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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