What’s it really like to study with children

University presents all of us with many struggles, and while we might be more or less aware of the most common ones, we don’t really know much about what it is like to pursue a degree while taking care of a family. That’s why I set out to ask a few questions to three strong women I know who juggle their studies while raising a child, to understand what it is like for them. They have asked me not to share their names, but they were very keen in letting us younger students understand that, after all, we are not as busy as we fancy ourselves.

Their children range in ages from 2 to 16-year olds, and while they face different situation when it comes to family help in looking after them, since some of them are not originally from Scotland, they all benefit from the university’s funding of after care. They all say that it would be almost impossible for them to study without this help, with one of them says that “the support from university is a game changer for me” as without it, she would be forced to leave her education.

The challenges they face all revolve around the impossibility of doing everything in the short span of a 24-hours day, including sleep, of which they all denounce a lack of. They feel like their families suffer as they are not giving them enough attention, meaning that after the chores they have to carry out and the time they have to put into their studies they don’t have much time to play and have fun with their children or to spend with their husbands. They think that they’re often nervous and on the edge of breaking down, since they are worried with everything that they should do and often have time to study only at night. For example, the picture shows what a weekly schedule looks like for one of them.

However, they don’t let any of this take them down. Even if they might feel mentally exhausted at times and find it difficult to cope, a smile from their children saying: “It’s ok mummy, don’t worry” is more than enough to help them keep pushing. Some of them considered taking a year out, but as they are ultimately studying to grant themselves and their children a better future, they found the motivation and the strength to continue into that. Their children give them the certainty that university is not the most important things in their life, and that helps to put everything into perspective.

Something that we have in common with them, though, is being impatient to graduate, even though for slightly different reasons. For instance, while our social lives are their peaks now, theirs are almost non-existent now, and they believe that without the uncertainty of university studying hours and a precise routine they would be able to gain it back. They also look forward to the enhanced financial freedom that a more high-level job would give them, as it could give them and their families a better life.

They all stressed how annoying it is for them when, in group works, we don’t do our job and complain that we are too busy and don’t have enough time to complete our tasks. Thus, the next time we work with someone who has children, we should try to make an extra effort and do more work than what we usually do, rather than slacking off as we usually do in team assignments.

By Tommaso Giacomini