I’m Liz, I’m currently completing a Masters degree, and have five children (6-15) and one husband. Here I offer the top tips that I have found vital for succeeding in study while raising a family.
- Have support. My number one tip is to make sure you have at least your top supporter on board – your spouse, partner, parent, best friend, whoever your number one supporter in life is. I could not be studying if I didn’t have my husband’s full support; this support has meant he has helped more with the housework, accommodated his work schedule to allow me to attend events, and not gotten upset about the occasional rush out the door as he came home from work. One of the best things we did was talk in advance to set some limits. For my husband and I, they were things like a maximum number of times per week I could skip family meal times (important in our house) without either of us feeling like I was neglecting our family. For you, it might be how many hours a week they are willing to babysit your children so you can study, or negotiating for your partner to be the taxi driver for weekend sports.
- Find your “third space”. A third space is basically a space that is neither your home nor your workplace. For me, local libraries were the places I could go to get some uni work done without the distraction of children or housework. Other options can be cafes with good coffee and wifi, a friend’s house; I’ve even gone to McDonalds on a public holiday when nothing else with wifi was open.
- Recognise that you cannot do it all and will have to cut back on other things in your life. You can’t just add study into your already busy life and expect it to work. For me, I stepped back from a committee I had been a part of, my youngest child started school meaning I no longer had a preschooler to entertain in school hours and, if I’m honest, I cut back on exercise. You need to get rid of FOMO and know that your study is worthwhile.
- Plan ahead. Let people know that you won’t be as available for a while. Let work know that it’s not a great time for you to take on extra projects. Investigate whether your workplace offers study leave on top of your normal holiday and sick leave. Batch cook meals that freeze well for nights when there’s no time to cook. I knew several years in advance that I was going to study and spent time beforehand teaching my older children to cook. My three eldest children (15, 13 and 11) each cook at least once a week, meaning there’s one less thing that I have to do. Which leads to my final tip.
- Delegate. Delegation can be hard when you don’t think others will do as good a job as you, but drop your standards and accept that the kitchen floor swept by a 6 year old is better than not swept at all, and much better than not handing your assignment in on time because you want to get the housework done perfectly. Delegation is vital for getting through uni, especially crunch time when assignments are due. Ask someone to drive the kids to dance class (and return the favour in semester break). Online shopping is your friend!
Of course, everyone’s circumstances are different and the way we manage our study looks different, so please feel free to adapt, change or ignore as it suits you and your situation. And if you have any of your own tips or studying-while-parenting hacks to share, your thoughts are most welcome, so please comment below.