Juggling study with children

I've been studying part-time by distance for almost three years now.  I do get regular comments along the lines of "haven't you finished that yet?'' or "you must be close to the end of your course by NOW".  But I've been doing it slowly because that's worked in with the rest of my life.

When I started, my youngest was only a year old.  She was at home all the time and I could get some work done when she was asleep (and the three yo boy was watching "High School Musical 2").  But it meant that I did just one subject and so it's taken me a while.  I have done more subjects this year because Abbie has been at preschool.  

I also get lots of "how do you do it?" comments.  I'm going to assume for the sake of this post that is a genuine question (rather than a subtext of "are you mad?"  or "I wish I could do that").

So how do I do it?

  • I aim to do a little bit everyday - even just reading some posts on my subject forum, reading an article - keeps my brain thinking about my subject.  It's amazing how much you can get through even with half an hour a day.
  • I try to be disciplined about not doing housework/shopping/paying bills when I have allocated time to study.  This is a real challenge.  It is so nice to have time without kids to get jobs done, but I've learnt that I have to work out other times to do these jobs.  I try to think about study as a job that I need to get done - imagine I'm working at home.
  • I set myself goals in what I'd like to achieve in certain amount of time - breaking down tasks into lots of smaller tasks makes me less panicky and overwhelmed.  
  • I have a husband who is willing to pick up the pieces when I do get overwhelmed and need to spend a weekend writing an essay due on Monday.  I have found it hard to take time away from time together as family - but it's usually very shortlived and that's part of being in a family.  We share the pressures of life together.  I also think it's good for the kids to see that I'm not just their cook and cleaner.
  • I've learnt to be content with mediocrity.  I do have years of practice of being Ms Average but at times I have found that I have to be happy with just getting through and not getting high marks.  Of course I would love to be able to be completely absorbed by my study and learn everything there is to know about a topic (I am a mature age student after all!) but that's not the stage of life I'm in.
  • I find studying energising.  So learning new things is fun for me and this creates its own motivation.  The sense of accomplishment upon completing an assessment is lovely.  So much of my life has no sense of completion.  


Karen said…
Thanks for sharing that Jenny. I'm a newish follower of your blog and found myself agreeing with pretty much all that you've said.

It took me eight years (with a couple of breaks for maternity leave) to finish a research masters degree. I used to get the "don't know how you do it"" comments on a regular basis too. I used to give similar answers to you...great husband, putting aside little bits of time regularly etc. There were times when procrastination did set in, usually I cleaned my house at those times to avoid writing so at least something was accomplished!?

And you're right, the energy created by learning new stuff and the feeling of accomplishment on finishing is amazing.
Greta Koenigin said…
I just found you via Motherhugger. Thanks for the tips. All points you make are compelling, but the last point really drives it home for me.

Jo said…
I'm hoping to feel that sense of accomplishment by 5pm today when my assignment is due!! 500 words to go and I am blog surfing???
Sarah said…
I did Library Studies too but at Curtin Uni in Perth. I found the course extremely boring and nearly dropped out about five times. Fortunately working as a librarian was much better. How are you finding your course?

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