I am often asked, “How do you do it?” when it comes to my life of studying. To be honest I have no idea. What I do know is that I am managing somehow even if the eyes are heavy and shaded with black and bags have become extra luggage on my face.
I think the idea of doing something like studying while you are a single parent, working, plus dealing with all other challenges of life is daunting and almost an impossible concept. I came to the decision to study after being unemployed for a long time. I felt I was at a roadblock and to be able to move forward, I had to either work fulltime (which was not an option at this stage of my life) or look at alternatives to create a more financial, stable and satisfying life for me and my son. Some of my goals which assisting in the pursuit of studying was to finally see the back of Centrelink, to create a comfortable life and to feel I am able to move forward and be successful in my chosen career.
I had no idea how the life of a student was be lived let alone one who was a single parent and working. Not many of my friends have studied at university level and really the only person close to me who had done something similar was my Mother when I was younger and she too was a single parent. Certain questions I was asking myself before taking on the study was; “how am I going to afford this”, “how am I going to manage my time”, “will I fail as a Mother if I undergo studying at the same time as being a parent and working” to name a few. I had to bite the bullet and live without fear…I enrolled into University.
Research is paramount in finding the right option for you. I found Open Universities Australia (OUA) the best option at the time as this decision allowed me to study via distance, offered flexibility, and I was able to keep working while creating my future. There are other institutions that offer distance learning and may work better for you. I called Centrelink as I am on a Single Parenting Pension to see if there was any aid available which there was although a very small amount. It all helps towards ongoing costs such as text books, printing, Internet usage, stationary and so on. I was able to gain assistance with the university fees from Fee Help obtainable through Centrelink where they also offer other forms of support for anyone looking at further education and training.
I had the financial side of things covered for now and so began the workings out of how to actually do this while keeping some form of ‘normality’. I do have to admit I feel and have felt major disadvantages in choosing this path as certain parts of my life
have suffered. My mental state at times has been very low and I have to dig deep to rise up and keep the motivation going. My love life has suffered as there really isn’t any time to invest in finding the right person. My weight and health has suffered quite dramatically at times due to the lifestyle and I often find I am suffering severe sleep deprivation. The other person affected by my choice of studying is my son. I feel my son now understands (I think) why I am doing all this and trust me with my choice to study, yet I know I will never get the times back that I have missed.
I suggest to maintain some form of order and routine, keep a diary or calendar marking it clearly when assessments are due along with other important date. You defiantly must be strong in saying “NO” to social outings and other distractions when you have a deadlines. Read texts and lecture notes when and where you can. You can find time to study while traveling on public transport, watching the kids while doing their sports, at the doctors in the waiting,and of course when the kids go to bed. Something I still need to learn and doubt I will before the end of my degree is to get decent night sleeps. I do know this will help to keep the mind crisp and sharp and for the body as a whole to cope with the lifestyle. Maintaining a ‘to do list’ is another way to assist in managing your time and each time you tick something off the list, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and it all helps with the motivation.
My number one tip is to believe YOU can do it and trust in yourself – you have made the right decision.
I strongly encourage anyone considering studying to just do it!
I already feel the emotions of pride, satisfaction and delight that I am not only coping with my hectic schedule and somehow managing a reasonable balance but that I am actually getting great grades. I can now see light at the end of the tunnel and I am feeling quite excited about what my future holds. In my opinion, strength is a given and be motivated. Self discipline is paramount also if you are going to succeed at studying and particularly be a good parent while working. You need the strength to get you through when you hit the low points as it can knock you around a lot emotionally. It is without doubt very important to create networks with people who are in similar positions. I personally use the social media tool Facebook which to me has been a lifesaver and my rock many times. I have made amazing friends who support and believe in me. I am truly blessed to have a fabulous family who think I am incredible along with my darling friends who are so proud of all that I am achieving. Without this support, I don’t think I could do it on my own, yet at the end of the day, it is only us that are going to make it happen…and it will happen.