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How to: Parent + Study

How to: Parent + Study


“Kids force you to have balance in a world that has long forgotten the term. Sure there is lost study time, but you gain so much more in that time.”
Hannah Hawker shares her lived experiences of studying Medicine and parenting, with some pearls of wisdom you won’t want to miss.

Written by Hannah Hawker

There’s no way I can just tell you how to parent and study. Sorry if you came for the golden ticket, but it isn’t in here. 

Now that depressing disclaimer is out of the way, what I am able to do is share some pearls of wisdom I’ve been given & some practical things I’ve figured out along the way.

Every stage of parenting infants through to school leavers is so dramatically different but I hope you might be able to take even just one tip to make things a little easier.

Studying is a journey

I have some wonderful mentors who have helped me through when I’ve come to question what I’m doing. I’ve kept some of their harder hitting phrases close, including “change requires sacrifice”. Chances are, if you’re here, you’re a bit of a go-getter & probably are no stranger to either of those things.

But the relevance here is the change that we are trying to achieve in our lives through our study. A lot of people call for change without accepting there is inevitable sacrifice (politics, anyone) and some, like me, maybe started the journey to change without full consideration of the sacrifices that would be called for.

Another mentor told me “we pay for everything”, which reminds me that it isn’t this way or the easy way. To study is tough, to stop studying would be tough for me. What am I sacrificing and what am I willing to pay? What is the outcome of this journey for me and my family?

I think it’s a very reasonable activity to make a cuppa and sit in the sunshine and ponder these ideas repeatedly through our course. Self-reflection is a brilliant exercise & is something completely personal and unique.

All I hope for you is at the end, you find pride and love for yourself, regardless of your answers.

More practically, I’ve come up with a few tips that seem so obvious but have taken me a few highs and lows and many many months of full time study to work out:

1. Take control of your mindset

I wasted some fun park plays & beautiful sunny afternoons stressing about what I had to get back to. And then I’d enjoy guilt-filled evenings because I didn’t engage with my babies when I could have.

Medicine is relentless.

The content never ends, you are never caught up or across everything and revision is never finished. Whether you have an intense course load, or are balancing work with part time study or however this looks for you, this is probably my favourite tip.

Kids force you to have balance in a world that has long forgotten the term. Sure there is lost study time, but you gain so much more in that time.

The quicker you can manage this if you weren’t clever enough to start with it the better.

2. Ask for time if you’re struggling

Fortunately, I learnt this the easy way. I was having a horrible time balancing and I just happened to speak to a member of staff when I was really low.

I was offered a few days away from classes to just be with my family and reset. It made the world of difference. 

3. Be prepared for some late nights

If you want to.

I’ve started uni ‘days’ at 5pm when my husband finished work & takes the reins at home.

But I’m very firm when I say some because burning the candle at both ends will only backfire…

4. Integrate your worlds

In my first year I never brought my kids to anything uni-related. Now, they come to any social event I do & have even attended a class (but so has my dog).

I love having them around me in my learning world but I also get the delight of watching my classmates play with & love them too.

It took me a bit to relax into that but I’m so very glad I did. And they think going to campus is a real treat so that’s a bonus. 

5. Health = Efficiency

Eating well and getting enough sleep & exercise makes a world of difference in how quickly & well your brain works.

I’m not crying self-care or wellbeing, my two most hated buzz words, I’m just saying looking after yourself on a physical level really transfers into cognitive clarity.

6. Forgive yourself

Kids are so egocentric.

They don’t wonder about you like you do them. Allow yourself to make adult connections! Time away from your babies doesn’t have to be 110% nose to the grind.

I only really got to know the people in my course after the first 6 months because I was so strict that if I was away from my family, I had to be productive. Every. Single. Second.

My classmates are the best resource I could have to help climb the mountain of content, but they’re also a huge emotional support.

Remember you can’t pour from an empty cup & Charles Sturt offers a range of free well-being supports for students if you need a bit of help. 

Check out the student portal or talk to your course coordinator to see what is available.

Good luck, you are brilliant.

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