The first thought that came into my head when I initially decided to resign from my job to come to university was: how will I manage with the kids? Two boys (4 and 6 years old) and an English Literature degree don’t quite go hand in hand. Well, it’s not exactly easy reading Homer’s Odyssey whilst the kids are acting out ninja turtle fight scenes.
There are so many vital issues to consider when you are a parent and considering university, for example, financial issues, how will you manage the workload, will you still be able to give them enough attention, what about the school run, is this really the best thing for you and your family? The easiest way, I find, is to tackle all these issues as if your degree is a job because you would have the same issues if you were working. Although, doing a degree is much more than doing a job. With a job, at least you can come home and to some extent forget about it, there is no forgetting about your degree.
But there is one secret formula, and I swear by it (!), which will ensure you stay on top of your degree and manage a wonderfully smooth running family life too (okay ‘ wonderfully smooth’ is a bit extreme), and that is staying super organised. You feel and perform so much better when you feel like you have everything in hand. Lists are a good way of staying organised, even a weekly dinner menu helps. And invest in a good quality diary or use your phone to set reminders, things like setting yourself deadlines to do your assignments well before they are actually due means that if anything comes up the week before you have to submit your assignments , at least you have got yourself a head start because it’s bound to happen, somebody comes down with chicken pox when your assignments are due, staying organised and getting work done ahead of schedule means you can worry that little bit less than if you had to start from scratch.
I have also found that a good routine helps with staying focussed and then everything (and everyone) gets adequate time. For example, your kids know when you spend time with them and you know when you will be doing your university work. If you can, it is also a really good idea to try to build a support network around yourself. Your partner, family and friends can all help with the kids. Even at university, there is The Student Parent Group, who run events and offer support for students and their children. Using the support and help available means you won’t feel like you are on your own.
The most important thing to remember, though, is that kids are haphazard things (as are most things in life – it’s just that they can speak (or cry on demand) and have feelings which makes them more awkward than most things) so the routine may sometimes have to be given a miss and you might have a day when you don’t get anything done – but one day won’t make a difference. In fact, sometimes you need a well- deserved break and at times (especially when you have presentations or assignments are due) you will be at the other end of the scale, so, it may well be that you can only give your family very little attention but it won’t be forever so don’t beat yourself up about it.
And finally, use your family life as inspiration and motivation. The university’s motto is ‘Experience is the best teacher’ and there is no experience more embarrassing, intimate and challenging than family!