Juggling Parenting And Studying

Juggling Parenting And Studying

The juggle is real. This mum shares the struggles she faces as a parent and student, and what she hopes her kids will learn from it.

Balancing study, work and family life takes ‘being organised’ to a whole new level. Typing a lab report at 1am with a sleeping child in my arms and reading textbooks while watching my kids in the bath is the least of it…with every passing week of each semester, I feel the tiredness deep in my bones.

“Mum, if your eyeballs popped out, would they melt in the hot sun?” “Can I have a drink/lollipop/biscuit/ice-block?” “How does this game controller work?” “Mum! Are you listening? When are you finished with your homework?”

While completing my first degree, I studied for hours at a time in complete silence. I remember opening my bedroom window one afternoon and yelling rather aggressively at my hard-working father below to turn off the mower. I stepped back from the window thinking he had no idea how impossible it was to study with so many distractions.

Now, as a mum in my third year of a psychology degree, things have changed. I can attempt a hierarchical multiple-regression statistical equation while fielding a barrage of questions from my three children, with Peppa Pig blaring in the background. Actually, now I think I could study in my ‘office’ (the dining table) while my dad mowed the floor around me.

The idea of further study came about when I was pregnant with my third child. Having three children in quick succession brought on something of a mid-life career crisis. It came to a head one day when my three-year-old son asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up, Mummy?”

It threw me. I didn’t want to return to the job in the justice system I’d had for more than 10 years. I wanted to be a psychologist, so I signed up for my off-campus degree, and the reality of studying as a mother of three hit.

Typing a lab report at 1am with a sleeping child in my arms and reading textbooks while watching my kids in the bath is the least of it. Multi-tasking is one of those skills parents learn early on. The hardest thing is feeling like I’m running a long, drawn-out ultra-marathon.

With every passing week of each semester, I feel the tiredness deep in my bones.

When I tuck my kids into bed at night and want to collapse on the couch or take a really, really long shower, it’s time to sit down and spend two hours writing an essay on the ‘effects of deliberation time on confidence and accuracy’, knowing I’ll be up at 6am to iron a sports uniform and sort out money for the school photos, while needing to debate with my three-year-old daughter about wearing her jeans versus a dress.

Balancing study, work and family life takes ‘being organised’ to a whole new level.

My husband has also become well-versed with setting off for a day with our three children, a backpack, pram and snacks, to walk around a museum or see a footy match. I often stand at the door and wave goodbye, feeling torn about missing out on quality family time, yet immensely grateful my husband is my number-one supporter.

I hope that as my kids see me going to school and doing homework, they appreciate the commitment, time and effort required to achieve an education (at any age). I’d also like to think they have learnt some independence over the years.

I’ve certainly had to learn to chill out about things.

I don’t worry so much about a little milk and cereal spilt on the floor or a towering honey sandwich made with what seems to be a whole jar of honey, nor do I blink an eye at a jumping castle being constructed using every single pillow and cushion in the house.

I also hope when my kids are old enough to reflect on their childhood, they will remember poor old Mum setting off for an exam with unwashed hair and puffy, tired eyes, and value the fact dreams don’t come true without hard work and dedication.


Words by Kelly Richards

Guest Contributer
Guest Contributor
guest@childmags.com.au