Adding study to the work family balance

by Liz Benson

When you’re a mother, working full-time or part-time is a challenge in itself, so the thought of adding further study or learning can be daunting.

However, professional development can be incredibly helpful for your career and, depending on your field, it may even be mandated. Some of the key benefits of ongoing and professional learning include:

  1. Keeping relevant, since learning lets you adapt to new insights and technology both personally and professionally.
  2. Boosting your professional profile and connecting you with influential people in your field.
  3. Building your confidence through educating yourself and ensuring your knowledge is up to date.
  4. Generating new ideas and perspectives by opening your mind and sparking creativity.
  5. Developing leadership skills and your ability to influence others by broadening your thoughts, and therefore actions.

Managing time to allow for learning

Whether you’re planning to undertake formal classroom study or online study, attend conferences, or read more and allow time for self-development and reflection, it all takes time. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Plan ahead

No doubt you’re already doing this with your work and personal scheduling, so add in your learning here too. Do you have learning-related deadlines or a schedule of events you would like to attend during the year ahead? Add these into your calendars and set reminders in advance. Treat your learning opportunities with the same importance as your work and personal commitments.

  • Ask for help

Asking for help can be challenging, especially if we’re used to being seen as capable and strong. However, asking for help doesn’t make you any less capable or strong; it actually demonstrates self-awareness and eagerness to improve. So, wherever you can, get help at home, get help with the kids, get help understanding concepts or theories, and get help in making the space for learning and development. Not only is it important but, when you ask for help, most people are more than happy to provide it in whatever way they can.

  • Avoid distractions

Easier said than done, right? However, if you don’t put aside time to learn there’s a higher chance you will find yourself struggling and stressed. Make an appointment with yourself for your learning opportunities and set yourself up for success by understanding how you learn best. For example, if you’re a morning or evening person, it might make sense to schedule your study accordingly. And, if you can get someone else to look after your kids for an hour or two while you study, you’ll be more likely to engage with the material.

The balance

Studying when you are already a working mum is both possible and highly beneficial. It helps if you enjoy it, so think about what kind of studying you would like to do in terms of topics and style.

For example, would you prefer a classroom environment and being able to attend lectures or classes in person? Or would online study fit into your schedule better?

For less structured studying, podcasts are also a great way to learn, and you can fit them into your schedule very easily by listening on your way to and from work, while doing chores around the house, or even at the gym or going for a walk or run.

Reading books is also a great way to learn. You can do this on your own and there are also lots of book clubs which can also be a way of learning further and expanding your social network. The options are endless and, with some research, planning, and time, you can find something that’s just right for you.