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Balancing parenting with law school: 5 tips for new students

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So, you are a parent and have decided to embark upon a law degree. Congratulations on your courage and chutzpah at having the audacity to teach your children that not only is their parent far more clever than they realised but also that it is never too late to start a new path in life.

1. Talk to classmates, tutors and lecturers that have combined parenting and study

There are more out there than you realise and they can offer you advice and tips on how to survive. I was fortunate to discover one of my lecturers had 2 of her 3 children whilst completing her LLB. She was incredibly pragmatic and kind and more than happy to pass on a few gems of knowledge about how to get newborn babies to sleep while you listen to lecture recordings. This support network will also come in handy when both children come down with chicken pox a week out from exams and you need advice on how to navigate your university’s special consideration application rules and procedures.

2. Set aside time for the kids

Uni can be overwhelming, even more so at exam time; but your kids are only little for the briefest of times, and spending time with them will help you relax and get your priorities right.

I have noticed that if I enjoy my time with the kids, I am more focused when I do get back to studying because I remember why I am studying. Put down your notes and try to set aside time when you are theirs and theirs alone. You will both be better off for it.

3. School Holidays

During the school holidays, you will no doubt have assignments to work on for uni and the added task of entertaining the cherubs who are SOOOOOO BORED. The trick I found that worked with my two is this: the morning is theirs for us to do as we please, be it potter about and make muffins, go to the park, go for a walk, go see a movie etc. Then after lunch, they are sick to death of mum hovering about and want some time alone to just entertain themselves.

I also let them know that mum has to study and to come and get me if absolutely necessary, but in essence to give me a few hours to get into it. The reality is that I get around 30 minutes at a time before all hell breaks loose and the dog is covered in talcum powder and the boy has painted the bathroom wall with a mascara wand. BUT you will find that you can get a lot done in 30 minutes and that wash and wear paint is a worthwhile investment.

4. Routine Planning

Yawn I know, but very necessary. Set yourself a semi-flexible routine so that you know what nights you can study and what nights are reserved for family. If you can, get a slow cooker and also look online for recipes to get dinner sorted in under 30 minutes. Time to lovingly create a cordon bleu is not a luxury afforded to the studying parent.

5. Take it Easy

Don’t be embarrassed if you need to reduce your study load for a semester or two. It is better to under load and pass than put too much on your plate and then be wracked with the guilt of failing an entire semester and incurring extra HECS fees. Remember that you are not as fortunate as your childless classmates who can come home after work and study and spend their weekends studying. The studying parent is perpetually exhausted so also make sure you eat well and get a decent sleep routine (unless of course you have a brand new family member who will dictate your sleeping patterns of course).

Working towards a law degree while parenting is the most challenging thing I have ever done and I suspect will ever do. There will be tears of joy and frustration. Try not to get bogged down with parent guilt. You are doing a wonderful thing and your kids will be proudly standing at your graduation a few years from now and it will be all worth it.

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