Lisa: How to overcome guilt as a studying parent

USQ blogger LisaLisa began her studies as a mature age student and graduated in 2016 as valedictorian with a Bachelor of Business. A self-professed computer game nerd, Lisa also loves to travel and experience new places. Read more of her amazing story in HeyU.

Making the decision to study at university was initially very exciting. All I could think about were the benefits for myself and my family and the opportunity to explore new things in my life and career. But then came the realisation that I may have less time to spend with my family because of the amount of time that was required to be a successful student at uni.

Before long, it became apparent that there were many obstacles to overcome when trying to mix study and family and by far the biggest of these were the guilt and the self-doubt hurdles. Like so many other uni students, I have been a parent 24/7 for many years. I have been busy taking my children to school, picking them up, taking them to after-school activities and, of course, the obligatory after-school sports that they love so much.

I don’t have any regrets about balancing study with family life, but I struggled with the feeling of guilt. Before I started studying, I wondered for months whether I should devote the next three years of my life to something that I want. What would happen to all those little things at home? You know, the everyday tasks that need to be completed, like the ironing, cleaning, washing (including the dog), paying the bills and, of course, the cooking.

Even while the guilt raged inside me, deep down I knew that I did deserve to study because it had been my lifelong dream. I realised that all those house chores would still be there when I finish studying–it is not going anywhere–and in the grand scheme of things…It doesn’t matter!

As for that lost family time… My family will always be family. They love and support me in my adventures and, in the long run, completing a degree will benefit my family. With these considerations in mind, I convinced myself that with a lot of careful time management skills I would be able to spend quality time with my family as well as study toward my degree.

The next step was to overcome the self-doubt that was eating me up inside. The questions I found myself asking included: could I do the actual uni work or would it be too hard, would I be able to study for 3 years and could I possibly actually succeed?

I have found that the best way to deal with these questions is to find what motivates me. Over the last few years of studying my degree, my motivation has come in many forms:

  • My family.
    I am doing this for them! To give them something to aspire to and, as I said earlier, to benefit the family as a whole. 
  • Myself!
    I want to study for my own piece of mind, and to develop my self-confidence and self-esteem. I am constantly telling myself that I can do it, that I am able to do it and that I will succeed!
  • My friends.
    My friends are a wealth of motivation with their: ‘you go girl’s and their ‘you can do it’s!
  • My peers.
    My fellow students have provided me with massive doses of reassurance and support as we have travelled together down our separate study paths.
  • My results.
    I find that regular boosts of motivation also come when my assignment and exam marks come back. Yippee!

As for those chores around the house… mid-semester breaks, mid-year break and end of year breaks sort all that out! It usually only takes a couple of days and I can see the floor at home again. A few days more and I can actually see over the ironing pile, and after only one day spent in the garden, I no longer have to fear my children may be eaten alive by possible tigers, hyenas and lions roaming in the wilderness otherwise known as my backyard.

The semester breaks are also great for catching up with friends over a long hot coffee (love that coffee), shopping trips (any excuse really) and long lunches (we usually have so much to say). Uni breaks are a time for family catch-ups as well, although I find that with very careful time management I really don’t miss out on anything throughout the semester; it is all a matter of planning. Just sort out the important dates and activities and study around them!

So if there are any self-doubt or guilt hurdles in your study plans, take the time to remind yourself of why you wanted to pursue this degree in the first place. It is either for you or your family or both, and let me tell you from experience, they are both so worth it!

If you’re still not convinced that there’s room in your life or your family’s schedule for study, this guide for first-time studying parents will help you understand how both you and your family can adjust to having a student in the house.


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Kate: My 4 tips for becoming a deadly planner… with children

Shane: 4 tips for tackling study as a new dad