This post could also be called ‘Retaining your identity & sanity as a stay at home parent’.
Even from early on in my pregnancy, I found that my identity began to shift. I was no longer Amelia, but Pip’s mum – or at least Bump’s mum at that stage! I found myself becoming quite annoyed at people treating my belly like public property, grabbing at it without permission and judging whether or not it looked like theirs or their friend’s/next-door-neighbour’s/random pregnant celebrity’s and whether they thought it would be a boy or a girl. I began to feel like a walking womb, rather than a real person.
Now don’t get me wrong, I loved being pregnant for the most part and I love being a parent but I didn’t like the idea that the person I was before becoming Mummy would just disappear. I needed something that was for me and about me and definitely not about pregnancy or babies. So I started looking into distance learning. A lot of the course providers looked, if I’m honest, a bit dodgy. The resulting qualifications from courses that cost hundreds of pounds were ones I’d never heard of and I wasn’t convinced that employers would have either. Then I looked at Open University.
University had been a dream that I had abandoned when my AS level grades were much lower than I’d hoped for. I was so desperate to get away from home at that point that I dropped out of Sixth Form and started job hunting instead. Now here was the opportunity to get a proper university degree after all, plus our low household income meant that I was entitled to financial support. I applied for my first module: An Introduction to Health and Social Care and started studying when Pip was just over a year old.
Now I am halfway through my fourth module, having studied Art History and Creative Writing modules since. I won’t lie to you, at times it has been tricky. Pip stopped taking daytime naps at 18 months old so almost all studying had to be done in the evening. This is possible to do but it does start to feel a bit grueling at times. From my experience, I have some handy hints for other parents looking to become OU students too (some of this advice could be applied to anyone but much of it is parent specific):
– Don’t take modules purely because they’ll help towards your chosen career. I did this initially and have since very much regretted it. I think Open University is much more suited to studying a subject that you are genuinely interested in, otherwise you might well find your motivation dissipating – remember it’s going to take about six years of part time study to complete a degree! If you look at the module description and don’t feel excited about it, it may not be the course for you! If you’re unsure, perhaps try a free short course on Open University’s Open Learn site? I also found this to be a really useful way of preparing for my first creative writing course and for filling the summer gap between modules!
– Make time for yourself and your family. I try to fit my studying around times when I’m at home alone but sometimes it must be done in the evening, which means sacrificing the important bit of time that I get alone with husband each day. I’m still not quite organised enough to prevent this but being able to get all the studying done without sacrificing family time is a good goal. Also, try not to spend every free minute you have on studying or you might find you start to resent it a bit. If you can’t set aside time for yourself, your family and for studying, you might need to consider if taking on study is really a good idea at all – you want this to improve your life, not make it so much harder!
– Get assignments done well ahead of time. I will admit, I am not good at following this rule. Although I have just submitted my latest TMA (Tutor Marked Assignment) two days ahead of schedule, I’m regularly finishing off and submitting assignments mere hours before the deadline.
– Talk to other students. You’ll be assigned a tutor group so chatting about the module you’re taking will be easy enough. But talking to other people who are taking similar modules or have completed the module you’re taking can be really useful too, partly for motivation. Knowing that other people are struggling or getting anxious waiting for their assignment marks to come in can be a big support for you. There are Facebook groups dedicated to most OU modules and lots of other groups for students. There are people I would now consider friends that I started off simply chatting to about studying online. It’s a great way to connect with other adults and talk about something other than babies – very important for a stay at home parent!
– It’s good to have a plan but don’t set it in stone. I had a very good plan set out for my studies when I first started. Since then, I’ve changed my mind on which modules I’ll be taking and even the type of degree I’ll end up with. Doing this is very simple with the OU so don’t feel like you must take a module just because it was in your original plan.
I hope this post helps anyone who is thinking about beginning their studies. Thanks for reading!