Making the decision to study at university was initially easy and very exciting, but then I came to realise that I may have less time to spend with my family because of the amount of time that was required to succeed at uni. Before long, it became apparent that there were many obstacles to overcome and by far the biggest of these were the ‘guilt’ and the ‘self-doubt’ hurdles. Like so many other uni students, I have been a mother 24/7 for many years. I have been busy taking my children to school, picking them up, taking them to after-school activities and, of course, the obligatory after-school sports that they love so much.
I don’t have any regrets about balancing study with family life, but I struggled with the feeling of guilt. Before I started studying, I wondered for months whether I should devote the next three years of my life to something that I want. What would happen to all those little things at home? You know, the everyday tasks that need to be completed, like the ironing, cleaning, washing (including the dog), paying the bills and, of course, the cooking.
Even while the guilt raged inside me, deep down I knew that I did deserve to study because it has been my lifelong dream. I realised that all those house chores will still be there when I finish studying–it is not going anywhere–and in the grand scheme of things…It doesn’t matter! As for that lost family time… My family will always be family. They love and support me in my adventures and, in the long run, completing a degree will benefit my family. With these considerations in mind, I convinced myself that with a lot of careful time management skills I would be able to spend quality time with my family as well as studying.
The next step was to overcome the self-doubt that was eating me up inside. The questions I found myself asking included:
- Can I do it (the hard work)
- Will I be able to do it (for three years) and
- Can I succeed?
I have found that the best way to deal with these questions is to find what motivates me. Over the last two years of studying my degree, my motivation has come in many forms:
- My family
I am doing this for them! To give them something to aspire to and, as I said earlier, to benefit the family as a whole.
I want to study for my own piece of mind and to develop my self-confidence and self-esteem. I am constantly telling myself that I can do it, that I am able to do it and that I will succeed!
- My friends
My friends are a wealth of motivation with their: ‘you go girl’s and their ‘you can do it’s!
- My peers
My fellow students have provided me with massive doses of reassurance and support as we have travelled together down our separate study paths.
- Release of results
I find that regular boosts of motivation also come when my assignment and exam marks come back. Yippee!
As for those chores around the house… mid-semester breaks, mid-year break and end of year breaks sort all that out! It usually only takes a couple of days and I can see the floor at home again. A few days more and I can actually see over the ironing pile, and after only one day spent in the garden, I no longer have to fear my children may be eaten alive by possible tigers, hyenas and lions roaming in the wilderness otherwise known as my backyard. The semester breaks are also great for catching up with friends over a long hot coffee (love that coffee), shopping trips (any excuse really) and long lunches (we usually have so much to say). Uni breaks are also great for family catch-ups as well, although I find that with very careful time management I really don’t miss out on anything throughout the semester; it is all a matter of planning. Just sort out the important dates and activities and study around them!
So if there is any ‘self-doubt or guilt hurdles’ in your study plans, remember why you are doing it or why you want to do it. It is either for you or your family or both, and let me tell you from experience, they are both so worth it!