I’ve been working at my MSc Occupational Psychology for nearly 6 months now, and it is hard, but actually easier than I thought it was going to be. On my course I am the only student to have children, and I have received nice comments like “when I am struggling to fit it all in I think if Dilly can do it with 2 kids then I can do it” but in actual fact I really believe that being a mother of young children has helped me manage this course, for the following reasons:

I already have no life
Some of my student friends are struggling to fit studying in with all they things they usually do in their free time, and the endless weddings and hen nights that take up the weekends of those of a certain age. Maybe it’s not even age, I don’t think I’m the oldest, but I happen to be in a situation where most of my friends are already married. I think some of the students are finding it a shock that they have to sacrifice nights out and weekends away for sitting down and studying. Well, I have kids so I’ve already sacrificed those things. I have already been through the pain of feeling my freedom restricted. Iris isn’t really reliable enough for a babysitter, and even if she was we couldn’t afford it anyway. So for me, most of my evenings are a toss up between studying or watching the West Wing and crocheting on the sofa. Some things have had to go. You can see that my blog is a bit neglected, and I’m having crochet withdrawal, but I have experienced the feelings of sacrifice already and I know it isn’t forever.

Every second counts
What the hell did I do with my time before I had kids? Obviously I worked full time (but I’m not far off that now), but it’s not like I was writing War and Peace. I wasn’t even reading it. We had dinner parties with friends, did a bit of jogging, but again I still manage that now. All those child-free hours, I could have spent doing something useful but with the naivety of youth I just frittered them away. Now every hour is accounted for, and if I am lucky enough to have “free time” every minute is squeezed dry. Because of this when I sit down to do my work I’m very conscious of time. I know how many hours I need to spend on my studying, and how many hours I have available in the week, and there is little slack. If one of the kids is sick for a couple of days that writes off a few evenings of work that I can’t afford to lose so I know I have to keep on top of things.

Less pressure to be top
I did really well in my first two degrees, a First and a Distinction. Anything less in this one is going to feel like a step back. Academia is my thing. I nearly cried when I got 55 in my first assignment. But what with combining a nearly full time job, two kids and other activities with this degree, everyone is just going to be impressed if I pass. I’m nearly coming around to that view myself. Nearly.

It’s not the hardest thing I have ever done
I survived 10 months and more without a full night’s sleep. I have breastfed while suffering from an excruciating migraine, delatching the baby to go and vomit, then returning to resume a prone position while a tiny baby sucked the life force out of me. I have driven through the night to get a baby suffering from chicken pox to stay asleep. I have cared for a sick husband and toddler a week after giving birth. I have given birth. Twice. With no drugs. I have gone to work leaving my children in the care of virtual strangers for the first time. I have raised two charming and clever children. In terms of the hardest things I have done, a part time degree is not even up there.

Everyone thinks I am doing an amazing job
There is nothing quite as motivating as praise from other people, and lots of people have expressed their admiration at what I am doing. My mum and dad have both said how proud they are, as has my husband. And my step-mum went so far as to give me a significant chunk of money towards my course, because she felt I really deserved it. When really, as I have just explained, in some ways it is easier for me than everyone else, you know, what with having no life and all. Blown that myth now haven’t I?

And on top of all that it helps that I love psychology, really want a new job, and am fortunate enough to be fairly bright. My reason for writing this post is really to inspire other people out there to push their boundaries, especially other parents. I worried for ages about whether I could cope with doing this course. Yes I’m a bit grumpy sometimes, I feel like I have no time to decompress, but it will all be worth it in the end. And as with most things in life, it hasn’t been as hard as I feared. So if you are thinking of taking something on, and are wondering how you would cope when you have children, my answer is this – having kids: probably the hardest thing you will ever do. Whether you are thinking of doing a degree, starting a business, writing a book, it’ll be easy in comparison. And by virtue of the the skills you will have picked up just from having kids, you will be even better equipped for whatever you take on.

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5 thoughts on “If you can cope with bringing up kids, anything else is easy in comparison

  1. It’s so true. My time management is brilliant these days. If my youngest is at preschool for 3 hours I use every moment of that 3 hours. On the negative side, I have become quite annoying in the way I lecture childless friends. I am writing a novel and several of my single, childless friends have said, ‘Oh, I wish I had time to write!’ What?! They only work 8-10 hours a day and sometimes not at all at weekends! I truly don’t know what their problem is. And if I lecture them enough I won’t have any friends left and I’ll have even more time to write!

    1. LOL! I know people who say “I don’t know how you have time to…” But really it’s a question of priorities, if people really want to do these things they can. In the same way I find myself thinking “I don’t know how they have time to keep their house tidier than mine”, but of course I would have a tidier house if I spent less time on Twitter!

  2. I completely agree with you, I too started a full time teaching degree course when my children were 5 and 7. It was hard going cycling the 3 miles each way, leaving home by 8am and getting back at 5. I was lucky to have a hubby working shifts so he was home in the afternoon for the children and good friends who did the school run in the mornings. There was a lot of working into the wee small hours but I so loved it! I got my degree it was one of the my most memorable days to go and collect it, shared with my family who had gone the 3 years with me.

  3. You’ve written this post at just the right time for me! I’m seriously considering studying again – a professional development postgrad type of thing – and while I’m a bit daunted by adding yet another ‘thing’ to my list, which will suck up even more of any precious free time – I feel like this might be the right time to just go for it. I’m really enjoying my new line of work and want to know more – I want to get good at it, and I feel like studying might help me to do that.

    It’s true, I already have a healthy list of demands on my time, but like you say, I can juggle the priorities. And it’s not like I don’t already spend most evenings on the sofa with my laptop – at least if I do this, I’ll be using that time constructively!

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