By Gladys Mae
Gladys is the Associate Director of Admissions & Student Services with over 10 years of experience at the International Career Institute.
Parenting is a full-time job, and adding study to the mix can seem like a major challenge if you’re not well prepared for it. It’s wonderful to build on your qualifications, and while you probably don’t lack the motivation, time could feel like it’s hard to come by.
The good news is it’s possible to do, especially if you opt for flexible distance programs. By planning ahead and staying flexible, you can meet your parental obligations and achieve study success without feeling overwhelmed.
Start by thinking about what a good balance between study and parenting would look like in your life. You can do this by listing all your study commitments and parenting responsibilities for the next few months. Break it down by weeks and days to get a clear understanding of the amount of time you need for the two groups. Estimate how much time you’ll need for everything from assignments to school runs and spending time with the kids. By listing everything, you’ll have a good foundation to set up a realistic plan or schedule.
Keep in mind that having a good balance between your study commitments and your kids doesn’t mean spending an equal amount on each. It’s about allocating sufficient time to achieve your goals in both categories, whether that’s taking your kids to the park every weekend or making more home-prepared meals while hitting all your study goals.
Once you have your course syllabus, you can start working out your study schedule in detail. Mark major projects and exams on your study calendar so you can set aside time to study for exams and complete tasks in advance. Having plenty of notice for these will also help you arrange things like babysitters or negotiating with your partner on parental commitments.
The week before, note down your study schedule for the week, along with your responsibilities as a parent. Doing it the week before gives you time to switch things around and organise appointments.
A good balance between your studies and parental responsibilities doesn’t mean you have to feel rundown all the time. Overburdening yourself can end up being self-defeating and sabotage your study and life goals. Prioritise your wellbeing so you have enough energy to spend time with your children and you won’t get sick during exam or project time.
Often the times when you feel like you don’t have ‘me time’ are the times you need it most, so take that hour or two to read a good book, catch up on your favourite show, or do some exercise. Don’t feel guilty about taking time out for yourself.
If you have school-age kids, you can combine the two priorities and set aside time to study together. You can get your own study assignments completed while the kids are doing their own homework. Your children might find it a novel idea to spend quiet study time together. Studying with older kids could be a great opportunity to set an example and teach them discipline and curiosity.
Use your study schedule as a guide, and stay flexible when you need to switch things around. You might find as your study term progresses that you can probably manage a bigger load of subjects and spend more time with your family. Don’t be rigidly attached to your plan. Skipping an afternoon of study for an urgent family matter won’t throw you off track permanently. If you stay flexible, you’ll have a better chance of achieving your personal and study goals – without unnecessary stress.
Don’t hesitate to ask for support from family members and friends. When things get too overwhelming, it’s fine to ask the older kids to do some chores, call your babysitter, or negotiate with your partner to help out with parenting responsibilities. If you need that distraction-free time, go ahead and head to the library so you can concentrate without interruptions. If it’s a study-related matter, get support from your instructor or your classmates through channels like online networks or social media.
Be open with negotiating with your family about changing things around and balancing priorities. Even younger kids can be taught to understand that Mummy or Daddy needs private, quiet study time right now and you can go to the beach on the weekend. Work with your partner or other family members to change your schedule if required, and be willing to give and take to create the best outcome for everyone.
Studying is a great investment in your future, but it’s not always easy to balance studying with parenting responsibilities. Having a detailed plan in place and staying flexible are essential, as is negotiating with your family and getting support if you need it.
International Career Institute offers accredited distance learning courses in a wide variety of fields. If you’re a parent looking to boost your career opportunities by pursuing further study, don’t hesitate to contact us or explore our website for more information.