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Parenting and studying: How I cope with Mummy guilt

By Kahlile 20 Mar 2019
Young boy reading book on bench.

All mothers suffer from the dreaded mummy guilt at times. It starts from the birth of your first child, and as far as I know, never completely goes away! Mummy guilt is that nagging feeling that you aren’t quite doing the right thing by your child, and are failing to live up to the perfect standard of motherhood you have in your head. One study claims that as many as 94% of mothers admit to feeling this way regularly (Tayabali, 2014).

The reasons for mummy guilt range from feeding (breastfeed or bottle? Homemade or organic store bought?), to childcare, working outside of the home to schooling choices and many more. The guilt is often not related to the choice you make, but worrying before, during and after the choice that you’ve made the right decision after all. One of the most common themes parents struggle with is feeling that you are not spending enough time with your kids. Add studying into the mix and it’s a recipe for full-blown guilt with a side of exhaustion to boot, as you can struggle with the short-term missed opportunities versus the long-term goals you have for yourself and your family. If you follow any Facebook groups such as Study Mum, you will have seen how many people confess to feeling exactly this way.

Mummy guilt is that nagging feeling that you are failing to live up to the perfect standard of motherhood you have in your head.

The key to this conundrum is just like the solution to every other part of our life – it is all about balance. Schedule your study time in advance each week, treat it like a job and prioritise it accordingly. Work diligently during your study times, and then put the laptop away and be fully present with your kids for part of each day. Spend time with each child individually if possible, doing something that they enjoy. My 11-year old son is cricket mad, so I will often say to him ‘Just let me watch this online lecture uninterrupted, then I can join you for half an hour of backyard cricket!’

Some people are lucky enough to have their partner or another family member take the kids so they can study – I don’t have this opportunity, as my husband works ridiculous hours in his own business, and I work part-time, so when we both manage to have a day off we want to spend it together as a family. This means I must be creative with my time! When my youngest child wakes up at 4 am, I get up and give him breakfast, then catch up on a bit of study while he plays or watches cartoons. I read study notes while sitting in the car at school pick up. Later, when the kids are busy with their own activities at home, I often pull out a textbook or log in to USQStudyDesk for 15 minutes. Each little bit helps, and it feels good to tick off even the little tasks on your to-do list! Once the kids start wanting my attention, I explain how many more minutes I need to finish my task and what fun thing we will do together once that’s done.

Be fully present with your kids for part of each day.

I also study at night when they are asleep, but not every night. It is important to ensure you schedule in time for self-care, whether it be heading to the gym, out for coffee with a friend or simply watching Netflix with your partner. Sometimes the to-do list seems never-ending which, with no light at the end of the tunnel and this can lead to a mid-degree slump in motivation – I learnt this the hard way! Scheduling downtime helps you to reward and refresh yourself periodically, helping you to stay on track for the long-term goal and reduce the risk of burnout. And it makes you a much nicer person to be around too!

The reality is, most of us are studying for the benefit of our whole family, not just for ourselves. Whether your goal is a career change, promotion or simply to enjoy learning something new, studying is a worthwhile goal that will pay off in the end. When our children see us studying they learn the value of education, what it means to commit to a goal and that we are willing to make sacrifices now for a better future – what valuable lessons for us to impart!

Studying is a worthwhile goal that will pay off in the end.

I don’t have all the answers, but by following this advice I have so far made it ¾ of the way through my degree. I would love to hear about the things you’ve had to give up as a studying parent, and the tips that work for you.

If you have another couple of minutes to spare, discover what other studying parents have sacrificed (and what they've kept for themselves) in the juggling act of being a studying mum.

Tayabali, R. (2014, March 27). Top 5 reasons for mummy guilt and how to combat them [Blog]. Retrieved from

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