We know that mums achieve the impossible each and every day. But studying when you have kids probably seems beyond impossible, especially if they demand a lot of attention.
So how it is conceivable to add ‘study’ to your already long list of things to achieve in a day?
And, more importantly, how is it possible to convince your family to leave you alone long enough (without destroying the house) so that you can actually get done what you need to do?
We’ve figured it out … and here are the ten steps you need to do it.
As a mum who has worked from home since my children were babies, I won’t lie – it can be hard to convince the kids to be quiet and let me work. Studying from home is much the same. While you have the luxury of studying on your own time, of taking a day or two away from the books if the kids are unwell and of studying when it suits you, it’s going to be a bit of a change.
But, like everything we mums do, with a bit of practise, patience and planning, it can be done. So here is our guide to making it work and actually studying successfully at home without sacrificing your sanity.
1. Get the kids involved
Talk to them. Explain to them what you are doing and why they need to “leave mummy alone so she can study”. Make your studying journey a family goal that everyone is involved in. You need to get the courses finished and your kids need to behave long enough to let you. If they succeed, then everyone wins. A better career for you means more money to buy toys for them, after all … and bribery is always a good motivator.
2. Use your productive time
We all have a window of productivity built into our systems when our brains seem to be functioning the best and we are motivated to get stuff done. Use this time. For me, it’s the morning but I know heaps of mums who are more productive at night, after the kids go to bed. This productivity window, even if it’s only for a couple of hours, should be used as your study time.
The laundry can be done during your less-than-productive-time when you’re most likely watching kids’ movies on the lounge and half-heartedly folding the clothes with a wine in hand.
3. Make study part of the regular routine
This won’t work for every family but it has for mine. Try to keep the routine as regular every day to help keep you motivated and in ‘study mode’. For example, after school drop off, plan to study from 9am to 11am. Break for lunch and a play with the little one. Then, during nap time, study again, from 1pm to 2.30pm before it’s time to do the pick-up.
You may even be able to get another hour of study time in the late afternoon, if you are able to introduce a ‘quiet time’ to your routine.
While an infant doesn’t understand you need to get in a couple hours of study each and every day, older kids can. If you explain to them that it’s study time (not play time) and make it a regular routine, they will soon understand. It won’t happen overnight. My kids still have trouble understanding that “mummy is working and does not have time to make blanket forts for you”. But they’re getting there.
4. Set up activities for the kiddies
Before you start studying, make stations for the kids who are at home with you – puzzles, colouring-in, iPad time and blocks. Never mind the mess – you can clean it up later. If the kids are quiet, then you have a better chance of studying successfully.
Just hide the baby powder, paint, makeup, Sharpie pens, peanut butter and anything else that kids gravitate towards and somehow manage to spread all over themselves and the floors.
5. Do the same with food
Have a few snacks pre-made so that when your little one is hungry, you can give her food. Sit her down beside you, supervise her eating and get in a few more minutes of reading. Food makes everything possible.
6. Use timers
A timer is an awesome tool for you, as well as the kids. Set a timer for half an hour and give them an activity to do. When the timer goes off, take a 10 minute break to do something together before starting on the next activity/half hour study session.
7. Schedule webinars during alone time
While a lot of the studying can be done with noise in the background, webinars are your time to speak to teachers, to discuss things with other students and bring your study engagement to a new level. It’s a good idea to schedule these webinars during times when the kids are occupied at school, day care, with your partner or asleep.
8. Take advantage of indoor play centres
These cafes are the perfect place for the kids to wear off some energy while you tuck yourself into a corner and get some studying done. Our local indoor play centre is my second office … and free Wi-Fi is always a bonus too.
9. Stop feeling guilty
Yes, it’s hard to balance study with kids. And there will be days when your kids won’t let you study and you will raise your voice or threaten to take away toys or feel the urge to ship them off to Nanna’s house. And you might feel bad about it. Don’t.
It’s actually good for kids to learn independence. It’s good for them to understand that mummy is not at their constant beck and call. And it’s great for them to see that it’s possible to achieve goals, even under what seems like impossible circumstances.
10. Heed advice from mums who have been there and done it
Ivy College have two great eBooks plus heaps of excellent articles on their website to help mums who are thinking about making the transition to study. It’s always nice to hear how other mums manage to fit it all in, to explore various study schedules and to make a plan of how you will bring study into your life before you jump in.
(This is a sponsored post for Ivy College: where flexible online study is possible)