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The Ultimate Juggling Act: Study and Parenting
By Hema Kaluzay
The decision to go back to university was both an easy and difficult decision for me. On one hand I had finally built up the maturity and drive to pursue my dream career. But on the other hand, I knew it would be the ultimate juggling act to do it with a young family in tow.
Figuring out what subjects to enroll in and overwhelming timetables all combined with an unfamiliar environment can be a daunting experience - whether you’re a seasoned student or a rookie. To add parenting to the mix makes you question your every decision and rethink your strategy constantly. And let’s not ignore the mother’s guilt that creeps up from time to time!
Fortunately, I have a supportive husband and network around me. But I know it’s not always the case for everyone, which is why I think where you study matters. Having studied and worked at two other universities, my experience at Notre Dame has been unique. Very early on I felt fully supported as a mum-student rather than judged.
Recently, I had an experience where I couldn’t submit an assignment because both my children were sick with a stomach bug and had to stay at home with me. My lecturer who was very empathetic suggested I write a formal email explaining my situation so I could be granted a much-needed extension. This was such a relief because running to a doctor for a medical certificate during a pandemic would not be the best option, especially with two impatient toddlers hanging off me.
My journey so far has been a learning experience to say the least. I’ve had plenty of ups and downs, but it has taught me resilience. I’ve had to be extremely organised but still be O.K with the unexpected early day care pick-ups of a suddenly unwell toddler or the midnight wake up calls from a little voice, adamant that a spider lives under her bed. It has also empowered me to show compassion not just to others but to myself.
As parents we tend to prioritise others’ needs before our own, but we forget that a little bit of self-care helps us do our job better. It’s more than fine to take some time out. Exercise, meditation, counting my blessings and trying to get out into nature once a week have become part of my routine while balancing motherhood and study. And although my mind will continue to oscillate between ‘I’ve got this’ and ‘Why am I doing this?’- one thing I tell myself is: ‘Keep going because you didn’t come this for, to only come this far!’