Studying after Becoming a Mother

Do you realise how much smarter motherhood makes you? Everything is getting better. Your memory, ability to multi-task, attention span, creativity, problem solving, planning   and much more. What if I told you most of those are transferable skills- (abilities that you can take with you wherever you go)?

images‘Transferable skills’ refer to those skills that you take in from your current job to your next. These could be hard skills (core subject knowledge) or soft skills (communication, interpersonal and people skills etc.). But motherhood is skilling like no other! You pick up a lot of things that can actually help you do more things with your life than ever before.

How is that for, looking at things differently? I bet at some point you guys thought because of motherhood, there are things you can’t do anymore or something are just impossible now. Maybe you can’t do them like you did them before, but you most definitely CAN do most of them!! Studying is one such thing. Building your career is another. We will talk about studying here.

Reason being: I am doing it! and it is all kinds of awesomeness!

I never felt the need to bag degrees that I did not intend to use in my life. So, after my UG, I set out to find out what my calling was, I found it early luckily and there has been no looking back since. My plan was to specialise in something that relates to my field of work some years down the line.  So, I just focused on my work and let life take its course.

Few years down the line, I found myself as a mother in a job that didn’t align with my present scenario and future goals. I decided to take a break after extending my maternity leave. Few months passed and even while I was only learning to be a functional mom, I realised as much as I love motherhood and nurturing my baby; I needed to do more.

I had started my career with the aspiration of making the world a better place, and I still felt strongly about it. I knew that I was going into a dark space (a feeling of not doing justice to the goals I had set for myself) and I was quite sure that applying myself professionally, is the only way I could be the mom I wanted to be for my girl. It is this nagging feeling on the inside, that pushed me to start planning my career ahead. I started freelancing while I figured out the course of action ahead.

Though I wanted to work on my own, I was quick to understand that getting into entrepreneurial shoes is not an overnight game. I had to start slow and ease into managing so many things at once. Also, the mommy brain is very different from a regular person brain, you think far into the future and mostly about everything that can go wrong. (If I get back to work, I am going to not be able to make healthy meals, I am going to be too tired to play with her, I am going to not have enough time to make it everywhere!! What happens when she falls sick? What if I am not ready for this? What if she is not ready for this? aaaarrgghhhh)

 I have been a compulsive workaholic. Whatever I pick up, I give it my all. So I pick very carefully. I decided I need to learn some big stuff on time management and prioritizing to get going. So, I attended some webinars and started working on a business plan. My primary research got me to some courses that looked promising to do from home. That became a turning point. I decided to enroll myself for distance education because it offered me the freedom to choose how I wanted to approach my curriculum and I could in effect design the programme keeping all our schedules in mind.

From my experience in the last 6 months of pursuing academics, I think it is a fabulous thing for moms to get into!

Why Go Back to Academics after Entering Motherhood? 

  • Upgrade your skills and knowledge
  • Great way to change career track and go back to realising your childhood dreams
  • Gain a qualification that could lead to better paying jobs in the future
  • Per-day time commitment is less when compared to a full time job
  • It is flexible, there are so many different kinds of programmes you can take up!
  • Universities abroad offer fabulous courses that have very streamlined learning outcomes
  • It is a great long term investment in yourself

Now in the US or any other popular foreign education destination, Universities provide accommodation, study plans etc. keeping your family in mind, if you are a parent. You will therefore find lots of parents there who are studying full time, with children, often juggling jobs along side that too. The infrastructure of our education system does not offer that kind of flexibility yet.  With a good support system I am sure you can try full time courses too (lots of Indian women complete their UG after marriage, but with a baby it might be more challenging though not impossible)  But distance education in India is surely picking up and we have so many different kinds of courses from open sources, universities (in India and abroad), other educational organisations and web portals.

Types of distance programmes

  1. Online workshops and e-classes
  2. Certificate programmes
  3. Short term programmes
  4. Diploma Programmes (one year/two year)
  5. Masters Programmes

Some of these programmes are just a few hours longs, some certifications can be completed in a week, there are also courses for a few months, one year and two years. Distance education allows you to take up courses from a wider geographical ambit. From India, you can pursue a master’s programme from an IVY League institution.  Not all distance courses require you to attend contact classes. You have the freedom to study when you can and the greatest advantage is that these courses offer more time to finish up. Your regular two year programme can offer you upto 5 years to complete it.  They are more affordable than a full-time programme. Further, you have courses that are purely academic in nature and some that are vocational in nature. Some of these educational programmes result directly in career opportunities. Click here too know more about one  that is can be a great option for moms.

So distance education is the option I took up, I opted for a course that is directly related to my past area of work and current interest. So, the effort needed was much lesser than one would imagine and the drive came naturally. Through my preps I realised I may have lost my touch with academics, but feeling intellectually stimulated and learning new things really gave me a  kick.

