Mum to a 1 year old AND a full time university student…

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I am not the only parent who studies, I wasn’t the first and I won’t be the last. It is so important to remember that just because a parent you know may make it look easy, it isn’t. Life as a parent is hard enough some days without chucking the extra pressure of deadlines and what feels like never ending reading but here are my thoughts or I guess things I implement to try make it that little bit easier…

I am a Swinburne Online student (SOL) and complete all my studies from home in my own time. I currently take on 9 units a year (8 units per year is considered full time for my degree) so I still have heavy workloads, assignment deadlines, online tests and exams just like a normal campus student. Studying correspondence takes discipline and motivation and it can be done if you really want it bad enough. I some how manage to do it with a baby, supporting and trying to put time into a new business with Luke, study a cert 3 and 4 in fitness on top of my degree and chucked in starting a blog.

Be realistic that it isn’t going to be easy

It will test you, it will push you and the chances are you will want to quit every time there is an assignment due. When I re-enrolled back into university after Mason I decided to do one subject so I could find my feet with a timetable, refresh myself on how to write assignments again and work out if the degree was right for me.

Universities are really helpful when you first start, if you tell them you haven’t studied in a while they should be able to offer you a unit to re-teach you academic writing skills and research and the bonus is, the unit is an elective and is apart of your degree (so you are not wasting you time or money!). I did an Academic Skills for Success so I could better prepare myself after being away from the workforce for a year and not having been at university since 2012.

This really gave me the confidence to go into TP1 2019 and commit to studying 3 units per TP. I thought about amping up to 4 units for TP2 2019 but opted against it as we are trying to juggle enough at the moment. If I can continue on with 3 units per TP I will be done Jan 2021 which really isn’t that far away but I understand that not everything may go to plan.

Planning

I am sure you have heard ‘planning is the key to success’ and truly for me it is. SOL posts unit previews for the up and coming teaching period anywhere from 1 week to 2 weeks prior, this will give an updated curriculum and assignment, online test and exam due dates with SOL students also gaining access to ‘Canvas’ (our units) the Thursday before Week 1 (which is a Monday).

This enables me to

  • Read the unit outlines to gain a better understanding of the unit and the learning outcomes
  • Read any past assignments before TP starts to get an idea of the content
  • Plan out my diary for the next three months and have a rough idea on how heavy the assignment workload is going to be
  • Plan my white board for assignment dates and collaborate sessions for the teaching period
  • Getting ahead of my readings with the 4 extra days given to us before the official start date
  • Create a rough study time table

I will go into further detail in another blog and show you what I actually do!

BIG TIP : If you can get ahead of your readings and get a head start on your assignments it will really help for the weeks when the kids are sick, your partner is working a heavy work week or you are just struggling to keep everything together and need a break.

When do I actually study?

Before starting my first TP it was really important for me that I allowed myself sufficient time to study so that when I was with Mason ,I was present with him and not staring at a computer screen. So we decided to enroll Mason into 2 days a week at day care so I could focus on my studies and he can be at school getting the full attention he deserves PLUS he is gaining great social and educational benefits. The days that he isn’t at day care I am with him giving him what he needs from me although I do use his nap times some days to squeeze in some extra research or get house hold chores done.

Once Mason is down in bed of the night I normally tidy the house, have a shower and then go study however this TP I may need to adjust this as Luke no longer works nights so last TP’s routine didn’t impact our time together and I really don’t want it to start.

If I am struggling to complete an assignment on time I ask Luke for extra support and he will either take Mason out for the day or he will just keep him entertained at the other end of the house. We are also very lucky that both of mothers will come to help as well as my two close girlfriends who just love having him. I know not everyone has this support either so if you do it solo I seriously commend you.  

Knowing it is ok to say no

This is such an important one for me because the guilt that used to come over me when I would say no to something or someone was pretty bad. If people are going to whinge and complain about you saying no because you are working on your goals to better your families situation or personal goals, it says more about them then it does about you. People who want you to succeed will support you and understand, these people are invaluable in your life.

TIP: it is ok to say no to studying for the day as well, don’t try to constantly squeeze 10 minutes of study in because you feel guilty if you haven’t looked at any course work. You will drive yourself mad!

Be organised

If you know me, you know it is very rare that you will come into my house being a mess or unorganised. I never spend long actually cleaning my house and it allows me the mental space to sit down and study without the ‘oh man I have dishes still to do’. Here are a few off my daily tips;

  • No dishes to be left over night
  • All toys to be put away before bath time
  • Clothes to go away as soon as they come in off the line
  • Put things away as you go
  • Power clean a couple times a day; pick up toys, tidy up the benches etc
  • Write a to do list
  • Use a diary to remind yourself of things you have agreed to
  • Ask for help if you need it
  • Eat healthy foods that increase your energy and mood
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Have down time so you don’t burn yourself out
  • Talk to someone if you are struggling with it all, you will feel better

Have a breather ..

Go out for a meal with friends

Catch up with a friend for coffee

A night out on the town with a vino in hand

Sit on the couch and watch your favorite TV show

Have a nap

A dip in the beach

Whatever it is, go do it with or without your little babes

Most importantly you must have some time to just do something for yourself, no kids (if you can) and no partner. It is so important to be happy in your own company.

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