Having a baby can trigger a reassessment of many facets of your life – including your career. A lot of women decide they don’t want to return to their current job after having a baby, which presents a perfect opportunity to learn a new skill, do a short course or take on university study.
But how exactly do you juggle study with the everyday demands of motherhood? Having completed a couple of courses since my daughter was born, I’ve developed ways and means to get the work done on time, while keeping my sanity in check.
Try and identify times during your week when you can study.
First things first – study takes time, something all mothers are desperately short of. Using a weekly calendar, identify the times in your week when you know you can commit to study, such as nap-times, swimming lessons (a daddy-daughter activity in our household) or when the kids are having a play date at grandmas. Knowing how much time you roughly have each week takes away a lot of the stress about not being able to complete the work.
Who can forget that one piece of advice everyone gave you when your first baby came along – ‘sleep when the baby sleeps.’ Well now, consider changing the word ‘sleep’ to ‘study’. As much as I love my naps, I also understand that Olivia’s nap-time is the perfect time to concentrate. But don’t push yourself either – if you are in desperate need of sleep, aim for a 20 minute power nap to recharge. Us mothers need our rest.
I call this Optimal Study Time.
If family and friends offer to help, take it! If not, just ask, especially if you find yourself falling behind your fellow students – you will be amazed how many people will offer to help if you make it known you are struggling to get everything done. You could also organise with a friend to babysit each other’s kids once a week, which will give you a few hours to study.
Speak to your education provider about the possibility of an extension if you are finding it all a bit much to keep up with assignments. Most are understanding and willing to give a bit of leeway if they are given some notice that you might not meet an assignment deadline.
Prepare to make sacrifices – this might be getting out of bed a half hour early (cue annoyed grunts from women everywhere), skipping your nightly Netflix date or cutting down on Facebook time. It may also mean reducing social commitments or even leaving the housework for another day, especially if you have assignment deadlines to meet.
Consider day care options. Degrees such as nursing usually require students to partake in practical work experience at health facilities, so unless you have family members and friends willing to look after the kids, day care might be your only option. If you’re looking for alternatives to traditional day care centres, consider a family day care instead.
Study requires dedication - don't lose sight of the big picture.
Remember exactly why you are studying and why you want this particular qualification – it could be to get a payrise so you can provide more for your family or take the odd holiday while living comfortably, or it could be to improve business for your company, or to increase your job prospects. Whatever the reason, don’t lose sight of it during the difficult times.
Finally, give yourself a pat on the back - studying with children is no small feat. You are taking the step towards gaining some new qualifications while you work the most demanding job in the world - motherhood.