I was reading this post by Life in a Pink Fibro tonight while simultaneously writing an abstract in my head for a conference I want to attend later in the year (academy award for multi-tasking…). It made me think about the little voice most hear when trying to get where they are going can I do it?

In a few short weeks Uni will begin for another year and this year revolves around me working solely on my research – there will be no subjects, no essays, no exams. Just me and my thoughts. It took me at least half of the first semester last year to work out how to log on to the Uni website, how to use the online tools and how to submit the things I tried to write. The only way is up…baby.

I wrote a few weeks back about the need to develop thick skin when you share what you have done whether that’s writing, crafting, designing whatever. It takes a big gulp of brave to be able to press send on the things you have spent a lot of time working on. Im a pretty fiery person (it must be that red hair…or the amount of coffee I drink). I get frustrated really easily when I feel Ive given my heart and soul to something only for it to be dismissed or not used. I try not to use this philosophy when I pitch stories because there has to be some disconnect between me as a person versus me as a writer but the stuff I do at uni or work has some element of me in it, and for that i’m pretty possessive.

Falling pregnant for the first time signalled a big change for me in my career. Id finally fallen into the job I had been wanting for a long time. Part of me wrestled with the frustration that just when I had started to find my stride I would have to step away. Step off the ladder. A few weeks after learning that Id be a mum I was awarded a research fellowship and I took it when my daughter was 9 months old. Easy travelling when you have 17 destinations across the globe. Sitting down to write the report on my return home to Australia took up a lot of hours (usually late into the night), usually with tears from me, words of encouragement from colleagues and one lovely work friend who told me that he would hold on to the dream that I would finish it, publish it and it would be my gateway. Having someone hold onto your dreams when you cant quite see them yet is probably one of the better gifts a person can receive.

Over the years Ive looked back on that report, Ive written others that branched out like the limbs of a large tree to form new ideas, new points of view all while juggling my girl, my new life and now a small boy. When you pour so much into the pieces of work that happen when you have other stuff going on it means that the feedback you get can never be viewed as just mere comments. They brush up against the struggle you went through to produce good stuff and they embody sleepless nights, cereal for dinner and multiple mugs of tea staining the benches of your work space.

This year when I go back to Uni I want to go back with the goal of doing good work but not at the expense of my sanity and my time with my kids. The superwoman myth exploded a long time ago, its nice to start sitting with the truth that you can have it all, but not all of it right now.

Do you study and have small kids? How do you keep the work you do separate from your family and your self worth?

Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. I did a year of study while working. Boy Child was 4. It was a struggle and I was heartbroken when he kept asking to help me do my homework.

    Good luck. You have a plan. Good on you.

    • Thanks E…it is hard, my daughter keeps asking why I have to study but sometimes you have to sidestep those conversations (probably because sometimes I ask myself too!)

  2. All you’ve ever gotta do is enough to pass. It’s not your life’s work. You can do it!!! x

    • I try to think that but its a juggle when you really feel passionate about what you’re studying/writing you want it to do well, you want it to stand on its own and you want it to make sense. Sometimes I wish things didn’t have to be graded because you just want a ‘that makes sense’…part of the reason why some people put their hand up to be research participants is a need to change things for others that they couldn’t change for themselves. Sometimes the weight of getting that right can be tricky (but good tricky rather than burden tricky)

  3. So how do you get the right balance? I have attempted/enrolled/applied for a social work degree 3 times in the last 5 years however due to children (5 & 2 yrs old) health or family I have had to withdraw/not proceed with the study plan.
    I have just applied for & been offered a uni place for 2012, fresh start however am standing here deciding should I or should I not do.
    (I also work 2 days part-time and carry lots of guilt about what time & energy I give my kids)
    It is consuming my every thought at the moment. I desperately want to do for me however can I juggle part-time work, study and still give 2 young kids what they need? I am so restless & inpatient. Any thoughts or wise words?

    • Hey Jodi…I think I just try not to focus too much on the concept of the ‘right’ balance. Some days will be busier than others and some chunks of time will require you to be more focussed on uni than anything else. I think social work is a great degree – it allows you to learn a lot about yourself that in turn you can discuss with your kids.

      I think just take it subject by subject and don’t focus on the long term just semester to semester. I study externally and then visit uni 2-3 times a year. I do most of my work at night or when the kids are having a nap..I also do bits and pieces while I wait for kids to finish dancing or swimming. You just get good and taking the time where you find it. Good luck and msg me if you ever need any help! x

  4. ,I’ve started study again, and just started a new full time job. Senility will be a smooth transition for me…

  5. Hi Sarah,
    I started an online course towards the end of my second trimester. I work part time and have a four year old who goes to child care three days a week. I’m now on leave and the baby is due in 10 days. I have two years to finish the course and I must admit that I thought I would’ve been further along with it by now. The thought has crossed my mind that I might have taken on too much, as I’m also doing some creative projects. Anyway, I don’t know how to strike a balance yet, but I know I don’t want to give up on these things that I want to do for myself.

  6. Congratulations Sarah on pursuing the challenge. I am commencing my 2nd year of a PhD with 3 children 5 and under. The first year was a challenge – returning to study, coordinating childcare, children and everything else in the home. The key to success of finding the balance (and I’m still way from getting it right) is admitting that you can’t do everything, asking for help when you need it, accepting that cutting corners can sometimes be OK (my dryer may not be 100% environmentally friendly but it gets the job done in winter without the hassle; the kids actually enjoy having pasta and cheese one night a week during session times!!! etc).

    I try and carve out 1 on 1 time with the kids during the week – it may involve taking Miss 3 to do the shopping – she loves our “girl time” – or just having a cuddle on the couch with Mr 5 before picking the others up from childcare.

    Study and sanity for me is possible because I acknowledge I need the mental stimulation and I couldn’t face another year of playgrounds – study is certainly an easier 1st step than returning to the corporate world!!! Knowing that the time studying makes me a better Mum removes the guilt that we all carry.

    • Thanks K…I like your tips and I agree I want to achieve this while the kids are little and to demonstrate that you can achieve amazing things if you put your mind to it…might email you on the side when Im flailing! Thanks for visiting x


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Mental health, Parenting


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