How do you do it?

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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

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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! 

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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.

R U OK?

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How stressed do you feel?  Are you managing? Do you have any negative thoughts?

According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, the workplace is creating more stress with 13% of people fearing for their emotional or physical safety in their job.  The highest group at risk is middle-aged single parents, or so says the national survey conducted by the campaign titled “R U OK?”

I query the survey and predict the outcome would be different if conducted on a larger scale. I do not feel anyone has the right or can pinpoint and decipher an ‘age group’ of who is stressed more than someone else whilst juggling work and single parenthood.  Technically anyone who is in a similar position would be facing the same challenges.  I am not a middle age person, although a single parent and found some of the harder times I encountered were when I was younger.  Over time I have become stronger, more assertive, and further balanced in life generally.  This is because of the experience and knowledge I have gathered over the years, not due to the age group I belong too.

The value in the article is when it discusses the importance of asking your work colleagues, family and friends if they are ok and to take note of any changes in behaviour as they can act as clues revealing something is not right.

According to ‘R U OK’ Director, Mr Cowan, ‘work stress has become pervasive, with many feeling it on a daily basis’.

Particularly surprising was that half of all people said they didn’t think management had procedures in place to make sure that little problems didn’t turn into big problems”, said Mr Cowan.

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If more people are aware of those around them and take a little more interest, perhaps stress levels will reduce and more of us will feel supported and in control of our own situations.

I have found at times in despair not knowing where to turn. I have undergone counselling at periodically with a professional and within my personal network. I try to talk openly yet sometimes I am withdrawn and there has been occasions when all I have to say is “I am not so good” without elaborating, luckily my friends and family pick up the clues and checked to make sure I am ok.

The article is right in drawing attention to ways we can reduce stress and depression no matter which so-called group we belong too. Perhaps a simple question is all it takes, so I am asking you, Are you ok?

Lifeline – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

 

Why share what I know?

To write about the life of a single parent holds great interest to me as I live and breathe it every day.  I have experienced many aspects of single parenting both good and bad which has brought me much grief and happiness within my journey.

A single mother raised me with my twin brother and although I admire and respect her in so many ways, it was certainly not a position I wanted to find myself in. Before I came to the decision, and before I found the strength to tackle this journey of being a parent on my own, my first thoughts were I did not want to be a part of the statistics. I did not want my child to grow up in a single parent environment.  Something I have learnt and I stand by is that life has no guarantees. Ultimately, we have to do what is right by those we love and who we are responsible for as well as ourselves.

I have become someone who is assertive in life and I practice this nearly every day. I have found strength from being a single parent and know even at the lowest of times I can gather myself and keep going, because I have to. I witnessed firsthand a mother who overcame so many obstacles in her path to raise two healthy, loving and high moral children.  What is interesting is I have followed a similar path to my mother.  Not only by becoming a single parent, which obviously was not in my plan I have also taken on studies later in life as my mother did. I have created a career in which I am working towards expanding, and I have created an environment for my child I feel he appreciates and values.

Often people ask for advice and two common questions is how do I survive and how do I manage? Throughout my journey, I have had to search for answers and I have endured some horrific circumstances that have left me in a crisis.  In saying this, I have found benefits of being a single parent and one of these is the power within and the knowing that I can do this, and do it on my own.  Through my experience, I feel and hope others can benefit from my knowledge and my journey. I hope they may learn something, feel supported and not alone, and find strength and power within themselves.