t an impossibility. With hard work and commitment it can become a reality.