Friday, 22 September 2017

That time the kids all went to school and I did my own head in...

I've worked for like a million years and had about 467 kids.* So I've never really had a day off. Not properly

*slight exaggeration, sorry.

So when they all decided to up and leave me and go to school, I was ecstatic. I mean, what's not to like. OK, I know I'm doing a PhD and that, but I did my degree and MA with them swinging from my neck, so doing a PhD in silence will be easy, right?

Anyway, I digress. I'm having a break from studying as I've just handed in my MA dissertation and I am properly exhausted. Like those popstars who tour the world and then suddenly go off with mental exhaustion. Exactly like that. (Except with less alcohol and zero illegal drugs.)

So I have two days off work a week. And all three of my children are in school the little idiots cherubs.

There is a 14 year old too, but as if she would get in the photo

And so. I'm free. Free-ish. What do I do. Well, here is a run-down of the one day I did my own head in.

I cleaned the house. Like loads. I don't value being a slave to the house, but I figure if I can get most of the shitty jobs done, we can relax later. And because no one is here it will stay relatively clean.

It's now 10.00am. The jobs are done. I sit in a lovely clean house. I sigh. I don't watch telly because it rots your brain. And also daytime is telly is just crap isn't it. I pick up Capital by Karl Marx. I put it down again, because RELAXING. I'm meant to be having some days off.

10.10am Make a coffee. Accidentally set fire to a tea-towel. Chuck it in the sink and wonder what this all means.

Charred remains

10.20am Drive to Aldi. Stroll around with all the old people like a QUEEN. Look at me. I'm SHOPPING on my OWN, it's so easy and I'm not one of those selfish twats who park in the kids bit with no kids. Ooh look. Muesli. Lots of types of muesli. Muesli. The word has lost all meaning and muesli tastes like cardboard anyway.

Ooh I'm bored. Pushing this trolley around. Move out the way Doris, I'm trying to get to the thin-sliced ham. The kids like to roll it up like a cigar and chomp chomp chomp. Oooh dog food. Maybe I could buy dog food and then we could get a dog, and on my days off I could walk it.

Furniture polish. Got to get me some of that.
Floor wipes. What have I become?

10.45am - I'm driving home with the shopping. It's all packed away in sections. I'm like this super efficient machine. I CAN DO ANYTHING.

11.00am Shopping is away. I'm bored.

I did tell you I was exhausted

What could I DO? I brainstorm:

1) Run around Kirkby town centre and time myself how long it takes to run in and out of the shops
2) Wear odd brogues, one tan and one navy, see how long it takes someone to notice
3) Join baby massage again. I could take a doll. "Aaah massage FRIEND"
4) Re-read Capital
5) Learn a new language or learn the guitar

12.00 Dinner. Boring salad dinner. (I'm Northern and working class, I don't do lunch.) Although I did put olives in and Warren has sun-dried tomatoes which does mean I can dip my toe into middle-class utopia now and again when it suits.

I could go to the gym, but now I've eaten and I'm full and CAN'T BE BOTHERED.

Could shove a load of make-up on and do my hair to pretend to be normal?


Nails. File nails. Damaged by tap-tapping on the laptop doing my dissertation.... STOP THINKING ABOUT IT. DAY OFF DAY OFF DAY OFF.

I wonder what it would be like if I had a dog. Home admin like insurance and vet bills put me off and swing me to no. Plus, we have a lizard and he would hate the dog. My dog would be an ex-greyhound. I mean ex-racing dog. Presumably he would still remain a greyhound.


I make a curry, and contemplate baking a cake. Sit on the couch, finish knitting a weird blanket I started to switch off. Realise blanket is weird. Looks weird. Regret ever starting it.

Knitting for the colour-blind, clearly

Wonder if brain will ever switch off.

Monday, 18 September 2017

To the Mums Going Back to University...

Bloody hell there are a lot of you! On my Facebook timeline, on Twitter, on Instagram. It's great to see all this new stationery, new routines, new rules, new life. All these busy parents going all out to train or re-train. I didn't ever know there were quite so many of us.

I think I'm old hat at this now. I've been doing it for about 7 years. I started with my undergrad, then my post-grad. Now I'm starting my PhD. What I'm writing here will not be true for everyone, and it might not be true all of the time, but some of it will be relevant for some of the time. There are two three main truths in all of this:

1) Parenting is hard

2) Studying is hard

3) Home-making is hard

And you are probably going to start juggling all three. You can't ditch any of these things. If you have a partner, they are probably going to have to step up to take some of the weight off 1) and 3), but you're pretty much on your own for 2). You need a lot of support, encouragement, and you probably need to grow a thick skin.

*strokes leather back*

Here are a few tips. I'm not an expert, I've just done this a long time and I've faced all of the obstacles. I've had kids swinging off me, took kids to the library, to the school office to drop essays in. I've revised for exams in soft play, I've done reading and cooking at the same time. It's hard.


1) Have a support network You need people you can call on in an emergency. If you are doing a dissertation or extended placement or piece of work, you are going to need time out, time away from your kids and everything. This is where other people could help. Friends, family. If you have that then I reckon you are already on to a winner.

2) Work when you are at your best Morning person? Do it then. Night owl? Do it then. I'm a night owl. I'm terrible in the mornings and besides I always had to get to work. I'd work, then pick the kids up, do the tea and then work late at night. There was little or no rest. I also tended to binge-study. You might be better doing it in short bursts, whatever works for you.

3) Routine Have a routine. Make sure the kids' book bags, PE kits or whatever are all sorted the night before. If you forget something for the kids then have to dash off to uni or wherever, you will feel all kinds of guilty. It's just one of those things, but you don't need any further pressure.

4) Have a Strong Mind Why are you doing this? Remind yourself often. Try and find like-minded people in a similar situation. Draw strength from them, and likewise enjoy the company of people who are not in a similar situation - learn from them too. Find tutors, supervisors, peers to look up to. Look to the future and keep your goals in mind. Explain to the kids what you are doing and why - involve them. Try not to split yourself up, remain whole and keep your identity.

5) Rest  It is hard to switch off. Very hard. Especially if you have a deadline or are stuck on a task. Find whatever it is that helps you switch off and use it like a crutch. Exercise is the obvious one, but a hot bath, some music, night out, whatever. Just make time for yourself.

I can't list everything I have learned here. It has been a hard slog. I handed in my dissertation, and so I am 'free' of uni work for a couple of weeks. Tonight, I got in from work, picked the kids up from school, made the tea, made salad for tomorrow, made carrot and coriander soup, cleaned the kitchen, emptied the dishwasher, played with the kids, sent a few emails for work and sat to write this blog post.

I find my energy is endless because I am used to this. I can't not do anything, it is not in my nature. I am not saying that this is a good thing, I am saying that I have trained myself to be a do-er. You will find your own normal.

Good luck!

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