In this article, Nikita Phillips, Candidate Support and Business Development Adviser, discusses how she balances studying, full time work and parenting.
When I talk about my exam journey, I’m often asked: how do you balance everything? What is the secret to spinning so many plates at once?
My response is usually “with difficulty”. Over the years, I have worked hard to balance being an employee, a student, and a mother. Sometimes the balance is there and sometimes the balance isn’t quite right.
If we take a trip down memory lane to the year 2020, it’s safe to say that the world was a completely different place. We found ourselves in the middle of a pandemic, and for me personally, I was knee-deep in the joys and challenges of motherhood. In April of that year, right after the first lockdown, I welcomed my little boy into the world. Little did I know that both my partner and I would have to navigate the rollercoaster of having a newborn on our own.
But that’s not all! It was also during this time that I made the bold decision to embark on my Diploma journey. I remember thinking, “Oh, I’ll have so much free time to study when the little one is peacefully snoozing.” Boy, was I in for a surprise!
It quickly became apparent that if I wanted to succeed in my career, I would have to become a master juggler. I would eagerly grab my R01 study text as soon as my little one drifted off to sleep, only to have him wake up just as I was about to dive into the first chapter. Talk about timing!
And let’s not forget the sleep deprivation. It seemed like a cruel joke that just as I mustered up the energy to start studying, my eyelids would grow heavy and I would find myself drifting off to la-la land. Was it the broken sleep or the dry R01 material I was using at the time? Who knows!
I even attempted to squeeze in some study time while my partner took over baby duty, but guilt would creep in like an unwelcome guest. I couldn’t help but feel like I should be cherishing every moment with my little one instead of burying my nose in textbooks. The struggle was real.
So, what did I do? I played the waiting game. I gracefully set aside my study book, bidding it farewell for a while, and patiently waited for my life to regain some semblance of normality.
Now, I know this might not be the thrilling answer you were expecting, but let me tell you, when you have a newborn who’s as unpredictable as the weather, sticking to a study plan is pretty much impossible.
So, I made a decision. I decided to be kind to myself, to give myself the much-needed break from work and studying, and fully embrace my role as a mother.
You see, part of this delicate balancing act, is accepting that sometimes you can’t juggle everything.
Fast forward a few months, and lo and behold, I finally settled into my parental groove. I even managed to catch a few more hours of sleep each night, which felt like winning the lottery. And in that moment of newfound clarity and sanity, I made a decision to embark once again on my Diploma journey.
I would still experience mum guilt when trying to study whilst my little one was awake. To address this, I made a conscious decision to dedicate time each evening to my studies, but only once I had put my little one to bed.
This approach worked well for me, and also helped me to rationalise my motivation for pursuing these exams. My intention was never to seek time away from him, but rather create a better future for him.
I established a routine where I would devote an hour every night to studying. On certain occasions, I would enhance this experience by indulging in a relaxing bath while listening to an audio book or video related to the R01 exam. This combination served as a dual-purpose activity, allowing me to engage in what I deemed to be self-care while also advancing my studies.
As I transitioned back into employment, I seized the opportunity to utilise my lunch break for additional study sessions. This enabled me to dedicate approximately two hours per day to my studies, without feeling like I was sacrificing precious time with my child.
After all, during my lunch break, I would typically spend my time mindlessly scrolling through social media anyway. I was able to make use of the BTS study buddy app during my lunch break and work my way through the volume of questions on the go.
By adopting this disciplined approach, I was able to strike a balance between my responsibilities as a mother and my commitment to personal growth through education.
However, as time went on, I began making very little time for myself, and I was suffering as a consequence.
As I progressed further and further throughout my exams, I received so many compliments about my ability to juggle everything. However, little did people know that behind the scenes, I was gradually succumbing to burnout.
I felt exhausted, detached and completely overwhelmed.
I was lucky enough to have some wonderful teachers in school, a few of whom I have maintained contact with over the years. It was during this period of burnout that one of them shared a particularly memorable piece of advice with me:
“Live your life by the good enough yardstick. When you are juggling multiple roles like a mother, student, worker and partner, remember you have to be good enough not perfect in every situation you face”. I have lived by this ever since.
Balancing multiple responsibilities and avoiding burnout is a delicate juggling act. But fear not! With the right strategy, you can triumph in your studies, excel in your career, and still make time to be an amazing parent.
I manage this by sticking to the following:
And always remember, “Live your life by the good enough yardstick”.
View each of our comprehensive study plans for each unit that BTS supports. These plans give a full breakdown of each of the learning outcomes. They also advise of important dates, and materials / support available and at what point in your studies to use them.
Find out more in depth help and advise to structure your R01 studies by viewing our R01 Study Plan.
View Our R01 Exam overview/toolkit to purchase any R01 Study support including Study Guides, e-Learning modules, online workshops and study buddy.
Read another insightful article on mental health ‘The Importance of Talking about our Experiences’ to find out more about the importance of sharing your journey.