Last semester, I embarked upon my return to university to complete my law degree. When I left, I was twenty-something, foot-loose and fancy-free, wearing crystals, feathers and with a mane of balayage. My motivations for studying law remain the same to this day as they always have been: to use my law degree to help vulnerable individuals in society.
However, now I am a 30 something year old, sans balayage, married and with a pint-size terrorist whom is more affectionately known as my 19 month-old daughter Gwendolyn.
Studying law with a toddler, or any child for that matter, can certainly be challenging, but there are also advantages to being both a law student and parent…
Studying law when you have a toddler forces you to take responsibility for your time
I simply do not have the luxury to procrastinate over writing an assignment or preparing for an exam. With a toddler, time is finite. I am in an extremely fortunate position to have quality child care for my daughter, but it is not a day-off; it is vital study time to listen to online lectures, complete readings and prepare for tutorial sessions. When my daughter is home from day care, I use my time to study while she is sleeping – if I don’t, other opportunities to study are hard to find.
Studying law with a toddler keeps it real
We all feel disappointment at some stage over assessment results. But having a family keeps this in perspective for me. The reality is that I am not going to be a 7 student. I aim for 6s but there will be times when I get 5s or 4s.
Knowing though, that the point of being at law school is to be a role model for my daughter and give my family a better future, spurs me on. The fact that I have a little person who loves me and is also making sacrifices in order for me to be studying, motivates me to dust myself off and keep going.
There is a great deal of support out there
I study externally, which I find to be the most supportive option for studying law with a toddler. It means that at any time of the day or night, I’m able to log on and listen to lectures and tutorials. It also enables me to be close to my daughter’s day care if I am called to pick her up. My law school also has a brilliant range of student services and I have found the staff to be extremely supportive and happy to assist even when my daughter was sick for a brief period during the semester. These things are going to happen with a child, but there are services at university to support you.
The rewards are so much sweeter
Arguably there might be more pressure when you’re a parent and a law student, but I believe that the rewards are also sweeter. The saying that “happiness shared is happiness doubled, and a problem shared is a problem halved” rings true for me. When I miss the grade I was hoping for, my family embrace me with loving arms and love me irrespective of that 4 or 5. Gwendolyn quickly makes me laugh by eating play-doh or parroting the word “bubbles” for the 100th time. But my successes at law school are celebrated as a family, and therefore tripled. And for that I feel like I am on my way to making a difference in all our lives.
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