Through the first six months of my programme, I have come up with a study pattern, that works for me.  Here are my tips for moms out there who might be thinking about such options:

  1. Wake up an hour early or sleep an hour late: Study when your bub is asleep.
  2. Speak to your spouse and involve him more in caring for your baby, this way, you can plan to study for some extra time during weekends or when he has his days off
  3.  Prioritise it: Just because it is something you are doing for yourself, doesn’t mean it should come last in the list of things to do. You matter too!
  4. Are you the planned out types? Then make a time table and stick to it!! You can make it a rotating study schedule, it need not be the same time or the same pattern every day. You can tweak it according to your baby’s schedule too. (e.g: how do you plan your blog writing time? try to apply the same principle)
  5. Pick up a subject you’d love to know more about, a course that is related to your interests, it makes it easy to get back to it after a tiring day.
  6. Give yourself a break. Just because it isn’t work, doesn’t mean it isn’t actually hard! ‘Me time’ is still important, and being alone while studying is not me time. 
  7. You might not make it for every one of those PTAs and events, don’t be too hard on yourself, mark important dates for your child, and plan it out with your partner. This is not forever, so get everyone around involved to make adjustments
  8. Its okay to ask for help. You can do it all, but sometimes that will leave you exhausted with no energy to study. So, ask for help. You might need someone to babysit while you go to write your exams. Maybe someone will need to come in and be with you for a few days running up to the exams
  9.  Don’t compare yourself with others. Everyone’s aptitude and capabilities are different. Focus on your goal and do it your way.

So, it comes down to planning, prioritising, organising and determination. Are you thinking, what I am thinking?-Moms!! you’ve already got what it takes! Think about it… You rock at planning, you have it in you to multi-task. How many new things did you learn in the last year alone? You are quicker and better at assimilating new information. Trust me! You’ve Got What it takes to see it through. All you really need is a bit of planning, a dollop of determination and some support (what are we here for?).

SELF DOUBT 

I was very nervous about my ability to take up academics again. First of all, never been into studying for exams. I can not mug up anything even if my life depended on it. But I have been a good student through out school and college, I was very scared of failure now.

More importantly, I had this feeling that my brain has probably slowed down. Think about it, 3/4th of my day I pretend-play with a 1 year old. It is only natural to think that my brain has gone all mushy from the 1100 daily re-reads of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  But I pulled through,if I can anybody can. I am more sure now than ever about the concept of ‘transferable skills’ of motherhood! Your momming skills really help you when you go back to studies.

HOW DID I GO ABOUT IT?

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The first time I opened the textbook.

I picked up a UGC Approved Programme in HRM that focused on training and development.  As I was eligible for their 1 year course, I thought it is good to start with something short term and curriculum-wise it was a perfect fit. Everyday after lilM’s bedtime, I sat with an emergency lamp to read my texts. Just the book and a pencil, notes were not even needed! I read the text books and took the questions at the end of each lesson as a mini-test. Everytime I got a high score, I got more confident about myself.

We are in a nuclear set up. So, Husband played a big role in ensuring that I was not too exhausted during the day to study for a bit at night. This project really helped us divide our parenting duties up efficiently. Even though I am the one pursuing the course, we took it up as a shared goal and worked on it together.

I did really well in my internal exams, and then……I forgot about it. I got back to life as usual, till I got my final exam schedules. PANIC!! It was time to plan. Since I am also freelancing and work was peaking, I decided to shift to my parents place for a bit.  I really needed all the help I could find while I was taking my first nano-steps back to work and to study almost at the same time.

Now this was a big decision, but I really wanted to give the exams a good shot, and get my work pace sorted. The reasons to make this shift were many. We decided that LilM and I were to move to Kerala, while daddyM will come visit us from time to time. People have all sorts of judgements to pass around on that, and we have no damns to give! This was what looked feasible to us, and it has worked out well.

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Daily Coffee intake

There were days when I hardly got to see lilM, except for nap times and clingy times. I have dark circles under my eyes, that look like they are here to stay. I have had more coffee in the last two months than I have had in the last two years. In these two months, we got onto instagram, we started our blog, DaddyM and did so much together, for ourselves. I got the hang of my work flow, I regained my confidence to do more with my life and I am far from an absentee parent. I have sort of got the hang of juggling multiple things and I know I got people around me who’ve got my back.

It is hard work, it is tough choices but it is definitely worth it. It has really taught me how much the mom brain can do. This was an experiment, it went so well, I know I can manage the next semester’s load between me and DaddyM.  I am a mom, but I am also a human. I only get this one life to do all that I want to do. Why should I hold myself back?

So that is how I took a step forward to do what I always wanted to do. Hopefully I will be able to share more about my progress real soon!

 

-Mommy M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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