Studying in pregnancy is tough. You’re tired and uncomfortable, and your head is so filled with other things that at times concentration seems almost impossible. But, for some of you, it doesn’t stop there. In fact, for many women, it doesn’t even start there.
More women than ever are choosing to return to work once we’ve had children. For many, it’s less of a choice and more of necessity. Some of these women manage successful careers with children at home, returning to school to learn what neonatal nurse practitioners do to push their nursing career forward, or taking a course through work to give themselves greater options going forward. Unfortunately, however, while women want to return to work after having kids, not all workplaces wish to accommodate them, and many women find themselves in search of a career that will give them the flexibility and understanding that they need to work as parents. This often leads to a return to school, and the difficulties of studying when you’ve got a baby or young child at home. Some of you might even be studying, raising a baby and holding down a job, and asking yourself how there is ever going to be enough time in the day, or when you are going to sleep.
That sleep that there never seems to be enough time for is essential. Without it, you won’t be able to concentrate, give your baby the attention that it needs, or have any fun. You’ll always be tired and stressed out, you’ll never be able to give any of your endeavours your best, and you’ll make yourself ill trying.
Sleeping with a baby in tow is never easy. You’ll have heard people say “sleep when the baby sleeps” and no doubt found yourself wondering when you are meant to do the washing up in that case. If you are studying too, the babies naps might be your only chance to sit down with your books, so sometimes you’ll need to ask yourself what’s most important. Try to have early nights, naps and lie-ins when you can, and make sleep your priority when that’s what your body and mind need the most.
Take Care of Yourself
It’s not just sleep either. You need to look after yourself in other ways. Eating a healthy diet and drinking lots of water is a great start. You’ll feel more alert and energetic, you’ll be giving your immune system a boost, and you’ll be better equipped to tackle it all.
Working mothers need to be organised. At some point you’ll be managing school runs, getting to work on time, cooking dinners, planning lunches, keeping the home tidy and helping with homework. You’ll be managing your kid's appointments, making it to events at school, and staying on top of your own schedule. Organisation is crucial. So is a good diary.
That’s also true when you are studying with a baby at home. Your diary, whether it’s online or paper, is going to be your best helper. Write everything down as soon as you know about it. If you need to take your baby to an appointment, make sure you can take some time off studying. If you’ve got an exam or an important assignment, find childcare in advance. You should even plan some me time into your diary so that you don’t forget to take it. Write everything down, make time when you need to, and nothing will get overlooked.
Get into a Routine
Routines are great for babies and young children. They help them to settle and feel safe, but they also mean that you always know that you’ve got some time. Try to get your baby into a sleeping and eating routine that they are happy with, and then fit your study time around it. Then, try to get into a habit of working for a few hours when your partner is home, or when your mum can have the baby for an hour every Wednesday. Sticking to a routine helps you to get in the right mindset to work, and keeps everything going.
But at the same time, you need to be flexible and open-minded. You might love your routine, but your baby isn’t aware of it. They won’t always stick to it, and you need to be flexible enough to switch things around when you need to.
Ask for Help
You are a supermom, but you can’t do it all alone. None of us can, and your most significant strength is knowing when you need help and being able to ask for it. It’s excellent if friends and family can look after your little one for a little each week, or when something important comes up. And it’s fantastic if your partner can handle bath and bedtime so that you can work for a few hours in the evening. But, that’s not all of the help that’s out there.
If you need someone to come and help you with some chores, or do the nursery run, ask for it. If you need help meal planning, or shopping, ask for it. Could your partner batch cook some meals, so that you just need to get them out of the freezer for dinner? Can you afford to hire a cleaner for a couple of hours a week? Or just once a month to tackle big jobs?
Don’t Neglect Family Time
Family time is important. Days out at the park with the kids and meals out as a family are lovely. They help you to bond and stay close; they give you a break and make you smile. You need this time as much as your baby does. Schedule a family day out as often as you can, and when you are feeling stressed out, get out with your baby. Even an hour walking around the park could help you to feel better.
Think of the Future
There are times when it will be so tough that you feel as though you can’t go on. This is when you need to remind yourself of why you want to study. What it will mean for your future, and that it won’t be forever.