Balancing Study and family life

Striving to complete your degree to a high standard is no easy feat. It requires self-discipline, motivation, great organisation and prioritisation – especially when you have 2 young children to look after at home!

Needless to say I have had to make sacrifices along the way to strike a comfortable work/life balance. I have missed out on family movie nights and walks by the river in favour of sitting on my bed, in isolation, typing away and tweaking assignments, aiming for perfection and treating each assignment as if it were a defining moment of my career.

Similarly there were often times where I had to leave my work behind, just as I was ‘in the flow of things’, to fetch my eldest from school. Or having to pack the laptop, books and research papers away when the baby woke from his nap. Or putting it ALL on hold because everyone in the house is sick when there are deadlines to meet!

One decision I have slightly regretted was closing my Open University books and packing away my revision cards in favour of climbing Pen-y-fan, the highest mountain in South Wales. It was a beautiful summer weekend, I’d been cooped up for a fortnight revising for two upcoming exams. I’d sat one exam and just needed to get out! I’d convinced my husband and son to come with me on this ‘fun’ challenge.

Well I regret it for two reasons:

Firstly, I never made it to the top! My son didn’t see the point of the challenge and seriously lacks stamina for this kind of thing. Also, my husband has a medical condition, meaning he needed to rest regularly because of leg cramps. The ‘venture’ resulted in me carrying my son back down the mountain using the Fire-man hold (along with a backpack of snacks and water), whilst my husband limped behind. Now I could have/should have used the rest of the day to revise in a proficient way, but instead I lay in my sons paddling pool, with my head and shoulders dangling over the edge, flicking through my Uni books with a cool beverage in my hand, still trying to take embed some further knowledge, while soaking up the sun’s rays.

Secondly, although I passed my exam (Yay!), I got a grade 2. Now I know a grade 2 is a good achievement by most people’s standards, but I am a perfectionist. I have had Distinctions in every other module. So now, when I look down the list of module results, that grade 2 is just staring at me and I feel that it just shouldn’t be there. I looks inconsistent.

Now, as I stare back at that grade 2 I have two thoughts. 1) I could have done better. 2) That was a lovely sunny summers day I had with my family!

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The point I make is, in life we often have to make sacrifices. Working mothers feel guilty for not being there for their children, to take them to and pick them up from school, having to miss the Christmas plays and Sports days. Stay at home mothers feel guilty for not contributing financially to the home and feel judged by others for not working. The truth is you must do what is best for you, within your means, at that time. We all make sacrifices to achieve the best work/life balance and we should feel proud of these sacrifices, because it shows us that we are able to recognise what’s more important in the long run.

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