That title sounds weird. Every parent is a full time parent. I mean this is how I managed to complete my degree whilst looking after my child everyday as a new first time mum. A background of my study history is I went straight into Uni from high school and hated my course. Even though I was an on-campus student, I hated the uni lifestyle and chose to work full time and study online after the first year or two. I managed to juggle full time work and full time study quite easy, with no real struggle as I am lucky to be quite academic naturally (not smart, just lucky I read things once and absorb them). So I thought juggling parenting and studying at the same time would be no different. But boy was I wrong!
My first bit of advice for parents wanting to study is if you can have your child babysat a few hours a week or more, do it. Your studies will be better and you will cope a lot better. I unfortunately didn’t do this and for a while the juggle was a real struggle. I felt like I wasn’t working so I had to look after my baby by myself regardless of the fact I was studying. I considered my studies as the extra on the side, not a priority which was the first major issue.
2. If you are going to study – COMMIT! Whether thats to full time study or part time study, make the decision on what degree or certificate you would like to do, make a basic and realistic plan of how long it will take to complete and stick to it. I did not do this. Because I was so uncertain about what I wanted to do and the fact that I hated my course, I never committed. This in turn added 12 months of extra study and a whole lot of stuffing around. I can guarantee that as a parent, I am sure there will be times you think “This is too hard” or you hate it or you just want to continue life before study. But if you make that whole hearted commitment at the beginning of your course, it will make those horrible times, late night study sessions and unbearable essays that bit easier to get through.
3. I was completing my degree online via correspondence through Deakin University. This greatly benefited me as I didn’t have to attend classes, all assessments were submitted online and I only had to attend campus for my exams. Although I did find it a bit unusual not having the typical ‘classroom environment’ after studying on campus for the first two years, I was able to adjust. The teachers ensure each lecture is uploaded online and small tutorial classes can also be accessed online.
4. My biggest tip for all those wanting to study but not sure if you can whilst you have young children is find what works for you. It took me a year of actually getting into the routine of juggling uni and parenting. It doesn’t happen overnight. So find the times that work best for you, that enable you to concentrate without thinking about all the other things as parents we have to do. Whether thats getting up an hour earlier in the morning, of a night when the kids are in bed, on the weekend when your partner can look after the kids, pick the time that suits you, put it on a timetable and stick to it.
5. Set up a timetable and stick to it. This took a lot of getting used to for me. To begin with I aimed to study and do assessments just whenever I could get a free chance in between Billie’s routine. However this quickly became a big fat FAIL for me. I found that although I planned to do it at nap time or whenever possible, those opportunities didn’t come, Billie didn’t sleep or I was simply too busy managing the household to actually do it and kept putting it off. In the end, I realised my studies had been put on the back burner. If I was attending uni I would be having a minimum of 8+ contact hours a week plus study and assessment at home. By doing it this way I was lucky to get 2 hours a week including study and assessments (I simply wouldn’t listen to the lectures or do the tutorials). So I drafted a timetable of when I would listen to lectures, when I would type exam notes, when I would do assessments. Of course this sometimes did change depending on those weeks where I had more than one essay etc. But it allowed me a set plan of attack, something written on paper in front of me that I couldn’t ignore.
I studied of a night. This isn’t possible for everyone but for me it worked best. I found that during the day I was too busy thinking about what I should be doing with Billie or doing the housework. I made sure after dinner, once Billie went to bed, I had watched Home and Away, I would then assign a minimum one hour each night. I never did uni work on a weekend unless I was completely swamped with exam prep. That was my time to recuperate and spend with my family ensuring my nights during the week were productive.
6. Join a study group. In high school I always found studying by myself was much more productive. I hated working on group assignments and unfortunately my course had quite a few group tasks. I put off joining the study groups for this reason. But in the end, they were my greatest help. They held me accountable even when my grades weren’t completely in the bucket if I wasn’t studying. They gave me a network of people to bounce theories or topics off and they ensured I actually tried even when I wanted to give up. My course even had some online groups for us off campus students. We used facebook to communicate and did do the odd catch up to. But even just having the group on Facebook checking in on everything mate me keep on track, something I should have joined a lot earlier.
7. Utilise the Student Services. Whether thats receiving the academic help, or using the child care facilities that the university offers, these services are there to make your studying easier. And they sure can help! Each institution will offer their own services, however I know major providers such as Deakin University have a diverse range of student services, many which helped me through those tough times.
I didn’t imagine to be studying whilst becoming a parent for the first time. And unfortunately, I found out the hard way that studying doesn’t just simply fit in with life as a mother of father. Rather you have to make it fit. But it is possible. If I can do it, so can you. So go for it!