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The four elements of balancing study with children

By Maddison 09 Apr 2019
Mother types on computer at wooden desk.
Fit your child into your life, don’t rearrange your life around your child.

I received this advice when I was first pregnant, and it was the best parental advice ever given to me.

As a studying parent, I use this as a mantra for both my parenting style and my study journey. Balance and caring for yourself are the ultimate keys to success when faced with the massive challenge of caring for a family while studying full-time.

These are the four elements that help me live a balanced life while studying with children:

1. Prioritise and delegate your time.

Often described as a juggling-act, how could parenting be about anything less than finding the perfect balance?

Add study into the mix and the trick is to prioritise and delegate your time.

When I started my study journey, I found that there never seemed to be enough time in the day. I felt torn between the guilt of not spending enough time with my family and not investing enough time in my studies. An imbalance would cause me to either not appreciate my time spent with my family or affect the productivity of my study.

I managed to find a solution through allocating separate time slots to my study and family time. By giving myself specific periods of family time, I was able to focus on my study, undistracted by a guilty conscience, with the knowledge that I would be spending that quality time with my children later.

2. Procrastination is a luxury studying parents cannot afford.

A guilty conscience wasn’t the only distraction I had to learn to overcome as a studying parent. Procrastination is common amongst all students; however, for studying parents, it’s a luxury we cannot afford. That hour spent procrastinating before getting into study while the baby naps or our toddler is distracted is quite possibly the only hour available to us to study.

My experience with procrastination was losing days’ worth of possible working time because I felt overwhelmed with how much study I needed to get done in the limited time my children would nap during the day. The only solution for me was to reset the way I thought. Instead of focusing on doing a huge chunk of study in a big block of time, I would keep my laptop open and accessible throughout the day and use even the smallest blocks of time to my advantage. 

By spending those precious time slots of 5 minutes here, writing out the headings for a report, and 10 minutes there, reading a section of a module, I was able to get a surprising amount of work done - and avoided procrastination because it didn’t feel like such a huge task to complete.

3. Study with purpose.

Like any other student, studying parents will come to a point where we just don’t know how to carry on, or doubt our capabilities. This is why an important aspect of studying is to have a key driver or purpose to maintain motivation and help you push through. Whether it is the career of your dreams, the promise of financial stability or inspiring your children to follow their passion, there needs to be a motivating reason behind your study.

Whenever I feel as though I am reaching my threshold, I remember that I am doing this (studying) for me and for my family. By preparing for career opportunities I am passionate about, I realise that I am having a positive impact on my whole family. Not only am I inspiring my children to do the same one day, I allow myself to pursue my own happiness and fulfilment by being the best version of myself. 

4. Accept help and support.

Pride is also a luxury a studying parent cannot afford. Many parents feel as though we need to prove that we can do everything on our own. However, studying as a parent can be a full-time job and should be acknowledged as such. A studying parent should feel no shame in taking advantage of every resource available.

Even in my third year of studying, I am still learning to accept this. I have slowly allowed myself to admit when my plate is full and book that extra day of day care or ask for help to look after the kids when I am under the pump.

I’ve found that hearing other parents’ stories and struggles has also helped. I’ve joined the USQ Studying Parents Facebook group, where I can engage with, and be inspired by, other people who share the same difficulties I face.

Remember you are not just a parent, in the same way as you are not just a student. Do not let either responsibility take over your life. Study for yourself, parent for your children and above all, make your life suit you and your family.

If you are a studying parent at USQ, you can also check out the studying parent's guide to uni eBook for some great tips, advice and stories from the USQ studying parents’ community.
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